Flames GM Jay Feaster uncertain about trading overall, but certain that he won’t move Iginla or Regehr

The Western Conference’s playoff bubble features a stunning muck of teams between positions four and twelve. Few teams capture that up-and-down mood quite like the Calgary Flames.

The team looked like lottery fodder when Darryl Sutter stepped down in favor of new general manager Jay Feaster, but like many floundering squads after big changes, they are showing some signs of life (at least in a very small sample size). Feaster says that while the team has been playing much better since he took over, the actual philosophy change happened two games before he took the reins. The coaching staff mapped out an interesting running objective: win two out of every three games or earn four out of six points in three game chunks.

Since then, Feaster points out that the team is on an impressive 11-3-3 run in their last 17 games. Yet with all that success, the ultra-competitive and parity-packed West is an unforgiving place. The Flames could jump back into the thick of the race or drift back into the cellar every other week, something Feaster acknowledged while discussing the team’s murky picture heading into prime trade rumor time this month.

One thing that is not murky to Feaster, however, is which players are touchable and which ones are not. The former Tampa Bay Lightning GM says that the team won’t move its “core” players such as trade rumor targets Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr.

Feaster might have more insight into how the rumor mill works from his time as a member of the media before he joined the Flames organization this past summer. Even if the Flames were unable to continue their current momentum and Feaster wound up as a seller when the deadline arrives, he has a list of players who he says are not available.

Iginla and Regehr are on that list.

“I think the responsibility of the manager is to identify the core players and the guys who are key to your hockey team and build around them,” Feaster said. “We have a very strong core. We have one of the best goaltenders in the League in Miikka Kiprusoff, we have one of the best power forwards and best right wings in the game in Jarome Iginla and as far as I’m concerned three of the best defensemen in the game in Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Mark Giordano. I’ve said that I’m not trading the core of the hockey team and those guys are core guys.”

The Iginla rumors reminded Feaster of his days as the GM with the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the 2003-04 season there was plenty of speculation about the future destination of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

He had a $6.5 million club option for the 2004-05 season, but Feaster was adamant that he wasn’t going to trade his No. 1 goalie. It turned out to be the right move, as Khabibulin backstopped the Lightning to the Stanley Cup.

Of course, one must also note that the Lightning ended up losing Khabibulin for nothing the summer following that Cup run. Meanwhile, the team handed some questionable deals to Brad Richards and Dan Boyle, two players they eventually had to move for disappointing players such as Mike Smith.

That’s not to say that such a gamble wasn’t worth it, but there’s no denying the fact that a solid long term plan can help a team retain its “core players.”

Then again, the $7.5 million question is whether or not Jarome Iginla is the kind of core player the Flames need to retain. The probable future Hall of Famer has had a great career, but he’s not getting any younger and carries that big price tag.

Much like when a team sees a temporary bump from changing coaches, the Flames are likely to regress to the mean over time. Feaster should be careful not to overrate short term results if it means improving the overall outlook of a team that ultimately needs some serious renovations.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.