With the Flames' roster for their home opener on Thursday just about set, Darryl Sutter made a surprising move on this blustery September day, trading defenceman Anton Stralman to the Blue Jackets for a third round pick in next year's draft. My immediate reaction was: a) confusion and b) frustration followed by c) acceptance.
By my observations, Stralman had an impressive pre-season and stood out as one of the Flames' better young, puck-moving defencemen. He didn't get a whole lot of ice time, but seemed to make the most of what he got, playing mostly with Adam Pardy. The pair looked like a capable 6/7 option on the blueline.
Apparently, the Sutters didn't agree. Instead of risking losing Stalman on waivers, Darryl opted to trade him and keep Kronwall on as the seventh defenceman. The situation gets murkier when you consider that Kronwall is not only older than Stralman by four years, but also significantly less mobile. The only real advantage Kronwall has over Stralman is his size and his slightly cheaper price tage, and we all know Darryl likes his big defencemen.
We can probably conclude that this was a salary cap issue, and trading Stralman made more sense than having him sit in the press box eating up valuable dollars. With Jaffray, Lundmark, and Stuart being placed on waivers today, it looks as if the Flames will opt to carry a roster of 21-22 players to start the season, leaving them with a little more flexibility under the cap if the injury bug strikes again.
If McGrattan is placed on IR or LTIR while he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery, that could also free up a bit of cap space. These moves make sense, but exposing a player like Jaffray, Lundmark, or Stuart to waivers seems significantly more risky than going through the same process with a player like Brian McGrattan. If the three aforementioned players clear waivers, they can always be called up in the event of an injury. It's a shame to see Jaffray sent down after what I thought was a pretty good pre-season, but like Boyd last year, someone had to fall victim to the cap crunch to start the season.
These moves leave the Flames with seven defencemen, thirteen forwards, and two goaltenders on their current roster. While McGrattan won't be ready to start the season and status of defenceman Cory Sarich, who missed a significant chunk of pre-season play, is unknown, the Flames could ice a lineup of only twenty players on Thursday night. This is my best guess at what that lineup would look like:
In other hockey-related news, Theoren Fleury announced his retirement today, saying in his statement: "as I left the Saddledome on Friday I knew that this part of my life had finally come to an end. The emotions that I felt were the ones of someone who had left it all on the table. I did everything within my power to prolong the inevitable. So, as I say goodbye today, I am at peace. I don't have anything left to prove to myself."
He went on to thank his family, his fans, his teammates, the Flames organization, the NHL, and the doctors who helped him achieve sobriety and get in shape. In a heartwarming touch, Fleury added: "I want you all to know that I could not sign with another team. I get to retire as a Calgary Flame."Fleury is currently working to establish a new recovery centre in Calgary and his tell-all book Playing With Fire is due out next month and is supposedly chalk-full of nitty gritty details about the darkest moments in #14's struggles with addiction and depression. Ken King revealed today that he has also been talking to Fleury about future employment with the organization, and will remain in contact with him over the next few months as he embarks on his book tour.
Seeing Fleury retire as a member of the Flames will forever be a special memory for fans of the team and the many others who idolized the feisty forward and his never-quit attitude. I don't know about you, mysterious blogosphere folk, but I'll definitely be reading Playing With Fire (insert "Reading...Give it a Shot!" pun here)