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With big deals done, Flames acquire defenceman in minor trade with Devils

The acquisition of defenceman David Hale and a fifth-round draft pick from the New Jersey Devils cost him a third-round selection. The move was a footnote to larger deals Sutter made earlier this month when he got premiere defenceman Brad Stuart and tough winger Wayne Primeau from Boston for defenceman Andrew Ference and forward Chuck Kobasew.

And a popular player returned to Calgary on Jan. 29 when Sutter obtained forward Craig Conroy from Los Angeles for Jamie Lundmark and two draft picks.

Sutter wasn't willing to give up anymore players or first-round picks, so another blockbuster wasn't in the works Tuesday.

"After we made the Conroy deal and the Stuart and Primeau deal, we weren't really heavy anywhere," Sutter said. "I like our players. I wasn't going to delete players.

"We weren't giving up a first-round pick in anything. I didn't even talk to anybody about a first-round pick, so I don't know if we could have got involved in anything."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla felt the quality of the players already acquired and the timing of it gave his team the advantage in this year's trade market.

"Teams that are adding guys today didn't add players of the calibre we did in the last month," Iginla said. "First of all, we got them.

"They've made a big impact on our club and they're going to, but you also get more time to come together as a team."

Hale, a stay-at-home defenceman, will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. The 25-year-old has one assist and is plus-two in 43 games in his third season with the Devils.

Defenceman Richie Regehr is currently sidelined with a concussion. With his status unclear, Sutter wanted a defenceman in the same age range who was under contract or a restricted free agent.

The six-foot-two, 215-pound Hale was also attractive because he has NHL experience playing in the Devils' defensive system.

He could take some workload pressure off Dion Phaneuf and Roman Hamrlik, who average over 25 minutes per game and sometimes up to 30.

Hale was expected to arrive in Calgary late Wednesday and not in time for the Flames' home game against Minnesota.

Calgary (33-21-9) sat eighth in the Western Conference on Tuesday, but could legitimately pass Minnesota, Dallas, San Jose and division-leader Vancouver down the stretch.

The Flames boast the league's best home record of 26-6-1 at the Pengrowth Saddledome and is among the top quarter of teams in goals for.

Since acquiring Stuart and Primeau, their power play has rocketed up the charts from 24th on Feb. 2 to eighth.

But their abysmal road record (7-15-8) and a penalty kill ranked 24th in the NHL is a drag on the team's fortunes.

"The best part of our team is we haven't played our best hockey yet and what are we? Eleven or 12 games over .500?" Sutter asked. "Normally you would think they would get some credit for that."

With Mikka Kiprusoff in goal, formidable top four defencemen in Phaneuf, Hamrlik, Stuart and Robyn Regehr, and the team scoring more goals than they did last year, Calgary is in position for a long playoff run.

But they've under-achieved at times this year, which has raised speculation on the future of head coach Jim Playfair and whether Sutter would return to the position he vacated last summer prior to the playoffs?

"Let's put that to bed," Sutter said. "I made it very clear that I'm not interested in coaching the Calgary Flames.

"I'm interested in the coaching staff and the players downstairs taking it to the next level because they are capable of doing it."


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