Kipper chipper about return

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:09 PM ET

Forget legal briefs and mud-slinging in the courtroom.

That's in the past for Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, now that the NHL salary arbitration process is complete.

Now, the talented 'tender can concentrate on matters he knows much more about -- like how to stop a puck. he's trying to help Team Finland earn a medal in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

"I've been practising with my hometown team," said Kiprusoff yesterday from Stockholm, Sweden. "I feel pretty good about the World Cup.

"I'm ready."

And richer, after a hefty hike in salary was awarded in his favour Monday to complete what Kiprusoff considered an acrimonious arbitration process. A harsh defence by Flames legal counsel during last Friday's court hearing apparently caught him off-guard. Kiprusoff acknowledged it was a frustrating part of salary negotiations that led to his new one-year pact with the Flames.

"I'm glad it's over," Kiprusoff said. "But it's part of the game. Sometimes you have to do it.

"It was a long wait to see what happened. But it's over and it's good."

Good enough for a generous payday. After hearing both sides in the re-scheduled hearing, the arbitrator set Kiprusoff's salary for next season at $2.95 million US. The award fell between what the two sides sought but favours Kiprusoff -- whose camp asked for $4 million against the $1.3-million offer tabled by the Flames.

"Of course, it's a good thing it's done," said Kiprusoff, who made just $880,000 last season while posting a 24-10-4 record, a modern-day record 1.69 goals-against average and a league-high .933 save percentage in the regular season.

He also backstopped the club to a 15-11 playoff record and the Western Conference championship with a 1.85 GAA and .928 save percentage.

"I think it's the best place for me," said Kiprusoff of re-signing with the Flames. "It was a good year and it's still a young team. It's never easy to repeat (what we did last year) but I think we'll be better next year because of the experience.

"I really enjoyed my year there. Of course, my goal is to try and be better every year, every day."

Not even a bitter arbitration can deter that.

"Not at all," Kiprusoff said. "It doesn't change anything."

His agent, Larry Kelly, agreed.

"I don't think there'll be any long-term implications," said Kelly from his Ottawa-based office. "Clearly, Kipper did not enjoy the process at all -- particularly the implication that he was a healthy scratch when he was injured (before being traded to the Flames by the San Jose Sharks).

"But there's never been any animosity between us and Calgary. (GM-head coach Darryl Sutter) has always been very professional and clean."

And similar talks are likely to continue in hopes of hammering out a long-term contract between the Flames and Kiprusoff.

"The Flames did make a three-year offer just prior to arbitration," Kelly added. "Now that we know what Year 1 is, it might help us come to terms on a three-year deal."

LOOSE PUCKS: Despite rumours of a recent re-signing with the Flames, yesterday the club confirmed there has been no official inking of LW Lynn Loyns to a new contract. Loyns said last month he's agreed to terms with the Flames pending medical clearance from a heart condition.


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