SUN Hockey Pool

Rest is better than a change

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Gary Bettman vows NHL hockey will return.

Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks said it'll even happen next season.

Flames president Ken King insists the Calgary franchise will be back, better than ever, because a new economic system will allow them to remain competitive year after year.

Time will tell if any or all of those statements become fact.

When the NHL returns to action, Calgarians will see a whole new Flames squad from the one that came within one goal of claiming the 2004 Stanley Cup.

It may be a full-scale changeover, with replacement players donning the Flaming C even being a possibility.

However, for a moment, let's assume NHL hockey returns in the fall. Questions abound as to who'll be in action for the defending Western Conference champs.

Had the 2004-05 campaign been salvaged, it would have been an easy job for GM/head coach Darryl Sutter to ice his squad. Only captain Jarome Iginla needed to be signed.

Come September, it'll be a completely different story. Many integral players will join Iginla under the unsigned category.

Also part of the restricted free agent corps will be No.- 1 goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, defencemen Andrew Ference and Jordan Leopold and forwards Chris Clark, Chuck Kobasew, Daymond Langkow, Matthew Lombardi, Lynn Loyns, Ville Nieminen and Steve Reinprecht.

As well, defenceman Anders Eriksson and forward Martin Gelinas,will become unrestricted free agents.

Gelinas, despite all his heroics during the playoffs, wouldn't likely return. Since coming to Calgary, Sutter has repeatedly said his goal is to make the Flames younger, bigger and faster.

Gelinas possesses plenty of speed, and his fitness level is always top rate -- however, Father Time will add a 35th candle to his cake in June. It's not far-fetched to expect Sutter to spend the nearly $2 million US elsewhere.

Eriksson, meanwhile, likely won't ever skate in a Flames jersey, signed more for insurance than necessity.

His position will be filled by blue-chip prospect Dion Phaneuf.

As for the forwards, it's a safe bet Sutter would like most if not all of his players again.

Reinprecht, Langkow and Iginla -- a potential first line -- certainly could be as productive offensively as a line as we've seen over the last decade.

Meanwhile, Kobasew is thriving with the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters and will return to the NHL with a better chance of becoming a second-line right wing.

Clark, Nieminen and Loyns are, to varying degrees, role players but all have provided what's been asked of them when Sutter's opened the gate.

Lombardi continues to recover from the concussion suffered in the post-season but showed so much promise as a rookie.

Which leaves one other question mark, Kiprusoff.

The arbitration award of $2.95 million US given him in the summer was on the high end of what the Flames were expected going into the process. Still, a Vezina Trophy finalist at that price is worth it in the NHL's economics.

With Roman Turek having taken a pay cut to remain with the club, Kiprusoff is the headliner of a tandem that gives Brent Krahn a couple of years to further develop before jumping to the big league ranks.

On the surface, it doesn't appear to be much of a change from what was expecting to hit the ice this season, which makes it easy to question whether that means the team is moving forward.

However, seeing as it's the bulk of a club that came within an inch or two of claiming Lord Stanley's mug, it's not such a bad plan.

SIGN OF THINGS TO COME ...

Contract status of Flames players at start of 2005-06 season, if there is one.

G MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF (RESTRICTED)

G BRENT KRAHN (RESTRICTED)

G ROMAN TUREK (SIGNED THROUGH 07-08)

D MIKE COMMODORE (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)

D ANDERS ERIKSSON (UNRESTRICTED)

D ANDREW FERENCE (RESTRICTED)

D TONI LYDMAN (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)

D JORDAN LEOPOLD (RESTRICTED)

D STEVE MONTADOR (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)

D DION PHANEUF (SIGNED THROUGH 07-08)

D ROBYN REGEHR (SIGNED THROUGH 07-08)

D RHETT WARRENER (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)

F CHRIS CLARK (RESTRICTED)

F SHEAN DONOVAN (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)

F MARTIN GELINAS (UNRESTRICTED)

F JAROME IGINLA (RESTRICTED)

F CHUCK KOBASEW (RESTRICTED)

F DAYMOND LANGKOW (RESTRICTED)

F MATTHEW LOMBARDI (RESTRICTED)

F LYNN LOYNS (RESTRICTED)

F VILLE NIEMINEN (RESTRICTED)

F MARCUS NILSON (SIGNED THROUGH 06-07)

F STEVE REINPRECHT (RESTRICTED)

F BYRON RITCHIE (SIGNED THROUGH 06-07)

F CHRIS SIMON (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)

F JASON WIEMER (SIGNED THROUGH 06-07)

F STEPHANE YELLE (SIGNED THROUGH 05-06)


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