The rebuilding phase, we want to do it sooner rather than later in terms of this isn't about lets see if we can finish last for the next three years and then have the first pick overall. That's not the direction that we want to go.
- Jay Feaster
CALGARY, AB -- Though a playoff drive fell short for a fourth consecutive year, the offseason in Calgary is plenty bright for general manager Jay Feaster.
Boasting three first rounders in the 2013 NHL Draft in June and enough salary space to turn a shrinking cap into an asset, Feaster has never been afforded such flexibility in his tenure with the Calgary Flames as he has now.
Predictably, he's excited about the notion of re-tooling with such assets to work with.
"The rebuilding phase, we want to do it sooner rather than later in terms of this isn't about lets see if we can finish last for the next three years and then have the first pick overall," Feaster said. "That's not the direction that we want to go."
Instead, the direction is to use the arsenal Feaster has at his disposal to improve the club the best way he sees fit.
That first step could come at the draft.
Adding the first round picks of the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins to compliment Calgary's selection affords the general manager an opportunity to explore a multitude of options.
Meaning nothing is off limits, according to Feaster.
"All of our options will be kept open as it relates to the draft," he said. "Those options include making three selections in the first round. They would include trying to package some things and potentially move up in the draft depending on the results of the lottery and where we are. The potential to take some of those picks and move down. The potential to trade picks for players that we would target that we think could help us from a long-term perspective. As we go into New Jersey, we will keep all of our options open."
Except one: trading down with the Flames' pick.
"If we were to do anything with our top pick, that would be potentially as part of a deal to move up even higher than six/seven," Feaster said. "Certainly we believe whether at six or seven, we're going to get a very good hockey player and a guy that's going to play for a long time."
At and after the draft, Feaster will also have the opportunity to get creative with the cap.
The salary cap is falling nearly 10 per cent to $64.3 million. Resting comfortably under that with the trades of Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla in and around the trade deadline, Calgary is situated well.
With owners that aren't shy to spend, that becomes all the more valuable.
"There are plenty of teams who have cap space," Feaster said. "Not every team with cap space has the financial wherewithal to spend to the cap and that's a place where we're very fortunate here because we have an ownership that is committed and has always provided us with the resources to do that.
"We do believe that as we go into the draft, as we go into the summer, that there will be opportunities because there are teams with cap trouble and there are some teams that are going to have a difficult time getting under the cap for next season depending upon how they elect to go about their business so we keep that option open as well."
That gives Feaster the opportunity to address some of the club's weaknesses Feaster identified as down the middle and a more physical presence -- both up front and on the blueline.
Admittedly, Feaster wasn't able to shore up those shortcomings last season but remains optimistic that his newfound flexibility will help yield more positive results.
"I think that what makes it a little bit different for us this year is the fact that we have so many resources right now," he said. "The assets, whether it's talking about having three first round picks or it is about having significant amount of cap space being in the situation where again, there are teams that are going to have some cap trouble or difficulty getting under the cap so trying to be a little creative there as well. I'm not going to try to undersell. It's difficult to do, center icemen and that grit factor."
But having the flexibility that the Flames currently possess can open a lot of doors.
"It is exciting for us because of the options we believe are open to us," Feaster said.
Which means that rebuilding phase Feaster has began to navigate through can both be jumpstarted and completed sooner, suggesting a playoff appearance might not be too far to follow.
"It isn't that we have to make the playoffs next year, but it better be that every time our guys put on a sweater, whether it's veterans or its young players, every time you pull on a sweater, you better go out there with the expectation that we're going to win," Feaster said.
"That needs to be the mentality. That needs to be the approach, and that's exactly how we treated the end of the season."
And how Feaster intends to approach his summer of flexibility.