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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nice work by Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster in alleviating some of the salary-cap clog he was left by outgoing GM Darryl Sutter last season.
Not only did Feaster move veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr, who has two years left at a cap hit just north of $4 million annually, but he was also able to shed underachieving Ales Kotalik and his $3 million salary. Kotalik was a disappointment in Calgary, splitting time between the AHL and NHL this past season.
"It's not a case where we were looking to unload Robyn. Robyn has been a tremendous hockey player for our club and has been there for a very long time," Feaster said of the deal with the Buffalo Sabres that brought Chris Butler and Paul Byron to the Flames. "It's difficult when you move a guy that is a core player. At the same time, we have been in salary-cap jail for some time. This gives us the opportunity to have some room and get a fresh start and, at the same time, to get younger and bring in two younger players. We think both guys are going to play."
The move also allowed Feaster to sign winger Alex Tanguay to a five-year extension worth $3.5 million annually. Tanguay and captain Jarome Iginla enjoyed significant chemistry a year ago; keeping Tanguay (22 goals in 2010-11) in the fold was a priority.
"He's going to be with us a long time. I think -- no, I know -- the man with the biggest smile in Calgary isn't Alex, it's Jarome Iginla, because that is one guy that Jarome has been very clear that he wants to be able to play with," Feaster said. "Certainly, our entire organization is thrilled to have him back. As we looked at the potential UFA market, we didn't see a player that could be as productive as we believe he can be.
As for the Sabres, Buffalo GM Darcy Regier is hoping Kotalik can regain the form that saw him score a career-best 25 goals with the Sabres back in 2005-06. Regier insisted the Sabres have no plans to buy Kotalik out of the final year of his contract.
New Sabres owner Terry Pegula was involved in convincing former Canadian Olympian Regehr to waive his no-movement clause to come to Buffalo.
"Terry was influential in convincing him it was a good fit for him, the right place for him," Regier said. "I spoke with him; [Sabres coach] Lindy [Ruff] spent a lot of time with him, as well. As Robyn stated, it was never a position where he did not want to come to Buffalo. I think it was more a situation where he was dealing with Calgary in lieu of his no-trade, no-movement clause, having some say in the process."
The Sabres have been a disappointment the past two postseasons, blowing a series lead against Boston in the first round two years ago and failing to close out Philadelphia in the first round this year.
Regehr, 31, will be expected to play big, physical minutes and provide leadership in the dressing room.
"It's not just veteran leadership, it is size and experience. We added size, as well," Regier said. "With the history he has and the age he is at, he has years ahead to play. I think he can really do a lot for our younger defensemen."