SUN Hockey Pool

Mill working overtime

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

So it begins. No, not the NHL's free agency period that kicked off yesterday.

We're talking about the rumours. The innuendo, speculation and conjecture. Most of it as truthful as reality TV.

It didn't take long for the fun to begin swirling around the Flames. There it was yesterday morning screaming out from the nether regions of the Internet -- Jarome Iginla has signed a "multi-year deal with Calgary."

A few minutes later came details of the alleged contract for the Flames star captain, a restricted free agent: Three years, $6 to $6.5 million US per season.

Oh wait, finally came admittance it was a rumour.

At least the final part was true. It really was a rumour and nothing more, stressed Rand Simon of Newport Sports Management emphatically.

"Completely untrue," said Simon, an associate of Iginla's agent, Don Meehan, via e-mail. "I can't stress enough that this rumour is false."

However, it won't die. Until Iginla puts his John Hancock on a new contract, the race will be on to see who finds out first. Some have the advantage of throwing a dart on a daily basis until it comes to fruition and not having to put their name to it. (It's even more annoying when said rumour monger throws out, "As you read here first" but that's another story.)

Some go with the theory it's best to find out the truth before uttering any of it but, hey, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Funny thing is, one of the great parts of the new NHL is the fact any and all rumours are possible.

Such as all those spouting, "Scott Niedermayer will come to Calgary to join the Flames" like it's gospel. Thanks to the salary cap, it has become possible.

It's not likely seeing as Calgary has one of the deepest defence corps in the league but still possible provided a salary can be dumped -- even if it's a couple of million dollars -- and if others are willing to take a smaller piece of the pie for the good of the team as a whole.

Making it more realistic is belief some players will take less money than elsewhere to go to destinations of choice, the famed "hometown discount" theory.

For example, say the Flames are indeed interested in bringing in Niedermayer, a d-man expected to sign around the 20% maximum of $7.8 million.

First, go with the theory Niedermayer is willing to give them an alleged "hometown discount" and drop his asking price to something like $6 million. Jettison a defenceman like Toni Lydman and his $1.8-million salary and get Iginla to take $1 million less than his expectations -- whatever they may be -- and it's easy to justify the affordability within Calgary's budget.

Even if it doesn't come true, there is some enjoyment to the game again. Considering the 300-plus days the game was disgraced by the L Word (that's lockout, get your mind out of the gutter) it's a welcome respite.

GOODBYE NIEMINEN: Fan favourite Ville Nieminen was the lone Flames NHLer from the 2003-04 season not to receive a qualifying offer before yesterday's deadline, which makes the pesky forward an unrestricted free agent, along with Martin Gelinas.

Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter couldn't be reached for comment regarding the decision to set free Nieminen, whose qualifying offer would have been just over $500,000 US.

Receiving qualifying offers, thus having their rights retained by Calgary, were: RW Chris Clark, D Andrew Ference, G Miikka Kiprusoff, RW Chuck Kobasew, C Daymond Langkow, D Jordan Leopold, C Matthew Lombardi, LW Lynn Loyns, C/LW Steven Reinprecht and D Rhett Warrener.

Iginla wasn't on the list released by the NHL because he received a qualifying offer last summer and remains a restricted free agent. Warrener had an option but the team didn't pick it up with the intention to work out a longer deal.

Also becoming free agents yesterday were:

G Sebastien Centomo,

D Deryk Engelland,

D Anders Eriksson,

D Brennan Evans,

G Davis Parley, and

D Roman Rozakov.


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