The task of creating more financial flexibility for the Calgary Flames continues to be hard on general manager Jay Feaster.
On Monday, he dealt centre Daymond Langkow to the Phoenix Coyotes for winger Lee Stempniak—marking the second time this off-season he’s asked a veteran to waive a no-movement clause for a deal that frees up salary cap space.
“It is never easy moving a player who battles and competes such as Daymond,” Feaster said in a statement. “However, because of our depth and options at centre ice, this trade presents us with an opportunity to positively impact the organization in a number of ways.”
The deal is contingent on Langkow passing a physical.
The veteran authored one of the NHL’s feel-good stories last season, returning for the final four games after missing more than a year with a broken bone in his neck and earning a nomination for the Masterton Trophy.
With another year remaining on his contract, he had expected to remain in Calgary. The 34 year old took about an hour to weigh his options after Feaster phoned him Monday morning with the proposed trade to Phoenix.
“It didn’t take too long,” said Langkow.
The move gives the Flames some much-needed breathing room under the salary cap—something Feaster has been striving for since replacing Darryl Sutter midway through the season.
Calgary now has a little over US$60 million committed for the upcoming season, including Stempniak’s $1.9-million hit. Langkow is scheduled to earn $4.5 million.
Feaster traded veteran defenceman Robyn Regehr to Buffalo earlier this summer and believes the organization’s current salary structure gives him the ability to make other moves during the regular season.
“If you don’t have the (cap) space, you’re not even a participant, you’re not a player,” he told Flames TV. “For us now to have the space we have more options and more flexibility.”
Langkow returns to an organization where he spent three seasons prior to a 2004 deal to Calgary. He remains close friends with Coyotes captain Shane Doan and is optimistic about resuming his career in the desert.
Ultimately, the seven-time 20-goal scorer is just happy to be playing after getting hit with a slapshot at the base of his neck in March 2010. There were points during his recovery where he wondered if he might have to retire.
“As the year went on last year and the longer I was out of the lineup, you definitely start asking yourself that question,” said Langkow. “But fortunately things worked out and I was able to get back.”
Coyotes GM Don Maloney believes the move frees up a little more room for competition among his young wingers while helping solidify the team’s depth at forward.
He spent a lot of time doing his homework on Langkow’s health and harbours no concerns.
“I ended up watching all of his shifts from the last four games he played at the end of last season,” said Maloney. “If you remember that St. Louis game, where he got cross-checked in the middle of the second period—that was probably a pretty good indication when he got back up that he would be fine.
“I look at Daymond and it sort of symbolizes what we’re all about here in Phoenix. There’s not a lot of flash and dash.”
Langkow has 259 goals and 383 assists in 1,017 career NHL games with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Calgary.
The 28-year-old Stempniak joins his fourth team. He has 115 goals and 132 assists in 456 career games with St. Louis, Toronto and Phoenix.
The Coyotes acquired Stempniak from Toronto in March 2010 and re-signed him to a two-year deal last summer.
“(The trade) makes us younger and provides an opportunity to evaluate a player who may factor into our plans for the future,” said Feaster. “It provides (Flames coach Brent Sutter) with options as Stempniak can play either wing and can be used on both the power play and the penalty kill and it creates healthy competition among the forward group for ice time.”
Stempniak had 19 goals and 19 assists in 82 games with the Coyotes in 2010-11. He has two assists in 11career playoff games.