Sutter hitting ground runnin'

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

As hard as it is to imagine, Darryl Sutter could have been described as giddy.

"It's fun learning the new document," said the Flames GM/head coach on the day the NHL lockout officially came to a close. "It's new, learn it and run with it."

Run would be the operative word for him in the coming weeks.

All those long NHL hockey-free days of the work stoppage -- 310 to be exact -- will be paid for in the next while, especially in the coming week, as the NHL ramps up for the 2005-06 season.

Meaning Sutter will having to hit the ground at full sprint.

He has until next Thursday to sign any of the club's 2003 draft choices still without deals, although the prize from that draft, Dion Phaneuf, was inked before the lockout began, while second-rounder Tim Ramholt returned to Europe last season, giving the club his rights for another two years.

That means decisions on whether to pursue Ryan Donally, Jamie Tardif, Tyler Johnson, Cam Cunning and Kevin Harvey.

On that day, he also must decide to pick up the club option on defenceman Rhett Warrener, though Sutter has said he'd rather sign a longer deal with the rearguard who would become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

July 29 is the deadline for initiating buyouts for players, something the Flames won't be doing. A week from today will be the NHL entry draft, for which Calgary will hold the 26th choice.

Then the real fun begins. The deadline for submitting qualifying offers for the team's restricted free agents is July 31.

Calgary's list is huge: Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Daymond Langkow, Steve Reinprecht, Chris Clark, Ville Nieminen, Chuck Kobasew, Matthew Lombardi, Jordan Leopold, Andrew Ference and Warrener if the club opts not to pick up the option.

Whether all those players get signed remains to be seen but Sutter insisted any deals will consider more than just the coming season.

"The market for what's going to happen is going to be a lot different this summer than next summer," he said. "You just hope teams don't make mistakes and set the bar too high."

From that point comes the chase for unrestricted free agents, though Sutter said he doesn't envision the team being very active, since players who'll be available -- be it due to age or buyouts -- will likely be on the decline.

"For us to be a player in that market will be impacted by what we consider to be the core of our team," he said. "We have an impact player so to think that there are any more that we can add to our team? Absolutely not. We'll watch this period to see if in fact there is a player that could fit in to our budget."

Then will come decisions about arbitration. Under the new CBA, teams can elect to take players that route.

Also on the slate will be finding out the status of goaltender Roman Turek, who signed a deal in his home country, and trying to ink graduating college seniors -- 2002 first-rounder Eric Nystrom, Brian McConnell and Calgary product Curtis McElhinney, whose rights the team holds for one more year.

There's also a couple of 2004 draft choices eligible to play in the minors, Brandon Prust and Adam Pardy, Sutter wants to ink.

Oh yeah, he's yet to finalize the rest of the coaching staff for the Flames as well as name a head coach for the expansion AHL farm team in Omaha.

It's a full slate but Sutter, who's been mapping out strategies for 10 months, feels ready.

"The next week to two weeks," he said. "will play out."


Videos

Photos