With Mason Raymond on the books and the Kevin Bieksa hammer having yet to drop, Vancouver's activities this summer look to be at an end. Maybe a bottom six guy is coming via the Bieksa deal, maybe not. Maybe some fringe guys will show up in camp (I'm looking at you Dave Scatchard), maybe not. So with Vancouver's roster set for the most part let's check out what the rest of our Northwest neighbors have been up to this summer.
Starting with everyone's favorite team to bust on, the Flames. At the end of last season, there were whispers of a straight-up demolition brewing in Calgary - from Sutter to Jarome Iginla and everyone in between - but cooler heads prevailed and they brought back some familiar faces to help kick start their putrid offensive production.
That's a relatively important point because if the Flames can just learn to score again they should be right back in the thick of things with Colorado & Vancouver...and now that I wrote that it'll of course be Minnesota and Edmonton duking it out at the top in April...
Here's a quick snap shot of what the Flames have done:
> Signed Alex Tanguay to a one year, $1,700,000 deal - Just like we need to forgive some of Keith Ballard's horrific looking numbers while in Florida (at ES in particular), so too with Tanguay. While in Tampa his point production and shooting percentage both tailed off from his respectable career averages, averages mind you that have smoked the Canucks thanks to stints in Colorado and Calgary. I don't believe there is reason to be concerned about his left shoulder which limited him to 50 games two seasons ago in Montreal.
> Signed Olli Jokinen to a two year, $6,000,000 deal - Some may still be laughing at this and Sutter's gamble looks pretty foolish in hindsight, but getting pumpkin head back in the mix isn't a terrible move either. $3 million per isn't a bad for a guy who hasn't scored less than 50 points since 2002. Whether or not he regains his form is another matter but this strikes me as a low risk / high reward type deal, especially if he's sheltered with second, third or - if need be - fourth line duties. Put him out there against Ryan Kesler though and he could become the type of big ticket player fans end up wanting to shoot out of a cannon into the sun.
> Waiving Ales Kotalik - At what point in the not to distant future does the name Ales Kotalik become synonymous with 'train wreck'? This guy is eating up cap space when they are perilously close to the limit; no idea where he should end up, but probably not at a NHL arena near you anytime soon.
> Signed Raitis Ivanans to a one year, $600,000 deal - Poor Raitis needs Derek Boogaard's agent. This may just annoy me from a philosophical standpoint since I honestly don't see why players like Ivanans are worth employing. If he wants to display his PIM-heavy, career -39 craft to to good use when Vancouver drops by, by all means. Maybe the worst part about Ivanans is it may force Vigneault to actually dress Darcy Hordichuk which is horrifically depressing.
Why Can't He Be A Canuck?
> Rene Bourque - My Flames man crush, Bourque is an absolute pleasure to watch. His speed and shot are one thing, but the fact he damn near had 60 points by going up against the opposition's best players is another. An extremely underrated player who can't get off the Flames fast enough for my liking.
Areas Of Concern
> Daymond Langkow's recovery from neck surgery is reportedly slow at best. If he can't make the start of the season, it'll rob Iginla of his pivot but also open up the door for someone like Jokinen, Matt Stajan or potentially prospect Mikael Backlund to fill the void.
> Jay Bouwmeester. This may be the biased part of me showing, but I'd want to see a better season out of my nearly $7 million dollar anchor than what 2009-10 provided. Granted much of Bouwmeester's struggles weren't all his fault, but he needs to start scoring at ES and PP (his shooting percentage sunk nearly 6% between Florida and Calgary). Chances are he should see an increase in both in 2011.
Possible Lines (gleamed from Matchsticks & Gasoline)
Alex Tanguay - Daymond Langkow - Jarome Iginla
Rene Bourque - OlliJokinen - Niklas Hagman
Curtis Glencross - Matt Stajan - David Moss
Raitis Ivanans - Ryan Stone / Brett Sutter - Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester - Robyn Regehr
Mark Giordano - Cory Sarich
Steve Staios - Adam Pardy
*Ian White (RFA)
White has his arbitration date in two days and the decision from that could force some cost cutting moves.
On paper they seem like a stronger team, but if some of the forwards don't live up to their billing (or should we say their billing from a few seasons ago...hint hint) then it'll get tough for the offense to truly improve. If they can pull off another blockbuster trade for a younger, proven scorer I'd be far more nervous. Iginla should continue to be a headache.
Bouwmeester and Regehr need bouncebacks and Giordano just has to keep doing what he's doing. Kiprusoff - who had a solid season in 2010 - will need to follow it up with at least a respectable one. If he suddenly gets a case of the 7uongo's, they'll have to run with an Karlsson who's unproven at the NHL level.
The talent is there, but will the execution follow? My hunch says yes, but then again, I was a Steve Bernier fan...sigh.
For more on Calgary from those who cover them, do check out M&G or Flames Nation; you can't go wrong anywhere you see Kent Wilson's name. However, if you go to Bleacher Report, may God have mercy on your wretched soul.