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Bye Langkow

By Aakash Gulati
Before getting to the topic at hand, condolences to the families and friends of all those who perished in the aircraft tragedy. Though I am too young to have any memory of Brad, I do remember watching Demitra, Salei and Skratins playing in the league. All these hockey personalities will be missed league and world wide.
Last week saw another long time Flame being traded away. This time the name heading out was the veteran center, Daymond Langkow. After a successful comeback to hockey, Langkow finds himself on the Coyotes, being traded by the Flames for Lee Stempniak.
Langkow, one of the leaders in Calgary's locker room, recovered from a freak injury which saw him out of action for almost a year. He returned to play 4 games to wrap up the season. Many fans, myself included, were looking forward to seeing what he could bring to the table following recovery. After such an injury though, at 4.5 million cap hit, Langkow was a risky venture. According to Feaster, he got a call from Coyotes and the deal went from there. What does this deal mean?
1. Flames drop salary. The team owed 4.5 million to Langkow in 2011-12 in the final year of his 5 year contract that was signed by Darryl Sutter. They will now be paying Stempniak 2.3 million (1.9 mill cap hit) which see 2.5 million more being created under the cap. This cap can be used in many different ways. If Calgary find themselves in the race at trade deadline, this can amount to a pretty well played player or two (Flames can trade for players having a total of 10 million cap). And if the men in red find themselves out of the race, they can decide to absorb contracts from other teams in order to secure picks or prospects. Not a bad position to be in. Over the last few years the Flames have usually found themselves right at the edge of the cap and this season it seems as if it will be a bit different.
2. We get Lee Stempniak. The 28 year old forward is in his prime. What does he add to Calgary though? A fringe top six winger who can put the puck in the net and also kill penalties. He had a couple of good seasons playing with the blues. Those seasons are in the past now, and other than a good burst last season following his trade to the Coyotes, Stempniak has only contributed as a third line winger. He was on a line with Stajan and Hagman in Toronto but neither of those two players have had what can be called as a productive season with the Flames yet, but a third line of Stempniak – Stajan – Hagman, if they click like they did in Toronto doesn’t sound too shabby. Feaster in his interview stated that he expects Stempniak to come into camp fighting for a top 6 role. Stempniak on the wing with Jokinen and Bourque can be an effective line as well if they click. No one should expect him to maintain the 14 goals in 18 games pace he had when he was traded to Phoenix, but he should be a player who should regularly crack the 20 goal mark. With just 1.9 million owed for one season, it is not a bad gamble and it could turn out to be a good return. A player who seems to perform well in his contract year, this is a gamble I am happy Feaster took.
3. We lose one of our better two way players and a fine leader. Langkow, though not the best in the faceoff dot possessed great defensive presence. A grizzled veteran, Langkow was always known for his hardwork and dedication (Remember the playoffs wherein he played with two broken hands?) A heart and sould player, Langkow had his best season playing on a line with Tanguay and Iginla. None of the current Flames centre possess the defensive aptitude of Langkow and this will be a void that will have to be filled by either Stajan or Jokinen. We do regain some of that loss as Stempniak saw some time as a PK specialist playing on the Coyotes. Coyotes, having lost Jovanovski gain a valuable leader in Daymond. He will bring a lot of leadership to a young Phoenix squad. A team which used to rely heavily on their goaltending prior to trading Bryzgalov, with an average goaltending now, the Coyotes needed to improve their top six as well as reach the Salary Cap floor.
4. We do something about the logjam at center.With 4 top nine centres signed to one way contracts (Morrison, Stajan, Jokinen and Langkow) and Backlund expected to be on the team and with Moss able to play centre, something had got to give. Langkow was the one chosen to move. Even with Langkow moved we have a plethora of centers which will provide ample competition once training camp opens.
5. One less NMC/NTC. A major hindrance to the wheeling and dealing for Feaster was the number of NMC/NTCs Calgary possessed. Over the span of the summer, Feaster was able to move three NMC/NTCs (People forget that Kotalik also had one). This gives more moving opportunities to the Flames with more players who can be dealt at the trade deadline either to upgrade our present or our future
What does this mean for us the fans?
With Feaster, we have a GM who does not shy away from making big moves. These moves do not really spell a rebuild but at the same time the makeup of the team and its core has shifted. With younger players, there is a stronger drive to succeed and prove itself as well as more enthusiasm. Feaster is still following Sutter's direction of stocking up on 2nd/3rd line players (as can be seen in the form of Stempniak) but him going after Brad Richards, shows that he is not afraid of making the move for the big fish.

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