January 31, 2010
When word broke on TSN via Darren Dreger that the Calgary Flames were close to shipping Olli Jokinen(notes) and Brandon Prust(notes) to the New York Rangers for Alex Kotalik and Christopher Higgins(notes), our first thought was how this would affect attendance at March's "Fire Glen Sather" rally in Manhattan.
It could decline: Sather dumped the $9 million, three-year contract of Kotalik, who wanted out of New York, and pending UFA Higgins, who'd be an unmitigated disaster for the Rangers had he not helped clear Scott Gomez's(notes) salary from the books, for a few months of Jokinen before he enters unrestricted free agency.
Or it could increase, because Jokinen has been an enigmatic, underwhelming flop for the Flames, with the leadership skills of a frightened kitten; and after all, was still Sather's ink on that Kotalik contract -- a nice reminder that it takes more than a solid trade to undo all he's done to the franchise.
Now, keep in mind nothing's done yet; according to Rangers Report, Kotalik's
no-movement clause might holding this sucker up and ESPN also reports that nothing is official. (UPDATE: Rangers Report now says it's a limited no-trade clause.) Late Sunday night, Dreger reported that it might be the Flames holding up the trade. While it does sound like something that's close, read the following analysis with that caveat in mind, in between giggles about Kotalik potentially having a NMC.
On paper, and if it goes through, it's a win for Sather.
Two problem players, and one problem contract, for a player who immediately improves the weakest position on the team and, if he clicks with someone like Marian Gaborik(notes), offers offensive upside. Prust would, one assumes, take over the pugilist's role held by Donald Brashear(notes), another brilliant Sather signing.
Flames GM Darryl Sutter's going to catch hell for this trade if it happens, but honestly: Jokinen wasn't coming back, Kotalik's a good secondary scorer if he can find his smile and you either clear salary or have another good depth forward in Higgins. But repeat our top story: Jokinen wasn't coming back anyway.
We weren't thrilled with Sutter after the Phaneuf trade, but he's clearly in the process of remaking this team after mucking up the roster and touching the cap ceiling. Would they have made the playoffs with Jokinen and Phaneuf? Sutter clearly didn't believe they would. Can they make the playoffs with Kotalik, Higgins, Matt Stajan(notes), Niklas Hagman(notes), Jamal Mayers(notes) and Ian White(notes)? Only if this infusion of talent is the defibrillator for the paralyzed heart of this team.
Time will tell; or the whole thing will be kiboshed. One of the two.