Flames GM will look far and wide for upgrades

Being busy in the National Hockey League’s free-agent market means different things to different teams.

There’s the whole-hog approach, the million-dollar Band-Aids.

For the Calgary Flames, though, it often means pecking away.

Last summer, for instance, they corralled a number of small names. Perhaps no fireworks went off when Derek Smith agreed to a one-year deal. But, by Christmas, the defender had proved to be a capable NHLer. The cost? His relatively modest salary of $700,000. He’s since been extended.

And where were the trumpets on July 7, 2004? The tall headlines? Forget it.

This appeared at the very bottom of a Calgary Herald story that day: “Also inked were Ontario junior D Mark Giordano, Swift Current Broncos LW Davin Heintz, Red Deer Rebels LW Justin Taylor, former Rebels RW Carsen Germyn and former Seattle Thunderbirds C Dustin Johner, a Sylvan Lake product.”

Giordano, as it turned out, evolved into the Flames’ top defender, one of its best leaders, and, in the minds of many, the lone untouchable on the roster. The moral of the story: Do not turn up your nose at any signing, no matter how low-wattage the initial appearance.

So when general manager Jay Feaster crows about sticking his beak into the free-agent ranks of U.S. college players . . . well, why not?

“It hasn’t been as fruitful this year as we would have liked,” Feaster says. “We went hard at some of the high-profile college guys, and were right there pitching to the very end, and we didn’t land some of them. We’re going to continue that process.

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/sports/Flames+will+look+wide+upgrades/6444580/story.html#ixzz1rpsTIpsg