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On Your Marks!

D'Arcy McGrath

June 7, 2001

 

The Calgary Flames announced Craig Button as their new general manager on June 6th 2000, during an upbeat press conference on the floor of the Saddledome.

 

A year and a day later could mark the beginning of year two in his tenure as the key decision maker with the Calgary Flames.

 

Archive: Button Hired

 

A New Jersey victory over the Colorado Avalanche at the Meadowlands tonight will bring to an end the 2000-2001 NHL season.

 

The final buzzer would also act as starting pistol commencing one of the most hectic, and action packed NHL off-seasons in recent memory.

 

Big names such as Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr, Pierre Turgeon, Joe Sakic, Jeremy Roenick, John Leclair, Patrick Roy, Rob Blake, Alexi Yashin, Mike Peca, Dominic Hasek, and Doug Weight could be filing change of address cards with their local post offices, many in the next three weeks.

 

The average hockey fan doesn't expect a big fish to land in Calgary, but that doesn't mean Craig Button shouldn't be busy.

 

Last season Button was faced with an entry draft taking place in his own city less than three weeks after being hired. From there he had to secure a head coach for the upcoming season, a task that took him until July 13th to complete.

 

Things should run much more smoothly this time around. The coaching staff is in place, his scouting staff revamped and on the same page, not to mention a year in the books to evaluate and formulate his roster.

 

Now where to begin?

 

First off Button has less than a month to sign his own unrestricted free agents; Tommy Albelin and Ron Sutter. He has already gone on record as saying that neither player will be approached until after the July 1st deadline, which can be interpreted two ways. 

 

One, he feels competition for these players won't be too high, and that a better deal might be worked out by letting the deadline pass.

 

Or two, he plans to have other players in place by the end of the summer, making the need for the two veterans marginal at best.

Button must also negotiate deals with his restricted free agents including Craig Conroy, Val Bure and Ron Petrovicky. If Bure's rumoured demands of four million per season are to be believed, there is a very slim chance the enigmatic Russian will be in camp.

 

Which leads us to player movement and acquisitions over the summer.

 

Despite the good intentions being pushed in the local newspapers, Button is likely shopping Val Bure. (Bure Trade Rumors)

 

Any moves made by Button have to deal with the present, the future has been sold in Calgary for too long, the team needs to win now.

 

The most marketable assets that the Flames possess on the trade market that could be moved include; Bure, the teams 11th overall draft pick, and one of their four blue chip defencemen. Some combination of the three could be shipped in order to acquire more scoring talent up front, and a more exciting product on the ice. Marc Savard and Jarome Iginla would generate interest, but moving offence to gain offence makes little sense.

 

Another option open to Button is the unrestricted free agent market.

 

In previous seasons only a handful of names were on the block, and these players were always snapped up by the teams with the higher end budgets.

 

This summer will be different.

 

A quick glance at the UFA List displays in the neighborhood of 50 to 70 free agents that will likely find gainful employment by summer's end.

 

That's an average of two free agents per team, and certainly too many for the New York Rangers to sign exclusively ... one would think. Reports out of Madison Square Garden suggest the Rangers may actually add a few names to the list by buying out several of their older, less productive, and expensive players.

 

So on your marks ... get set ... and keep your eyes firmly on the transaction page, as this summer is sure to be loaded with hockey news on a daily basis.

 

Though if it means a Stanley Cup for Ray Bourque I'll gladly wait another couple of days for the feast.