Keenan content with Flames' depth
Coach confident in GM Darryl Sutter's ability to assess team at trade deadline
The Calgary Flames faithful no doubt are hoping Mike Keenan was bluffing recently when the head coach told reporters he would be comfortable entering the Stanley Cup playoffs with the status quo.
"We're really comfortable with the depth that we have in the organization, and that's proven to be strong because you can't sustain the type of success we've had to this point without the depth," he said in a conference call.
Calgary, though, would probably have trouble sustaining its success without added punch up front — at centre and perhaps left wing — and on defence, areas that management could address leading into the NHL's March 4 trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET.
With just over $1.5 million US in salary cap space, many feel general manager Darryl Sutter is seeking a second-line centre and top-four defenceman, despite the fact his team has spent much of the season atop the Northwest Division standings.
Centre Daymond Langkow, an 11-year veteran, had 18 goals and 42 points in 57 games before suffering a hand injury while left-winger Rene Bourque, according to Keenan, had played himself into contention for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward.
The 27-year-old was flourishing in his first season with the Flames before sustaining a high-ankle sprain, scoring 21 goals in 58 contests and flashing a team-best plus-18 rating.
"I have complete confidence in Darryl's judgment and his ability to either add or remain status quo," Keenan said, "and that's because I've had the experience [of being an NHL GM]."
Connolly, Morrison on Sutter's radar?
Buffalo's Tim Connolly or Anaheim's Brendan Morrison, both slated for unrestricted free agency in the summer, could potentially fit the bill as second-line centre and wouldn't be a big cap hit. The injury-prone Connolly is earning $2.9 million this season and Morrison is at $2.75 million.
Inexpensive centre Matthew Lombardi ($1.8 million) could go the other way in a potential trade. While the 26-year-old has yet to reach his full potential, he has stepped up his play with the deadline approaching.
Mark Giordano was third among Calgary defencemen this season with 19 points in 58 games before he suffered an upper-body injury recently. Problem is, he was also viewed as trade bait for Sutter, leaving the inexperienced Adam Pardy and little-used Jim Vandermeer manning the blue-line.
Phoenix rearguard Derek Morris, who broke into the NHL with the Flames in 1997 and spent five seasons in Calgary, has close ties with Sutter and could provide back-end depth. But the price tag would be higher for Morris, who is making $3.9 million this season and is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Further down the Flames' priority list would be acquiring some insurance for goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Rookie backup Curtis McElhinney appeared in only six of the team's first 60 starts this season and has just 11 games of NHL experience, including zero in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The name of former Ottawa Senators netminder Ray Emery was floated during a recent Hotstove segment on Hockey Night in Canada. He has spent this season in Russia's Continental Hockey League (KHL).
"The best goalies want to play as much as possible," Keenan said. "You just have to be aware of their work-to-rest ratio, and we give Miikka a lot of days off."
Calgary has made 10 trade deadline deals since the 1999-2000 season, with the swap of centre Craig Conroy for St. Louis Blues left-winger Cory Stillman in 2001 perhaps the most notable.
The most recent deadline move came on Feb. 27, 2007, when New Jersey shipped defenceman David Hale and a 2007 fifth-round draft pick to the Flames for Calgary's third-round selection in the same draft.