SUN Hockey Pool

Flames win some, lose some

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

When exactly the baby will be presented to the adoring masses remains to be seen.

This is the new, fan-friendly NHL. So, the smartest thing in the minds of its leaders is to keep fans in the dark as long as possible.

Fortunately, it won't be too much longer before we get to glimpse the CBA, which will be about as long and way less entertaining than the new Harry Potter novel.

Still, thanks to some leaks -- true or not remains to be seen -- we have some idea what this summer's must-read will look like.

Which begs the question, what impact will it have on the reigning Western Conference champion Calgary Flames?

Here's a quick breakdown, noting all dollar amounts in U.S. funds.

* The 24% salary rollback on all existing contracts.

FLAMES IMPACT: Very good. Thanks to that, the Flames payroll that crept toward the upper-$30 million range in 2003-04, due mostly to all the injuries, will drop to the lower-$30 million range, even with whatever amount Jarome Iginla signs for.

* Upper-limit salary cap of $39 million for 2005-06, with a floor of $21.5 million, based on league revenues projected to be $1.7 billion. Players salaries can't take up more than 54% of established revenue, a total that can rise if revenues increase.

FLAMES IMPACT: Very good. No longer will payroll discrepancy be so ridiculous. The Detroit squad Calgary eliminated in the 2004 playoffs had a payroll of around $77 million. Salary parity is a much-needed aspect to any sport.

* No player can earn more than 20% of the team cap, which for 2005-06 means $7.8 million.

FLAMES IMPACT: Good and bad. The good news is a player like Jarome Iginla can't leave for that much more money elsewhere. The downfall is a number like that can become a salary target.

* More liberal unrestricted free agency age, dropping from 31 to 29 next summer, or any player with eight years of NHL experience (the wiped out 04-05 season will count), falling to 28 or seven years in the summer of 2007 and subsequent years following to 27 and seven years.

FLAMES IMPACT: Bad, bad, bad. Iginla, who'll turn 29 next summer, would be a UFA after one more season. Same thing goes for other key players such as Daymond Langkow, Steve Reinprecht and Miikka Kiprusoff. Plus, a player like Dion Phaneuf could be a UFA that much quicker.

* Minimum salary increased from $185,000 to $450,000 and then $500,000 in the CBA's sixth year.

FLAMES IMPACT: Very bad. Not because of the amount but because fourth-line players will have more choice. A big reason for Calgary's success in 2003-04 was a better crew of depth players.

* Revenue sharing, with the top-10 money making clubs to donate to the bottom 15 teams.

FLAMES IMPACT: Bad. Where the Flames fit in the equation will be interesting. Expecting to play to a packed 'Dome, they'll have a leg up on many clubs that will have to woo fans back, often at discounted prices. Losing the currency equalization -- worth around $3 million -- and possibly having to pay into the fund could be the difference between keeping a mid-level salary player.

* Entry-level restrictions, $850,000 a year in salary and diminished bonuses.

FLAMES IMPACT: About time. Oleg Saprykin earned $1.4 million in bonuses after potting nine goals and 23 points in his rookie 2000-01 season. Ilya Kovalchuk received $8.8 million in bonuses alone in his first three seasons, none of which meant a playoff trip. What's the value in that?

* Two-way salary arbitration.

FLAMES IMPACT: Very good. Imagine if Iginla was forced to arbitration in the summer of 2002, after his 52-goal, 96-point season. His award would have been an average around $5 million per season, much less than the two-year, $13-million pact he signed.

* Dec. 1 deadline to re-sign restricted free agents, otherwise they can't play that season.

FLAMES IMPACT: Good stuff. For some reason, pressure points work better than common sense when finalizing agreements.

The deal's not all bad for the players, nor is it all good for teams like the Flames. When all is said and done, though, Calgary stands a much-better chance of being a consistent contender.


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