Leo locked up

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:12 PM ET

Jordan Leopold bought in for more than just another year with the Calgary Flames when he re-signed with the NHL club yesterday.

The talented defenceman purchased peace of mind prior to his appearance in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

It's a weight the young American is happy to shed after agreeing to a one-year deal hammered out between his agent Neil Sheehy and Flames GM-head coach Darryl Sutter. The contract is worth $950,000, not including bonuses which would push his payday for next season well over $1 million.

"It feels good just to get it done before the World Cup -- that way it's not a distraction," said Leopold, who leaves today for Team USA's training camp in Columbus, Ohio. "You don't have to talk about it, because the Canadian media would have probably been asking a lot of questions.

"There's going to be enough distractions. There's the CBA and the World Cup. There's a lot of unanswered questions."

Those uncertainties are the main reason the 24-year-old Leopold is pleased to have inked his name to just a single-year contract.

That and the promise of future riches for his ever-improving performance.

Barring any major changes to the collective bargaining agreement's rules regarding free-agent status, Leopold can opt next summer to file for salary arbitration as a free agent and will likely command more money -- perhaps twice as much as the value of his current contract. He is, after all, a budding blueline star with a rare gift of offensive flair.

"But right now, I'm happy," said Leopold, who earned slightly more than $1 million last season with the Flames. "Calgary is where I want to be. I started my career there -- they definitely gave me a chance. And I like playing for Darryl."

And, of course, there was that magical run to the 2004 Stanley Cup final. The 6-ft., 1-in., 205-lb. rearguard was a key contributor in the Flames' run to the Western Conference championship.

"What happened in the playoffs was pretty spectacular, sometimes a once-in-a-lifetime shot," Leopold said. "It was a pretty good corps of guys and we had the team chemistry.

"And my daughter (Jordyn) was born during the playoffs. It was a great year."

Leopold led all Flames defenceman in goals (9) and points (33) last season, while vastly improving his play in his own zone. He finished with a plus-8 rating and 24 penalty minutes.

The Minnesota native also proved to be a pillar of durability, playing in all 82 regular-season games while finishing second in average ice time per game (22:13) among Flames. He appeared in all 26 post-season games, recording a plus-5 rating with the team's second-highest ice time per game average (25:41). His 10 assists and 10 points were both tops among NHL blueliners in the playoffs.

In 140 career games over the past two seasons with the Flames, Leopold has 13 goals, 47 points and 36 penalty minutes.

"Jordan is a good young defenceman who we expect to continue to develop and improve his game," Sutter said.

"With his age and ability, he is a strong fit for our organization. He will play an important role in what we are building here in Calgary."

The Flames now turn their attention to their two remaining unsigned restricted free agents -- superstar captain Jarome Iginla and No. 1 goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

Talks between Sutter and Iginla's agent Don Meehan are expected to continue over the next 24 hours in Toronto before Sutter attends Kiprusoff's salary arbitration hearing, which has been rescheduled for tomorrow.


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