SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper's off the market

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff's sleepless nights had nothing to do with his contract talks.

No, the rest reduction has been caused by something nearer and dearer to the heart of the Flames top goaltender.

It wasn't the negotiations that concluded with a three-year, $10-million US deal announced yesterday, it's the arrival of two-month-old son Aaro that has Kiprusoff and his girlfriend, Seidi, a little red-eyed but still celebrating.

"Now, it's getting better because he's sleeping well," happily reported Kiprusoff from his home in Turku, Finland. "The first couple of weeks were tough but now it's much better."

It's just one reason to celebrate for the netminder who burst onto the scene midway through the 2003-04 campaign and proceeded to backstop the team to the Stanley Cup finals.

Kiprusoff -- who set a modern-day NHL record with his 1.69 goals-against average and tied for the league best with a .933 save percentage -- happily signed a long-term deal with the club even if it meant sacrificing a couple of years of unrestricted free agency.

"Now I know I can stay in Calgary and that's the main thing," said Kiprusoff, acquired from San Jose for a second-round draft choice. "I'm very happy with the whole thing."

So was Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter, who worked the deal with agent Larry Kelly.

"We talked about playing on his qualifying offer (worth $2.242 million) if we couldn't get something worked out and then work on it after January 1 but I think as we progressed ... it happened," Sutter said.

The contract is certainly a substantial financial commitment (though Roman Turek's contract alone in 2003-04 was $4.25 million) but Sutter believes it was important to ink a cornerstone goalie on a long-term deal.

"It means, number one, we're trying to win a championship right now," Sutter said. "And also, in doing it, we're looking at the cap number, the number we work with, and also the depth of the organization.

"In the end, it didn't matter if it was a two-, three-, four-year deal. Like Jarome (Iginla), it was their choice."

The Flames also have No.-2 goalie Philippe Sauve signed to a one-year contract, though it hasn't officially been announced.

Though there were fears from fans the deal Nikolai Khabibulin signed (four years, $27 million) would have an impact on Kiprusoff's negotiations, Sutter said it wasn't the case at all.

"It didn't influence it at all," he said. "He was in a group with (Evgeni) Nabokov, (Roberto) Luongo, (Marty) Turco."

Kiprusoff hasn't proven to be a long-term NHL star -- he was third on the San Jose depth chart when acquired -- Sutter doesn't believe anyone should worry about Kiprusoff's lack of extended success.

"In my mind, he's a proven goalie," he said.

Besides, Kiprusoff is fine with the expectations that will be heaped upon him, even if the legend has grown somewhat with the lost season.

"I can't wait to come and play there, too. Last year was tough with no NHL. I know we're going to have a pretty good team and I'm really excited," he said. "The playoff run was the best time. We couldn't take that last step but we're going to try again."


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