Copeland coup for Stamps

New Stampeder receiver Jeremaine Copeland was pleased as punch after becoming the knockout punch in...

New Stampeder receiver Jeremaine Copeland was pleased as punch after becoming the knockout punch in Calgary's offence yesterday. The former Montreal Alouette, who caught 24 touchdowns the past two seasons, signed a long-term contract. (Calgary Sun/Kevin Udahl)

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders have Jim Barker to thank for landing the biggest free agent on the CFL market so far.

As Jeremaine Copeland outlined his reasons for coming west from Montreal, Barker's name kept coming up.

The two have a strong relationship, first in the XFL with the Los Angeles Xtreme, then again with the Alouettes in winning the 2002 Grey Cup.

"Once I found out Jim Barker was the general manager, a light went on in my head," Copeland said. "I was pretty sure they would come after me. This time, I was really going to take it into consideration."

When Copeland became a free agent Tuesday night, Barker, the new Stamps GM of player personnel, was the first to call.

The long-term offer Barker pitched seemed perfect for the wide receiver, who racked up 2,911 yards in the past two seasons.

It was a mere two years ago Barker, then head coach of the Stamps, vigorously pursued the fleet-footed Copeland, only to have him run back to the Alouettes.

That wasn't the case this time, as Copeland agreed to a three-year-plus-an-option deal worth about $200,000 a year.

"It wasn't that I wanted to leave Montreal," Copeland said. "I loved playing in Montreal. It was a matter of taking care of my family.

"I wanted a good deal. I wanted it longer than a year or two. I don't think Montreal wanted to step up and get around the figures that were best for me. That's why I had to move on."

Copeland was introduced yesterday along with offensive lineman Alexandre Gauthier, a former first overall pick in 2002, and defensive back Anthony Malbrough, who was with the Stamps in 2003.

On a day when several high-profile free agents inked deals -- including Ed Hervey in Edmonton -- Calgary was the biggest mover and shaker in the marketplace. All three players were the club's top choice at their respective positions and fill significant needs.

Gauthier, who spent the last three seasons with the Renegades, will battle for a starting job with the hogs. At 6 ft. 7 in., 329 lb., Gauthier has all the tools to become an all-star, although he disappointed in Ottawa.

Malbrough, who was also with Ottawa, gives Calgary a strong addition to the D.

But by grabbing Copeland, the Stamps have an undisputed threat to score every play from scrimmage. In the past two seasons with Montreal, Copeland had 182 receptions and 24 touchdowns.

Barker described the receiver as the best the CFL has to offer.

"He's flamboyant. He's got a great personality. He's a guy you hate to play against because you want to have him on your team," Barker said. "The fans of Calgary are going to truly enjoy watching him play. He's one of those rare players people will pay to see."

Malbrough is also reunited with Barker, who coached him in 2003. When Barker was fired and replaced by Matt Dunigan at the end of that season, Malbrough was sent to Ottawa in the John Grace trade. Even though Malbrough and his wife had settled in Calgary year round when he left, he harboured no hard feelings over having to leave.

"Not at all. It's the football business. They do things that you think can make your team better," Malbrough said. "They thought it would make their team better. I have no ill feelings against anyone. It's all new Calgary Stampeders, I'm happy to be back."

Malbrough will occupy one halfback position, with Joey Boese at the other side. The corners will be Nate Terry and Omar Evans, leaving the club's only vacant starting defensive position at safety.

Which makes it more than a coincidence that non-import safety Lawrence Deck showed up at the news conference yesterday. Deck, who was with Saskatchewan last season, planned on meeting with team officials yesterday.

FIELD GOALS: Toronto re-signed LB Kevin Eiben to a four-year contract and gave receivers Arland Bruce III and Tony Miles as well as kick-returner Bashir Levingston contract extensions ... Montreal bolstered its o-line by re-signing Luke Fritz to a two-year deal, plus an option. The Als will also meet today with former Stamps QB Marcus Crandell about becoming their backup pivot ... B.C. officially announced the return of veteran LB Carl Kidd.


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