SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter still skeptical

Calgary Flames prospect Eric Nystrom, 22, hopes the NHL and its players can agree to a new CBA and...

Calgary Flames prospect Eric Nystrom, 22, hopes the NHL and its players can agree to a new CBA and speed along his jump to the big club, where his pearly whites will be in jeopardy on a nightly basis because of his Sutter-style tenacity. (Calgary Sun/Jim Wells)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

Grass won't grow under Darryl Sutter's feet.

Rest assured, though, the Calgary Flames GM/head coach will be raring to go when a new CBA is signed, sealed and delivered.

"I'm ready for it and I'm looking forward to it," Sutter said yesterday.

Now comes the sobering part.

Sutter, knowing full well the anticipation is building with the assumption the lockout -- in day No. 272 -- will end soon, thinks a solution is further away than most people think.

"Quite honestly I think we're still a long ways off. I think it's a lot more complex than what you're seeing and hearing," said Sutter, who was watching several prospects go through their final scrimmage of spring camp yesterday.

"There's big issues and a lot of small issues that hook into them. So to think there's any resolution is really premature."

Still, there's no doubt the machine named the NHL is inching closer to re-starting -- maybe within a couple of weeks -- so the time will come for GMs throughout the loop to stock their rosters.

For Sutter, assuming existing contracts lose a year, it'll mean filling about half the NHL roster spots.

Certainly, it's not going to be as onerous a task as it'll be for teams such as Washington, Boston and the New York Islanders, which have only a handful of players signed for 2005-06.

Especially since you can be guaranteed Sutter has been planning his strategy for a variety of scenarios.

"If you look at the last agreement, we're in the same situation we were in last summer. We have 11 guys, 10 restricted and one unrestricted," Sutter said.

"Does it create a problem for us? No, it's something we're waiting to find out. We planned our roster a year ago. We're not an old team and we're in a position we know where our developing players are.

"Really, the biggest issue I have is to complement our whole staff and personnel in Omaha.

"Other than the unknown of what the new collective bargaining agreement brings -- changes in free agency -- we're on top of things."

Martin Gelinas will become an unrestricted free agent, while the restricted list, depending on what age a player can become unrestricted, includes: Miikka Kiprusoff, Jarome Iginla, Chris Clark, Chuck Kobasew, Daymond Langkow, Matthew Lombardi, Steve Reinprecht, Andrew Ference, Jordan Leopold and Rhett Warrener.

Warrener's contract calls for a team option.

Should contracts be carried forward -- although that's not likely to happen -- Iginla would be the lone player from that group Sutter would have to sign.

There will be a few prospects to ink, such as 2002 first-rounder Eric Nystrom.

On top of getting prepared for the eventual draft, another important job to be done soon is finding a head coach for the expansion AHL affiliate in Omaha.

"I want the perfect guy and it's taking some time," Sutter explained. "It's a big move for the organization."

And then, once the league is back to some sense of normalcy, there is the speculation on Sutter's status.

He has made it known he'll eventually relinquish the coaching duties to become solely GM -- though it likely won't happen until after next season.

"I'm going to do what's right for our organization. If I'm only doing 75 percent of one of the two jobs, it'll be time," he said.

"There's better coaches than me out there but it's got to be somebody that fits the identity and carries it on."


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