They certainly are not the most sparkling of 0ff-season acquisitions but the new additions to the Calgary Flames for the 2011-2012 season will be key in determining whether or not the club can get over the hump and into the playoffs or continue to toil away as mediocre playoff pretenders. While the nucleus of the team remains, general manager Jay Feaster did make a few interesting moves over the summer that should help to boost a roster that had more or less started to become stale.
In what is likely to become Feaster’s best off-season move, Lee Stempniak was acquired in a trade that sent aging and injury-prone center Daymond Langkow to Phoenix in exchange for the 28-year-old Stempniak who is coming off a career-year in which he scored 28 goals in a season split between Toronto and Phoenix. Stempniak will be expected to play a top-6 role and take some pressure off Jarome Iginla by becoming an added threat on the wing in both even strength and power-play situations.
Feaster also unloaded some cap by trading long-time Flames rear-guard Robyn Regehr and the dissappointing Ales Kotalik to Buffalo in exhange for defenseman Chris Butler and speedy forward Paul Byron. Butler is a steady player who will be among the club’s top 6, while Byron who although was a late cut at training camp, could become a player who provides a spark at some point during the season. Calgary will also welcome the services of 32-year-old defenseman Scott Hannan. Hannan, a veteran of 830 career games was signed to a one-year-deal at a bargain price of $1 million. He will immediately fill the leadership void that Regehr took to Buffalo as he will be the Flames most experienced and battle-hardened blue-liner.
The physical and energetic Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond could be a guy that shakes things up with his frantic style but he will only be effective if he is able to play a much more disciplined game than the one we saw when he was suspended five games in his first pre-season appearance.
The lone rookie to crack the team was expected to be a battle between Greg Nemisz and Lance Bouma; two youngsters who saw time towards the end of last season. The Flames instead decided to go with Czech center Roman Horak, making the 20-year-old a very surprise addition to this year’s roster. Horak is a young player, who although not quite as skilled, plays a similar game to that of Mikael Backlund and is coming off an excellent season in the WHL that saw him register 78 points playing alongside fellow Flames prospect Ryan Howse.
While they are not the flashiest or most high-profile of additions, the new-comers to the Calgary Flames roster appear on paper to be players that can only be looked at as positives to the team’s success. Whether or not they will actually make a difference once the season begins is something that is still yet to be determined.