The tenure of recently-promoted Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster got off to a tumultuous start this week, with the Flames forced to deal away their 2009 first-round pick Tim Erixon, arguably the team’s top prospect, to the New York Rangers.
The Flames had until 5pm ET on Tuesday to sign Erixon and its other 2009 draft choices to entry-level contracts or allow them to re-enter the draft. With time ticking down and facing the choice of dealing Erixon or losing him for a mere compensatory draft pick, Feaster pulled the trigger on a two-player, three-pick trade with the New York Rangers – the Flames sent Erixon and their own 5th round choice in the 2011 draft to New York for forward Roman Horak, New York’s 2nd round choice in 2011 and Washington’s 2nd round choice in 2011 (with both 2nd round picks acquired by Feaster being an upgrade over their predicted compensatory pick).
If the words “Rangers” and “Erixon” sound strangely familiar, don’t be confused. Tim’s father, Jan Erixon, played with the blueshirts from 1983 to 1993, and Tim was born in the New York suburb of Port Chester. The Calgary Sun‘s Steve McFarlane noted in his column on the trade that young Erixon clearly wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and so the trade to the Rangers became a way for Feaster to grab some assets in exchange for the Rangers getting their man.
The Flames undoubtedly lose the best player in this swap. Erixon had become a tremendous asset to his Swedish team, Skelleftea AIK, and was a stalwart member of both Sweden’s World Junior and World Championship entries this season. Erixon was likely going to join the NHL Flames this upcoming season, although his unwillingness to play in the AHL should the need arise was reportedly a sticking point in his negotiations with the Flames, as was the team’s lack of youth and perceived lack of opportunities for younger players, according to an interview with Feaster by the Calgary Herald. (The irony being that Erixon’s ouster possibly opens the door for T.J. Brodie to join Calgary full-time in 2011-12, along with possibly one other young blueliner).
The Flames do fill a couple important holes with the trade. A Czech Republic native and star with the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins, Roman Horak played this season alongside Flames prospect Ryan Howse, contributing 52 assists while Howse scored 51 goals, and with both players likely turning pro this year, the Flames have inherited a very potent offensive duo for its American League squad in Abbotsford that struggled to score last season.
The two 2nd round choices also provide the Flames with three draft picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, a far cry from the single pick they previously owned in the first 100 choices. Feaster noted in April that acquiring more picks was one of his main goals leading up to the June entry draft.
With his back against the wall, Jay Feaster faced a very tough test as a general manager and was able to turn an uncooperative asset into something tangible, even though he was faced with losing the asset for basically nothing. While signing the highly-touted Erixon would have definitely been the preferable option for Flames fans and brass, getting a good prospect and two much-needed draft picks in return is considerably better than losing him for a mere compensatory draft choice.
Calgary also declined to offer contracts to forwards Spencer Bennett, Henrik Bjorklund and defenseman Alexander Deilert. All three will re-enter this year’s entry draft.