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RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

For 10 months, Darryl Sutter has been like a general without a war.

He's been drawing up plans of attack, predicting what steps he'll take with the Calgary Flames once the NHL and its players agree to a new collective bargaining agreement.

Today, the GM/head coach will finally storm the beach.

The final real hurdle in the NHL lockout was cleared yesterday when the players -- by a vast majority of more than 87% -- chose to ratify the CBA. And with the league's board of governors meeting to rubber-stamp it today, the sprint to the season will begin.

"It gives you a timeline," he said yesterday. "I think it was a given the players would ratify, it was just a matter of percentages and the day they were going to do it. Now it's done and so it comes back to us.

"Hopefully that's the case (today) and we get going to those dates."

The new deal will include a 24% rollback on existing contracts, a team salary cap of $39 million US -- with a league-wide cap of 54% of stipulated revenues. The tradeoff players received was a much more liberalized free-agency system as well as increased minimum salary.

Undoubtedly the players could have negotiated a better deal a year ago, or earlier, just as Martin Gelinas suggested.

"Maybe the time was not right," said Gelinas, who was shouted down by fellow NHLPA members when he said as much during meetings a couple of years back. "But this is what we've got now. The partnership is something the players and owners will have to work hard at it, to bring the fans back, put a great product on the ice and move the game in the right direction."

"Ultimately, we're hockey players and this is what I love to do, play hockey, and now we'll get another chance to do that."

Calgary defenceman Steve Montador was happily celebrating the end to the labour dispute that wiped out the 2004-05 campaign.

"The process that took us here, I'm not happy about but I'm not sure the lockout could have been avoided," Montador said.

"To come to this point, this deal, was the result of many things, many issues, from players and the NHL."

Before training camps open in mid-September, there will be more than six weeks of excitement, with a whirlwind of signings and buyouts to ramp up the action.

Up first will be today's lottery to decide which team receives the first overall pick, which will be Sidney Crosby, in the July 30 entry draft.

Rest assured Sutter would love to see the Flames bingo ball fall in the right spot.

"Hey, that's not hard to figure out," Sutter said. "Our chances are as good as anybody and if we get him, fine. But I don't look at it as Sidney Crosby and everybody else.

"It's a deep draft and a good draft. There are a lot of kids that are going to be longtime NHL players. It's not just one great one.

"There's some kids going to be really, really good NHL players."


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