CALGARY – Faced with losing a big asset and getting little in return, Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster dealt defenceman Tim Erixon to the New York Rangers.
Erixon, Calgary’s first-round draft pick in 2009, had to be signed by Wednesday afternoon or he went back in the draft later this month in Minneapolis.
Erixon wouldn’t sign the standard three-year rookie contract and, according to Feaster, was willing to take his chances in the draft again.
So the Flames GM sent the 20-year-old Swede and a fifth-round pick to the Rangers and got Czech left-winger Roman Horak and a pair of second-round draft picks in return.
The Rangers announced Wednesday they’d signed Erixon to an entry-level deal. The maximum annual salary at 2009 draft pick can make under the collective bargaining agreement is US$900,000, plus bonuses.
Calgary’s second-round picks are projected to be 43rd and 57th overall, which will give the Flames three selections in the first 60 and five in total June-24-25 at the Xcel Energy Center.
Calgary took Erixon 23rd overall two years ago. Had Erixon re-entered the draft, the Flames would have received one second-round pick (54th) in compensation.
“You never want to lose a first-round pick you feel is going to play,” Feaster said Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“What would have hurt more would have been losing him for only the compensatory pick. If I were standing here in front of you today saying we lost this player and ‘don’t worry because we got the 54th overall pick in the draft this year,’ that’s a much tougher thing than to have two second-round picks and a player we believe is going to play.”
Horak, from Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, has played for the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins the last two years. The six-foot-one, 160-pound forward had 26 goals and 52 assists in 64 games last season and played with another Flames prospect Ryan House. Horak, 20, was drafted in the fifth round (127th overall) by the Rangers in 2009.
“We like his worth ethic, we like his compete, we think he will play in the National Hockey League,” Feaster said.
Erixon’s father Jan played for the Rangers and Tim was born in New York State, although he competes for Sweden internationally. Erixon had five goals and 19 assists for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League this past season.
According to Feaster, Erixon was concerned he wouldn’t get to play for the Flames this season because they’ve been a team at the salary camp limit and, with four defenceman having no-trade or no-movement clauses, the Swede thought he would get sent to the minors where he doesn’t want to go.
Feaster says he offered to include a European assignment clause in the deal.
“I felt it was a moot point. I felt he was going to be on our hockey team and he was ready to play in the NHL,” Feaster said. “As discussions advanced, it became clear there were other concerns.
“He expressed concern, at least the agent did, that with our recent track record in Calgary, there aren’t a lot of young players making the hockey club.
“My point to that is to whether young players are ready to play or not. We’re committed to bringing young players onto the team if they’re ready to play.”
Rangers GM Glen Sather had been aggressively pursuing the acquisition of Erixon, Feaster continued, and when it became clear Tuesday there was no chance in signing the defenceman, it was time to salvage something from the situation.
“We tried. We made multiple offers. We made offers of salary-cap levels,” Feaster said. “All of which were met with ‘we appreciate it very much, but we still have concerns about whether Tim will be given a legitimate opportunity.”‘
Feaster and Craig Conroy, who is a special assistant to Feaster, flew to New York last Friday and negotiated with Erixon’s agent Rick Komarow to no avail.
“As I said to Connie afterward, that’s a long way to go for lunch, albeit a tasty lunch, but still a long way to go for lunch,” Feaster joked.
Meanwhile, the Flames GM said he’s still negotiating to re-sign winger Alex Tanguay, who become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Tanguay had 22 goals and 47 assists in 79 games for Calgary this past season.
“It’s actually my turn to get back to them,” Feaster said. “The lines of communication are open. We’re still optimistic to get him signed.”
He also said the team did not make offers to wingers Spencer Bennett and Henrik Bjorkland, both drafted in 2009, and 2008 draftee Alexander Deilert. The three players are eligible for the draft again.