Before we can truly judge the work of new Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster, we must first give him some time to flush out the sometimes-awful moves made by his predecessor, Darryl Sutter.
Much like his brother Brent, Darryl was a solid-to-great coach. Unfortunately it appeared that he was promoted to the level of his incompetence when he became the Flames’ GM, though.
One of his worst moves involved a trade with often-lampooned New York Rangers GM Glen Sather: Sutter sent Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to New York for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins last February.
The move was middling at best from a pure hockey standpoint, but from a salary cap standpoint, it was befuddling. Jokinen’s $5.25 million cap hit was set to expire while Kotalik’s $3 million per year mistake will linger through the 2011-12 season. Worst yet, the team added Jokinen back into the fold again this off-season.
Feaster will enjoy at least a slight bit of breathing room* now that Kotalik cleared waivers to the surprise of few/no one. It won’t be easy for the former Lightning GM, though, as Sutter left behind a team full of aging players with overpriced and lengthy deals. There are some expiring contracts, but they’re mostly of the cheap and overachieving variety as Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and others are making far less than Kotalik.
While the Flames have shown some life lately, the fact of the matter is that Feaster needs to acknowledge the team’s mediocre ceiling. The blueprint of depending heavily on Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff isn’t working, especially considering the lack of value up and down the roster. It will hurt to see Iginla and other pricey veterans go, but how much longer will the team settle for their “seventh or eight seed at best” pattern?
Most top teams enjoy a successful mixture of value and youth; the Flames have very little of either. Feaster has a chance to begin such a transformation over the next month. We’ll have to wait and see which direction he takes.
* – Of course, Flames ownership will still have to pay Kotalik. Unless he bails them out by failing to report to the AHL, of course.