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Flames Watch: What will Calgary do at the deadline?

With most GMs, it's always difficult to establish whether they're bluffing or giving the straight goods when they talk about player movement and trade talk.

With deposed Calgary GM Darryl Sutter, we were always fairly certain he wasn't telling the media the truth in this department. I remember a couple of years ago on the eve of the trade deadline he told Jermain Franklin of TSN he absolutely positively had no intention of making a trade for a forward, defenseman or goalie. Then within 24 hours he made the franchise-shifting deals to acquire Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold.

So it's tough to figure out what acting GM Jay Feaster is really going to do when he's telling the media he has no intention of dealing off Calgary's most valuable assets this season. Do we expect him to announce there's going to be a fire sale if the Flames fall out of playoff contention? Of course not. But by publicly stating Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Miikka Kiprusoff are not for sale at any price this month or next, he's missing out on a market that could easily be willing to overspend.

With Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington and Tampa Bay looking like serious contenders in the East and probably six viable conference hopefuls in the West, the acting Flames GM should be salivating at what a Philadelphia or Washington would be willing to give up for Kiprusoff, or Los Angeles or Pittsburgh for Iginla, or any contending team for reliable stay-at-home Regehr. A Cup hopeful is typically going to roll the dice more at the trade deadline than the long summer days when less is at stake.

Feaster probably knows this and is keeping a poker face. After all, he made some important late-season moves in 2004 to push the Lightning over the top in the Cup final. He knows some teams are going to come knocking in February and sweeten the pot for difference-makers such as Kiprusoff, Iginla and Regehr.

A Flames rebuild is imminent, despite the excitement of four wins in five games. That's not to say Calgary's three veteran cornerstones should be dealt away for the best offer on the table. It's just going to take a heck of an offer to sway Feaster. So don't be surprised to see his protestations turn out to be a fib come Feb. 28.

FRONT AND BACKLUND: It makes sense to farm out Mikael Backlund to Abbotsford for four games this week, but come next Monday, I'd like to see the young, developing Swede back in Calgary and the slow and soft Matt Stajan sent down to the American League.

Stajan doesn't have the speed, intensity or jam to play on Calgary's top two lines and he doesn't have the energy or urgency to play a support role on the third or fourth lines. In my mind, he's a career AHL player who has been masquerading as an NHLer on some poor teams in Toronto and Calgary.

At $3.5 million this season and each of the next three, the Flames risk losing Stajan on waivers if they were ever to recall him to the NHL. And Calgary would be on the hook for half that stipend. But how many NHL teams would want such an unproductive softie for $1.75 million? Let Backlund take Stajan's job and show development.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.


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