Calgary’s recent success is giving Jay Feaster a big headache. But it’s a pain the acting GM is more than happy to deal with.
Not only are the Flames winning and taking themselves out of the category of being sellers at the NHL trade deadline Feb. 28, they’re doing so with an offensive style that is boosting the bargaining power of their key free agents.
Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay, Brendan Morrison and Anton Babchuk have been four of Calgary’s hottest producers during this second-half surge. They’re all unrestricted free agents the Flames would love to have back next season if they can play this well for extended stretches. Add injured defenseman Adam Pardy to the list as well.
Feaster has experience dealing with inflating contract demands in a salary cap world. As GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he had to pick and choose who to keep and who to move after the team won the Stanley Cup in 2004. He’d love the opportunity to try it again in Calgary because that would mean the Flames have taken the word “acting” away from his title.
Here’s the problem though: The Flames already have a payroll of $54 million next season and just $5.5 million to work with. Tanguay signed for the redemptive discount price of $1.7 million this season and will surely command north of $3 million thanks to a prorated 20 goals and 58 points.
Glencross is making $1.2 million and after a slow start is now second on the Flames with 19 goals through 57 games. He’ll be testing the free agent waters for sure with an eye towards $3 million.
Morrison will be an interesting conundrum for Feaster. He’s working well with Jarome Iginla, but will be 36 in August. He’s worth way more than the bargain price of $725,000 he signed for this season. But how much term do you offer?
Babchuk has been the offensive catalyst the Flames were hoping Jay Bouwmeester would be. Although there are some holes in Babchuk’s defensive game, only Mark Giordano has more points among Flames defensemen. Babchuk is making $1.4 million and will surely get north of $2 million come July. With more than $18 million tied up among their top four D-men, the Flames can’t afford another big salary in the No. 5 spot. Signing Pardy and adding a rookie is the cheaper option.
The better these UFAs do down the stretch, the bigger headache Feaster will have in the summer.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.