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Flames Watch: How to fix the team

No one asked, but here’s my list of things to do to make over the Calgary Flames for next season.

1. Sign Ian White and Mark Giordano to contracts, probably close to $3 and $4 million apiece respectively. Giordano has been Calgary’s best defenseman all season and White has been terrific since coming over from Toronto. Giordano’s contract wouldn’t kick in until 2011-12.

2. Move either Cory Sarich or Steve Staios. Both are solid third-pair defensemen, but at $3.6 million and $2.7 million respectively, there is only room for one of them. That opens the door for a cheaper, but capable, Adam Pardy and a minimum-wage seventh defenseman from American League Abbotsford.

3. Craig Conroy, Chris Higgins, Jamal Mayers and Brian McGrattan should be let go as free agents. All were serviceable, but there are younger, cheaper replacements out there. Higgins made $2.25 million this season. If he’s willing to sign for a retribution discount of $1 million or so, the way Rene Bourque did two years ago and Nigel Dawes did last season, he’d be worth the risk.

4. Find a way to make Ales Kotalik and his $3 million for the next two seasons go away. He doesn’t score enough, do enough or work hard enough to be a top-six forward.

5. Get rid of either Daymond Langkow (two years at $4.5 million) or Matt Stajan (four years at $3.5 million). Neither are top-line producers. With Mikael Backlund penciled in as the No. 2 center, there’s only room for one or the other as a No. 3 center.

6. Trade David Moss for a draft pick. At $1.3 million, he’s not a budget breaker, but he doesn’t do enough or produce enough that a guy like Jason Jaffray couldn’t do at $500,000. Plus, you’d get a draft pick in exchange for Moss.

Making these changes, signing Eric Nystrom to a nominal raise and filling out the 23-man roster with $500,000 reinforcements would result in a payroll of $49 million. That leaves close to $8 million for a top-line center to play with Jarome Iginla and Bourque.

If, for whatever reason, that and a coaching change that emphasises offensive creativity does work out and the Flames are outside the playoff picture next February, then it’s time to trade Iginla and Robyn Regehr to a Cup contender while their value will still result in decent return.

This article also appeared in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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