Calgary Flames: 2013 season preview

Despite carrying one of the NHL's highest payrolls, Calgary missed the playoffs for the third straight year. But that didn't stop the Flames from shelling out big bucks last summer. Will it be enough to get them back in the post-season and keep captain Jarome Iginla in town?

Could a return to the playoffs keep 500-goal man Iginla in town?

Flames franchise player Jarome Iginla, right, could become an unrestricted free agent at season's end. (Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

Key Arrivals: D Dennis Wideman, F Jiri Hudler, F Roman Cervenka, head coach Bob Hartley.

Key Departures: F Olli Jokinen, F David Moss, D Scott Hannan, head coach Brent Sutter.

Key Decisions: Re-signed D Cory Sarich to 2-year, $4-million US extension, re-signed F Lee Stempniak to 2-year, $5-million contract.

2011-12 record: 37-29-16, finished 9th in Western Conference.

Last year’s story

Despite carrying the NHL’s fifth-highest payroll, according to capgeek.com, Calgary missed the playoffs for the third straight year, and its minus-24 goal differential was just three goals better than 14th-place Edmonton’s. Only one team (Florida) had more OT and shootout losses than Calgary’s 16.

Captain Jarome Iginla surpassed the 500-goal milestone, and played all 82 games for the fifth straight year in his age-34 season, but his 67 points represented his lowest output since 2005-06, and he endured considerable debate over whether he should be traded by the only NHL team he’s known. Calgary’s other cornerstone, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, looked fresh at age 35, reaching the 70-game mark for the seventh year in a row while posting a save percentage (.921) that was his best since 2005-06.

The Flames’ special teams were decent, but their 5-on-5 scoring ratio ranked 25th in the league as they struggled to put the puck in the net despite the addition of Mike Cammalleri, who was reacquired in a mid-season trade with Montreal and scored 11 goals in 28 games with the Flames.

This year’s outlook

Despite the poor return on its sizable investment last season, Calgary’s ownership group kept the pursestrings loose, allowing GM Jay Feaster to spend big bucks on offensive-minded defenceman Dennis Wideman (11 goals, 46 points while playing big minutes with Washington last year) and winger Jiri Hudler (25 goals, 50 points in limited ice time with Detroit). Feaster also gave a one-year deal to centre Roman Cervenka, who scored 54 goals in 105 KHL regular-season games over the last two years. The idea is to improve an offence that outscored only five teams. Perhaps a full season of Cammalleri, who hit his career high of 39 goals with Calgary back in 2008-09, will help.

The Flames ranked in the middle of the pack defensively last season as Kiprusoff defied the aging curve, but the franchise goalie has borne a heavy workload for the Flames since the 2004-05 lockout. If Calgary stumbles, expect the Iginla trade talk to reach a fever pitch as he plays out the final season of his contract and eyes unrestricted free agency.