The 2013-2014 edition of the Calgary Flames looks destined for the basement and that's a good thing. Another year in the front end of the lottery means another chance to grab an elite prospect, of which the team currently has zero - even after what was nearly a historically bad season for the club.
Fortunately for Jay Feaster, he has the opportunity to make a huge impact on the team moving forward, as a top 6 centre - a real one - is available at the cost of taking on his contract.
Before the UFA madness even begins, Feaster can put in a claim for Mikhail Grabovski (4 years, 5.5 per remaining) and acquire a younger centre who would be close to, if not, the best player on the team. The cost is a waiver claim. There are 5 teams ahead of the Flames on the waiver ladder that will also have the opportunity (Florida, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina), but we will surely hear if Feaster put in a claim at all regardless of whether or not he's claimed by the club.
Realistically, Grabovski is Feaster's best chance at acquiring an impact player today.
Now, for a list of players I think the team should target today. Keep in mind, I would be focusing on re-build 100%, therefore looking at mostly short-term deals and trying to avoid overpaying so that the team's options remain free and clear moving forward.
Kyle Wellwood - Notoriously cheap and relatively effective. No risk of a bad contract or a long-term liability.
Boyd Gordon - Underrated bottom 6er. Brings a level of compete with him that might accidentally rub off on some of the members of the Flames country club.
Kyle Chipchura - Kind of like a lesser Boyd Gordon, but he's also a bit younger at 27. Low risk, short term who will play for his job.
FEASTER LIST: It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Maxim Lapierre is a Flame by the end of the day (3 years, 7.5 million). I expect he'll take a small run at some of the bigs on the list after he doesn't claim Grabovski.
Clarke MacArthur - Feaster has made a run at him before and he was another who was used in a confusing manner in Toronto.
Mason Raymond - Speed to burn and a decent enough scorer. There's still room to grow for him and getting out of Vancouver could be a huge opportunity.
Viktor Stalberg - Another guy who could shine after leaving an elite team.
Guillaime Latendresse, Benoit Pouliot, Nathan Gerbe - I'd give any one of these guys a good look and a chance to earn decent minutes.
FEASTER LIST: Is Valtteri Filppula a LW or a C? Either way, I think he'll get offered a very competitive deal by Feaster.
Nathan Horton - Good, young, RW scorer. He'll likely have many better offers but the tires have to be kicked.
Chad LaRose - Unfortunately wouldn't help the top 6 but he's an underrated player and would be a great fit on the Flames.
Damien Brunner - Somebody is going to have to score for this team.
FEASTER LIST: I think he'll take a shot at David Clarkson who seems to fit his criteria perfectly. Probably Brunner as well.
Jonathon Blum - He's only 24. He played middling minutes with middling results but the years are on his side and he could develop further and be a very useful player.
Tom Gilbert - He can move the puck, which the Flames sorely lack. He's a decent player and would improve the D.
Ray Emery - He'd be a better option than Ramo or Khudobin.
FEASTER LIST: I'm not sure he'll do anything here. He's very confident in his moves and the team is quite deep with mediocre goalies.
If, at the end of the day, Feaster hasn't signed anyone to a long-term, big-money deal I'll be happy. There's no need for that unless you're getting Nathan Horton or maybe David Clarkson at a reasonable price. The team should remain focused on a re-build and finding cheap, young talent to sell to the fans during this down turn.