SUN Hockey Pool

Tight cheque-ing ahead

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

General managers, start your chequebooks. Oh wait, that was in the old NHL era.

As much as we'd like to see a free-agent frenzy and the subsequent team-building that will take place throughout the NHL, don't bank on it happening fast and furious.

Yes, technically, one of the many unrestricted free agents out there could sign with a new team such as the Flames at 10:01 a.m. this morning. But the way things are shaping up in the league's new world order, patience must be practised.

Not just by fans, either.

There will be a few general managers racing to make a move right away, be it because of a player's value -- Scott Niedermayer, come on down -- or the fact they want to make noise -- think Mike Milbury -- or have to make a splash to appease the masses (for some reason, Toronto's John Ferguson fits here).

However, expect most GMs to try restraint, the wisest course of action.

The first signing will certainly set a standard, so any foolish deals will have a huge impact on every other team.

There's a reason Boston approached Joe Thornton with a five-year deal averaging around $5 million US per season. True, it was less than the qualifying offer necessary for the Bruins big man -- with the 24% rollback his is now $5.13 million -- but long-term security is a huge selling point in today's salary-cap NHL. Plus, huge contracts in a system that may shrink further could have a negative impact on the club's chances to win.

Not to mention the fact next year's free-agent class may be more enticing with the age falling to 29. Time may be tight but the best teams will be the ones that come out of the coming week or two with the right jigsaw puzzle.

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FIRE ON ICE: True, it would have been nice to see the Flames go for a little more pizzazz with their first pick but unless you're going to nab a top-six forward, it's not a bad move opting for a solid blueliner at pick No. 26. For the record, Robyn Regehr was nabbed at 19 by Colorado back in 1998, after flashier picks like Rico Fata, Jeff Heerema, Michael Henrich and Eric Chouinard were called. Not to say Matt Pelech will be Regehr, just pointing out how much of a crapshoot the second half of the first round really can be ... If Daniel Ryder gives the Flames the same type of offensive production his older brother Michael -- an eighth-rounder, by the way -- provided Montreal his rookie season, he would be a real steal ... First Craig Conroy, then Denis Gauthier and now Mike Commodore are gone from the Flames. Sales of reporter's tools such as pens, notepads and tape recorders will plummet in this city.

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RINK RAP: Curious how the Vancouver Giants all but admit buying the 2007 Memorial Cup, yet the WHL twice rejected bids by Calgary. The reason to hold the event in a big centre is the same, which sure makes you wonder the difference ... The good news for the NHL? Even in the darkest days of the lockout, new NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin actually got along with the NHL's No. 2 man Bill Daly.

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GLOBETROTTING: Wonder how many times temperamental Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez changes his mind when ordering ice cream? ... Undoubtedly Henry Burris and the Stampeders have made strides but Dave Dickenson and the B.C. Lions sure took them to school ... Speaking of lessons, how many more foolish penalties will Nik Lewis be allowed before the hammer falls? Celebrations after every touchdown aren't necessary. Do we need some in-your-face garbage after every catch, too?


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