Calling Flames back-end blitz 1

Top-four blueliner tops wish list heading into UFA free-for-all

Jay Feaster has referred to the Calgary Flames’ salary cap status as “jail.”

Some would see the team’s situation more as the looney bin. After all, the Flames were in a straight jacket last season at crunch time, and it proved costly when they couldn’t add any form of an impact player to make a playoff push.

Last week, it cost them the services of veteran blueliner Robyn Regehr, whose trade to Buffalo also rid the Flames of Ales Kotalik’s anchor of a contract so they could re-sign forward Alex Tanguay.

Most importantly, moving Regehr finally gave the Flames some much-needed salary cap relief in anticipation of the July 1 free-agent frenzy. Currently, the team has 18 one-way deals, plus Mikael Backlund’s entry-level pact, and roughly US$7.5 million of salary cap space.

It’s certainly not the allowance to try poaching restricted free agent Steven Stamkos from the Tampa Bay Lightning or chase pending unrestricted centre Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars, but it’s at least enough flexibility to try addressing some needs and — just as importantly — give some of the club’s young hopefuls a chance to make the NHL roster.

With a the July 1 deadline fast approaching, the Flames are in an OK spot. It would be better if they didn’t have a couple of those US$3-million per season deals with the likes of Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman clogging up their forward ranks, but they have the opportunity to fill out their roster with legitimate NHL talent.

The biggest hole is on the blueline.

As it stands, the Flames have four legitimate NHLers under contract in Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Cory Sarich and Brett Carson.