Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Erixon Escape & Other Dramatic Events

Let me break down the Tim Erixon situation in a slightly different way. Based on the countless “concerns” expressed by the Erixon camp so late in the process, it had nothing to do with not wanting to play in Calgary, and everything to do with playing for the New York Rangers. Did the player and his agent really think any team would allow their best prospect to go back into the draft after two solid years of development? The Erixon camp would have expected his rights to be dealt by the Flames. So, where do you trade his rights? To a team the player would actually sign with, otherwise the trade doesn’t get done. Did Feaster look to partner with the Rangers because he’s wanted to land Roman Horak for years? Not a chance. Tim and his agent made it difficult on the Flames for one reason: Erixon wanted to play in New York. He could have been traded to any of the other 29 teams, and you’re telling me it just happened to have been his birthplace, and his dad’s former team? I don’t buy it. If Tim was truly concerned about playing time and cap space, he would have been traded to and signed with the Oilers, Islanders or Panthers, NOT the New York Rangers. We’re talking about an organization that has a 7.5 million dollar defenseman playing in their farm system in order to make the dollars work under the cap. For whatever reason, Tim’s cap concerns disappeared as he signed on the dotted line in New York. The player had all of the leverage and bargaining power, and he used it to sign exactly where he wanted to play.
There’s a ton of Flames-bashing going on as a result of this. Simply put: when you offer a rookie the max contract allowed under the CBA, with select provisions to protect the player from AHL assignments and he still won’t sign, you do whatever you can to get some assets back for that player - which is exactly what Feaster did. I don’t blame the Flames for “waiting too long,” or the city for being an “undesirable playing destination” because I think both arguments are completely flawed. If your top young prospect appears concerned about the playing environment, you go to the 11th hour in an attempt to get the deal done – which is what Feaster did. You don’t just quit on the spot when you hear that a valued prospect is concerned about the “cap situation.” The trade itself? The team has two second-round picks it didn’t have before, and a mid-level prospect that has two years of development under his belt. By no means is it the ideal scenario, but I commend the Flames for making the best of a very tough situation. Good riddance Tiny Tim.
The additions of Craig Hartsburg and Jamie Pringle to the coaching staff will be important for the Flames down the road. By virtue of having a boatload of contracts off the books next offseason, and the impending buyouts/trades this June, the Flames will be a much younger team going forward. Let me remind everyone that trading Jarome Iginla is not the only way to get younger.  With this process unfolding, it will be important to boast an experienced coaching staff, more suited to teaching than yelling and screaming. To me, that’s exactly what these two additions bring: an element of experience, with the skills and willingness to work with younger players. The other important factor in these hirings is familiarity, as Brent has worked with both coaches in his stints with Team Canada.
It will be interesting to see who the club will hire as AGM. If Feaster is looking for someone currently employed by another team, I expect he will have to wait until after the draft is complete. Makes sense, wouldn’t any organization be reluctant to have their management and scouts work an entire year leading up to the draft, just to take their knowledge and findings elsewhere before draft day? My preferred candidate would be Rick Dudley, given his past experience with JayFe, eye for young talent and recent availability. This may be a challenge, however; I don’t imagine Dudley is in any rush to take a demotion and work for his former AGM. Michel Goulet may be the more practical alternative. I expect we will hear about contract extensions for both Alex Tanguay and Henrik Karlsson within the next week. Just a hunch...

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