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Numbers Game: Flames Keep Renovating

Scott Cullen
2/2/2010 12:48:40 AM
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The Calgary Flames followed up their big deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs by making another significant swap with the New York Rangers, but it doesn't appear to be a move that will turn around the fortunes of the Flames.

Numbers Game looks at the trade that sent Olli Jokinen to the Rangers.

The Flames Get: LW Ales Kotalik and LW Christopher Higgins.

Kotalik, 31, has put up 16 power play points for the Rangers this season, but with 22 points and a minus-18 rating in 45 games, Kotalik has been an even-strength liability to the Rangers in the first year of a three-year, $9-million contract, so the Flames are taking a significant risk by acquiring him.

While Kotalik may be able to help a struggling Flames power play, there's $6-million over the next two season that says he had better put that heavy shot of his to good use for more than four or five minutes a night.

Higgins, who was acquired in last summer's cap-saving deal for the Rangers, has been a non-factor in his first year with New York, scoring 14 points with a minus-8 rating in 54 games.  A three-time 20-goal scorer with good speed and, at one time, a knack around the net, Higgins can play a checking role for the Flames, but has some offensive upside if he rediscovers his game in Calgary.

Higgins will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Making a pair of dramatic moves definitely changes the look of the Flames, but taking on the rest of Kotalik's contract is a certifiable gift to the Rangers.

The Rangers Get: C Olli Jokinen and RW Brandon Prust.

Jokinen has been an unmitigated bust since the Flames acquired him from Phoenix at last year's trade deadline, scoring 50 points in 74 games with Calgary.

The 31-year-old had also scored more than 25 goals in six straight seasons before stumbling to 11 in 55 games this season.  Given that level of production, Jokinen is hardly a massive offensive upgrade for the Blueshirts, but his 11 goals would tie him for third on the Rangers this season, so he'll get a chance to improve the Rangers' 26th-ranked offence.

Just as valuable for the Rangers is that Jokinen's contract, which pays him $5.5-million this season, expires at season's end, giving the Rangers additional cap relief this summer.

25-year-old mucker Brandon Prust hasn't seen a lot of action with the Flames, getting less than seven minutes per game, but he's played well in that limited time, perhaps an indication that he could handle more responsbility as his career evolves. 

In the meantime, Prust is a willing scrapper, ranking second in the league with 18 fights so far this season and he's an inexpensive fourth-line option earning $500,000 this year before he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer.

It's possible that Jokinen and Prust will help the Rangers in their bid for the playoffs, but the deal is a win for the Rangers because of the cap savings for 2010-2011; the players involved are secondary considerations, which says something about how far Olli Jokinen's value has fallen.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen

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