Flames sign Roman Hamrlik
I think I was like most observers when, after Calgary GM Darryl Sutter signed free agents Tony Amonte and Darren McCarty, I assumed those would be the final pieces added to a club that came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. With the already-impressive arsenal assembled, I (and others) reasoned, surely Sutter must be finished.
As we have learned (officially) today, the venerable GM wasn't at all. Not content with a defence core that is built around young talents like Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr, Sutter signed offensive-blueliner Roman Hamrlik to a two-year, $7-million deal.
While it may come as a surprise, I like the move.
Looking at the Flames defensive depth chart, as one commenter has at Boltsmag, even sans Hamrlik it looks fairly impressive:
Regehr - Leopold
Warrener - Lydman
Ference - Phaneuf
Sutter had already shuttled the burly Mike Commodore to the Hurricanes for a draft pick, presumably to make room for 20-year-old Dion Phaneuf, the Flames first-round pick in 2003. With his top six comprised of five proven NHL defencemen, one outstanding rookie and a solid depth defenceman in Steve Montador, there were a number of reasons Sutter made the move for Hamrlik.
- Chiefly, the move addresses a lack of a stalwart offensive force from the back end. The Flames highest-scoring defenceman last season was Leopold, who had nine goals and 33 points. Not exactly championship-calibre numbers from your defence. Despite his poor season last year, Hamrlik is a proven commodity on offence and has even had a 65-point season in the NHL, albeit nine years ago.
I'm sure it will shock no one that his primary role will be to man the point on the powerplay, filling a void left when Derek Morris skipped town in 2002. Calgary missed Morris's huge shot with the extra man, but there's a reason 'The Hammer' has his nickname (aside from the remarkable similarity of his name to said implement, Hamrlik packs a rocket).
As good as the Flames were in 2003-04, their powerplay was 21st in the league, and Leopold's inability to step in as a No. 1 pointman was a big reason why. It also certainly didn't help that he had little assistance in this regard.
- It's also no secret that Sutter has never been a huge fan of Toni Lydman, a Finnish defender who lacks much of the umph! the callous coach and GM expects of his player. Hamrlik's arrival could very well signal the departure of the 27-year-old Lydman, who, for an offensive defenseman, has never had more than 28 points in the NHL.
- While this may be true of every NHL team's GM, Sutter is out to build a championship team. Despite the fact his club almost went the distance the last time around, unlike some managers, he's not resting on his laurels. My guess is being a Stanley Cup bridesmaid has only made him want his first Cup even more.
- Last but not least: Hamrlik was the best UFA defenceman left on the market.
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