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Flames convince Czech centre Roman Cervenka to start NHL career in Calgary

CALGARY - Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster added some scoring up front Wednesday as the club continues to look for a new head coach.

Czech centre Roman Cervenka signed a one-year entry-level contract worth US$3,775,000 including bonuses.

The 26-year-old from Prague spent the last two seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL and will start his NHL career with the Flames. Cervenka totalled 54 goals and 46 assists in 105 games over those two seasons.

"One of the things we've identified as an organization that we very badly need is we need to improve our skill level," Feaster said from Toronto, where Calgary's AHL team, the Abbotsford Heat, are playing the Marlies in the playoffs.

"Our scouts in Europe very early on in the season had identified Roman Cervenka as someone who they felt very strongly could come and play within in our top-six forwards, felt he was a player who could be a top-two line centre in the National Hockey League."

Cervenka led Omsk in scoring during the 2010-11 season with 31 goals and 30 assists in 51 games playing alongside countryman Jaromir Jagr. The five-foot-11, 201-pound centre also played in the KHL all-star game that season.

Cervenka posted 11 goals and 11 assists in 20 KHL playoff games this season.

"This is a player who has very good hands, very good vision. He is a guy who has demonstrated he can score goals at a high level of play," Feaster said. "He had a great post-season for Omsk this year. Led the playoffs actually in scoring.

"For us to be able to acquire him and sign him to an entry-level deal and not have to give up assets to add that kind of skill, it's an exciting signing as far as we're concerned."

The Flames struggled offensively and their power play was weak late in the season en route to missing the playoffs.

Cervenka, not drafted by an NHL team, played for the Czechs at the 2009 world championship and in the 2010 Winter Olympics. His contract with Omsk expired Monday, Feaster said.

Meanwhile, Feaster says the Flames are still in the early stages of finding a new head coach. The hockey club and Brent Sutter parted company in April after three years of missing the post-season.

"There was a rumour we had to shoot down this week that we'd already hired someone and that's clearly not the case," Feaster said. "We're in the first inning of a nine-inning baseball game if you will. We're in the process of collecting names.

"We're not going to set an artificial time frame on it or a deadline on it. There's no rush to have to get that done right now."

Feaster is compiling a list of names with input from assistant general manager of player personnel John Weisbrod and Feaster's special assistant Craig Conroy.

"We've gotten phone calls from agents representing coaches exclusively and they've said 'my client is interested in the job and would like to be considered,'" Feaster said. "I've also had coaches who are not working right now in the NHL, who have called me directly or e-mailed me and said 'I really would like an opportunity.'"

Feaster has stated that Heat head coach Troy Ward is a candidate for the job. The Heat and Marlies play Game 2 of their second-round series Thursday.

Feaster would not comment on what Cervenka's signing means for centre Olli Jokinen, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

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