Flames sign Czech sniper
Even through a translator, Roman Cervenka proved to the Calgary Flames he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL.
From everything the Flames had seen of the Czech Republic native on the ice, they are confident his skills will translate from the KHL to the North American game.
All it took for Flames GM Jay Feaster to be convinced the high-scoring centre was mentally ready to make the jump was a phone call.
Now Feaster hopes to have mined some talent from a faraway land by giving up nothing but money in return.
The Flames announced Wednesday they signed the 26-year-old Cervenka to a one-year, entry-level contract worth US$3.755 million including bonuses.
Usually the best players not in the NHL have a reason for that, but Feaster is confident in this move for a ‘late-bloomer.’
“He’s a mature young man,” Feaster said. “He’s clearly been pursued for a number of years by NHL teams. He’s thought about it.
“This isn’t a snap decision he’s made. He’s done a lot of research. He has done the work on his end to be certain he’s ready to come over.”
Cervenka has lit up the KHL with Omsk over the past two seasons, scoring 54 goals in 105 regular-season games.
This spring, he led the KHL in playoff scoring with 11 goals and 11 assists in 20 outings.
In his first season in Omsk, Cervenka was on a line with countryman Jaromir Jagr, and the pairing worked well for the youngster as he scored 31 goals in 51 games.
Feaster has Cervenka pencilled into the Flames’ top two lines to give his team some scoring punch they lacked this season.
“We need to improve our skill level,” Feaster said. “It’s something we identified.
“He’s a skilled player and he skates well. (Assistant GM) John Weisbrod has commented that he reminds him of Andy McDonald in St. Louis. That was the first name that came to mind.
“He’s a highly skilled guy, with great hands and great vision. He’s able to finish and score goals.”
Although the money might sound a bit much for an unknown commodity, the Flames aren’t risking a great deal.
The base salary is just $925,000, and if he qualifies for the performances bonuses — worth $850,000 and $2 million apiece — the Flames will be thrilled because it means they are getting solid production.
Fans can now look forward to two Europeans with offensive talent as both Cervenka and 2011 first-round pick Sven Baertschi are expected to be among the top lines.
Feaster wouldn’t address where this puts the team with pending free-agent centre Olli Jokinen, but this is clearly a move based on moving forward and not back.
“This is really about improving the skill of the hockey team,” Feaster said. “We need to get younger. This is a 26-year-old player.
“We are adding a guy to play in our top six. This isn’t about our pending UFAs.”
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