After being held out of the lineup since December 20th, 39-year old Craig Conroy was placed on waivers this morning, more than likely signaling the end of his nearly decade-long career with the Flames, at least on the ice.
Conroy's value to the Flames was discussed at length here and around the blogosphere in the off-season. A smart, hard-working forward who reads the play well and is excellent both on the penalty kill and at driving possession at even strength, he is clearly no longer a 20-goal scorer playing alongside long-time friend Jarome Iginla, but he still possesses the ability to do the "little things" right--a crucial element to any successful hockey club. The fact that he has been held out of the lineup in place of, say, Ales Kotalik, who has an inflated salary and doesn't bring any of the aforementioned skills to the table on a consistent basis, has been a point of contention for many Flames fans this season.
The management of Craig Conroy this season has been peculiar. He has appeared in 18 games with the club, scoring twice, and playing his 1000th career game in Flames silks before being repeatedly shunned to the press box when he was arguably one of the Flames' more effective options at centre in a defensive, tough minutes role, especially with Daymond Langkow permanently on the shelf.
Conroy's two-way, one-year deal at $500K is in no way a burden to the club, and, although we are still awaiting further comment from both himself and Jay Feaster after the waiver deadline tomorrow morning, placing a 39-year old player who has been an integral part of the organization for the better part of a decade on waivers isn't exactly the best way to go about disposing of said contract. Is putting him on waivers and essentially forcing him into retirement/relocation a better option than letting him wait out the rest of the season to retire gracefully as a Flame?
Amidst the discussion of the possibility of a rebuild around these parts, there's no doubt that this team needs to get younger. Players over the age of thirty who are no longer in their prime years of productivity such as Olli Jokinen, Ales Kotalik, Niklas Hagman, Cory Sarich and perhaps even Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Robyn Regehr should be dealt while the potential return is at its highest. Since it was probably unlikely that Conroy would bring back much of anything in a trade, is he simply the "sacrificial lamb," so to speak, in this impending youth movement?
While it makes sense to cut Conroy loose based on lack of potential return and/or if he has understandably grown weary of watching his teammates from the press box night in and night out, I can't help but believe that there are players that should have been banished from this organization long before him in order to clear the way for real progress to be made. Getting rid of Conroy and his meagre dollar figure contributes little towards that goal.
What say you?