CALGARY – After missing the playoffs for the second straight year, the Calgary Flames cleaned out their lockers Monday expecting an off-season full of change.
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said his goodbyes to teammates while wondering if he’ll see some of them again come training camp.
“I’ve never been on a team that’s been the same every year,” Iginla said after playing all 82 games to finish with 43 goals and adding 43 assists.
“That’s always hard at the end of the year. You’re sitting here saying goodbye to each other and … You know that as a group it won’t be exactly the same most likely.”
Iginla also said he’ll be interested to see whether acting general manager Jay Feaster will have the acting tag taken off his title and, if so, what kind of moves he’ll make to improve the team.
One of the players the stalwart captain would like to see re-signed is unrestricted free agent Alex Tanguay, who finished with 22 goals and 47 assists.
“He was a great signing last summer,”said Iginla.“I absolutely love playing with him. He’s a very good player and we do mesh well together and kind of feed off of each other and help each other.”
Tanguay, who’s in line for a raise from the US$1.7 million he made this year, said he would like to return to Calgary if he can come to terms on a new deal.
“I like my situation here,”Tanguay said.“I came back for that reason last summer, to get back to the playing level that I thought I was capable of playing. To do that you need to have an opportunity and I certainly had a great opportunity this year.
“I’d like to be back, but it is a business and we’ll see.”
Unrestricted free agent forward Curtis Glencross also made it known that he’d like to stay in Calgary next season.
“The ultimate goal is to stay here in Calgary and stay as a Flame,”said Glencross, who notched a career-high 24 goals to go with 19 assists in 79 games.“That’s something between the organization and my agent that they’re going to figure out.”
With 17 players already under contract for $56.2 million next season, the Flames will have trouble signing the likes of Tanguay, Glencross or any other free agents unless they make some moves to free up space under the salary cap.
“There are a lot of business things that have to go on right now,”said defenceman Steve Staios, another unrestricted free agent.“Everybody knows we’re up against the salary cap.”
Regardless of who returns to the team next season, coach Brent Sutter said he wants to build off the late season surge when the Flames were 13 games over .500.
“Obviously, no one’s happy,”said Sutter.“For me personally, I want to build off the last 47 (games) and carry on with that and learn from the other part.”
Forward Mikael Backlund, who finished with 10 goals and 15 assists, said he’s anxious to improve upon his rookie season. Backlund went from playing on the third and fourth lines to centring the top line between Iginla and Tanguay after both David Moss and Brendan Morrison went down with injuries.
“For me it was fun to play with Iggy and Tangs,”said Backlund.“I think I picked up my game at the end of the year and played (with) more confidence.”
Sutter was pleased to see that Backlund had progressed far enough to play on the top line by the end of the season.
“When you look at where he was at the start of the year and where he is today, he certainly has improved,”Sutter said.“He’s gotten better and that was part of the plan from the start of the year was to gradually give him a little bit more.”
Backlund’s NHL season is over, but he received an email Monday asking him to play for Sweden at the upcoming 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia.
“I emailed them back and said that I’m really interested and wanted to go,”said Backlund.“They were really excited for me to go and they wanted me to go.”
After the world championships, Backlund said he’ll switch his focus to training in the off-season with hopes of playing a more prominent role with the Flames next season.
“Obviously my goal and what I want to do is be on the first line and to keep playing with Iggy and hopefully Tangs,”he said.“Ijust need to have another good summer and take my experience with me and get even stronger next year.”