Calgary Flames Form a Rental Angreement
Acquire Tough Customer; Chris Simon

Rick Charlton
February 24th, 2004

Maybe it was the unchallenged elbow by the clearly un-intimidated Brendan Morrow on Flames star and captain Jarome Iginla the night before.

Maybe it was the fact the lone flat-nosed knuckle chucker on the Flames, Krzysztof Oliwa, while game as they come, was finding it increasingly difficult to pull down a regular shift.

Or maybe it was the sight of Martin Gelinas doing a cartwheel and landing on his head before leaving the Dallas game for X-rays, joining fellow left wing Steve Reinprecht on the "maybe" list for the stretch run.

Chris Simon's Career Statistics

Season Team GP G A Pts PIM
1992-93 Quebec Nordiques 16 1 1 2 67
1993-94 Quebec Nordiques 37 4 4 8 132
1994-95 Quebec Nordiques 29 3 9 12 106
1995-96 Colorado Avalanche 64 16 18 34 250
1996-97 Washington Capitals 42 9 13 22 165
1997-98 Washington Capitals 28 7 10 17 38
1998-99 Washington Capitals 23 3 7 10 48
1999-00 Washington Capitals 75 29 20 49 146
2000-01 Washington Capitals 60 10 10 20 109
2001-02 Washington Capitals 82 14 17 31 137
2002-03 Washington Capitals 10 0 2 2 23
2002-03 Chicago Blackhawks 61 12 6 18 125
2003-04 New-York Rangers 65 14 9 23 225

After getting shoved around the night before in Dallas and potentially losing Gelinas to injury, coach Darryl Sutter might well have demanded GM Darryl Sutter get something done on the team toughness front, the latter responding by acquiring left wing Chris Simon and a seventh round draft pick from the New York Rangers today in exchange for locker room favourite Jamie McLennan, oft-injured fourth line centre Blair Betts and prospect Greg Moore.

Spare part Josh Green was also lost to the Rangers on waivers.

The monstrous Simon, 6'4" and 235 lbs of pure menace, may also help out in the skill department, if only a wee bit, the former Nordique, Capital and Blackhawk having scored five times in his last six starts and once with 29 goals in a season with Washington.

Simon had 14 goals, nine assists for 23 points in 65 games this year but was also an impressive plus 14 on a bad Rangers team, reinforcing his career statistics as a fairly responsible player at both ends of the ice, a quality prized by Sutter in any of his acquisitions.

Simon had 225 penalty minutes this year and was averaging just under 12 minutes a game with the hapless Rangers.

With the status of Gelinas and Reinprecht uncertain, the acquisition of Simon fills a gaping need on the left side of the ice in Calgary while also complementing the rather one dimensional skill set of Oliwa, lately in and out of the lineup as his plus/minus sank into the depths.

On the Rangers side of the equation, Betts is becoming more and more of a gamble considering his caved-in shoulders continue to put him on the sidelines.

Betts has played only 48 games in the NHL/AHL the last two seasons and, while few question he has the ability/desire/skill to be a quality third or fourth line centre, many might be now doubting if his health will ever allow him to reach his potential.

Moore could end up being the wild card in the deal, a University of Maine power forward taken 143rd overall in the 2003 Draft, later playing on the gold medal USA world junior championship team.

With Miikka Kiprusoff and Roman Turek healthy, and the latter apparently untradeable, Jamie McLennan always figured to be the odd man out in Calgary in spite of being forced to play above his ability in many key situations this season.

McLennan is really nothing more than a backup and a fading one at that, yet even his critics can't deny he delivered in the clutch at several key junctures in the season when both Kiprusoff and Turek were felled with injuries.

His 12-9-3 record with a 2.20 GAA and .910 save percentage were more than adequate.

One of the key moments in the campaign may have occurred just prior to the All Star break when a healthy Turek was taunted out of the Saddledome rotation by his own fans, a clearly ailing McLennan coming in to secure three of four points in two gutty starts against Anaheim and LA while hampered by a painfully cracked sternum.

Green won't be considered much of a loss by the Flames, the winger having yet another season hampered by the same inconsistent intensity that has essentially killed his career to date.

Guys like Green drive Sutter to distraction, clearly having the size, talent, speed, skill and most other factors that go into making an NHL player but lacking the will to show up every night and apply themselves.

On the money front, Simon's contract calls for $1.5 million in 2003-2004 while Calgary loses $450,000 for Josh Green, $650,000 for McLennan and $500,000 for Betts, meaning the trade is essentially a wash monetarily.

Simon is a UFA at the end of the season and many might wonder about Sutter's pronouncements that he wouldn't trade his "future" simply to make a run at the playoffs.

But clearly this trade looks exactly like that, 15 games of Simon in exchange for the uncertainty of Betts and the potential of Moore, with McLennan and Green as the throw-ins to even things out on the money front.

And the short term reality is that Calgary essentially moved Josh Green for Chris Simon, the only two people involved in this transaction who actually played last night and the only two who were likely to play a game through to the end of the season in their former respective locations.

Short term upgrade but potentially a large price to pay in coming seasons if Simon bolts and Betts and Moore blossom.

But that's the price this Flames team hasn't been prepared to pay in the past to make a push for the playoffs.

Maybe it was time.

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