SUN Hockey Pool

Easier for Iggy to stay put now

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Although he'll become an unrestricted free agent a few years earlier than he would have under the old system, ratification of the new CBA will ensure money will no longer determine whether or not Jarome Iginla remains a Calgary Flame long-term.

His heart will.

League restrictions capping player salaries at a maximum of 20% of the team caps will ensure the Flames could theoretically be able to offer Iginla as much money as any other team in the league when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

In other words, as arguably the best player in the league, once he becomes unrestricted he can select wherever he wants to play starting in 2007-08 when the age of unrestricted free agency drops to 29.

The previous CBA awarded unrestricted status at age 31.

Under the proposed new deal, the maximum he can be paid under a $39-million cap would be $7.4 million.

Of course, the reality is Iginla is a restricted free agent, meaning it's likely he'll earn less than the $7.5 million he made last campaign.

According to reports on the new CBA, after the 2006-07 season, Iginla will be free to shop himself around the league without the Flames receiving any compensation if he should leave.

Assuming several teams offered him the league maximum, including the Flames, it would then be up to him to decide where he wanted to play instead of for how much.

"I hope to stay in Calgary -- I really enjoy the city and the fans," said Iginla, reiterating yesterday, his age-old dedication to the city in which he's played his entire pro career.

"It's a great sports town. What's exciting when I think about the team is the position we're in. I know I really like being a part of it."

A lot can change in three years, so it remains to be seen if Iginla wants to call Calgary home while he could theoretically be more marketable in a larger market.

General manager Darryl Sutter echoed his desire yesterday to re-sign his leader while also trying to piece together roughly the same lineup he led to the Stanley Cup final.

Should Iginla and the Flames not be able to come to terms this summer, his recourse would be to demand a trade or sit out, which is an option Iginla would dare not try after a year without pay.


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