Forward thinking

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:13 PM ET

Gritty forward Jason Wiemer is back for another round with the Calgary Flames.

And he couldn't be happier.

"I'm thrilled," said Wiemer upon his return to the Flames yesterday after signing a three-year contract worth approximately $4.5 million. "This was an opportunity I didn't want to miss out on."

Certainly the promise for success is better than when he last wore the Flaming 'C' for parts of four seasons.

"I don't know if there were any highlights," said Wiemer with a chuckle, recalling his previous tenure with the Flames (1997-2001). "I think the highlight was coming here from Tampa Bay. But there weren't many after that."

So how does a trip to the Stanley Cup final grab you, Jason? He's joining a team that came within a game of winning hockey's ultimate prize.

"When I was looking at teams and looking at the opportunity to win, I think the best chance is here," Wiemer said. "That's what I was looking for and the Flames offered the best combination of all."

In particular, GM-head coach Darryl Sutter offered the most attractive deal to the gritty forward.

Sutter enquired about Wiemer's services while talking with agent Don Meehan at Toronto's Newport Sports Management Inc. once the nine-year professional became an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"I was gung-ho," said Wiemer, who didn't get a raise on the $1.62 million he made last season. "I was thinking from that phone call that this is where I wanted to be."

"Jason is a good signing for us as he fits the identity we have created for our hockey club in Calgary," said Sutter of the 6-ft., 1-in., 225-lb. left-wing/centre. "At 28 years old, he is in the right age group for our building process. He is a Westerner (from Kimberley, B.C.) who adds size and strength to our lineup while solidifying us at two forward positions."

Nobody in the NHL knows Wiemer better than Sutter and his brothers.

Former Flames bench boss Brian Sutter was a big fan before Wiemer was traded with Valeri Bure to the Florida Panthers June 23, 2001.

And for the Panthers, Wiemer played under Duane Sutter.

"It helps that I know Sutter hockey. They're pretty straight-forward guys. You know what to expect from them and that's all you can ask for," Wiemer said. "But I also know a lot of the guys in the room here and that should help."

Wiemer has played with Calgary's Jarome Iginla, Chris Clark, Robyn Regehr, Denis Gauthier, Marcus Nilson and fellow free-agent signee Byron Ritchie.

"I know the guys in this room are playing to win hockey games. They aren't satisfied until they do."

Wiemer split last season with the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders, counting eight goals, 22 points and 130 penalty minutes. In 677 career NHL games, the eighth overall pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft has 88 goals, 198 points and 1,317 PIM, including 33 goals, 63 points and 502 PIM in 219 games with the Flames during his initial stint.

"The first time around here, in the first couple of years, the direction was good," Wiemer added. "Then we stumbled and they made some changes. I left on a bit of a sour note. It was not my choice to go anywhere else. I've got family here in town. It's nice to be back closer to home."

Despite Wiemer's toughness, his role with the Flames won't be to replace enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa, who signed with the New Jersey Devils earlier this summer. The versatile winger will also add a goal-scoring touch to the Flames.


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