The pieces began to start moving across the proverbial chess board on Thursday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, as the Calgary Flames prepared to cut down to their 23-man opening night roster.
The club announced that they had placed defenseman Brett Carson, forward Paul Byron and goaltenders Henrik Karlsson and Leland Irving on waivers. They also announced that they had released try-out forward Brad Winchester from his contract and assigned defender Chris Breen and forward Ben Street to the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat.
“The thing about the guys that are here in this camp, that were here as of Sunday, they all got here because they earned it. They deserved that opportunity for the body of work they have put in, in Abbotsford, this year,” explained Flames general manager Jay Feaster.
In addition to the cuts, the day featured more special teams work by coach Bob Hartley and his staff and a lively 40-minute scrimmage in front of several hundred fans. Team Black, featuring the team’s likely top line of Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla, won by a 4-0 score, with Leland Irving making several excellent saves for the shut-out. Blair Jones, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri and Tim Jackman scored for Team Black. Irving easily out-dueled incumbent back-up goaltender Henrik Karlsson on the day, and it remains to be seen which of the duo will remain in Calgary to start the season – particularly with both of them on the waiver wire.
Following practice, Feaster explained the logic behind placing both of the prospective back-up netminders on waivers.
“As it relates to the issue of why both goaltenders: we decided from the very beginning that there was going to be a competition for that back-up goaltender spot,” said Feaster. “Basically, in order for us to be able to allow that competition to continue today, we needed to be in a position that tomorrow, when we have to submit the roster, we have to be able to move guys off the roster by noon eastern tomorrow. We couldn’t waive anybody tomorrow, is the point.”
With the three roster moves today and three more likely to come on Friday, the Flames have effectively trimmed their roster down to 26 players. Jiri Hudler is expected to return to the club in the near future following his father’s passing and it appears likely that Anton Babchuk (shoulder) and Roman Cervenka (blood clot) will be placed on the injured reserve to begin the season.
That leaves the club one or two roster moves away – likely involving one or both of their remaining try-out players, Steve McCarthy and Steve Begin – from finalizing their opening-night roster.