SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' turn is next

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

With Kevin Lowe tearing the heart out of the Oilers yesterday, the Calgary Flames unofficially clinched a playoff spot: Without Ryan Smyth, Edmonton is out of the hunt.

But before Flames fans take to the Red Mile in celebration of their third-straight year in the playoff party, perhaps Calgarians should take a minute to pause for those less fortunate souls in Edmonton.

After all, next year at this time the Flames will almost undoubtedly find themselves in a similar predicament with captain Jarome Iginla.

Or franchise netminder Miikka Kiprusoff.

Both will become unrestricted free agents July 1, 2008, and will command the league's top dollar in their respective positions.

The Flames won't be able to afford both.

Especially considering Alex Tanguay will make $5 million the following year and Robyn Regehr, Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy also will be UFAs. Dion Phaneuf will be a restricted free agent too.

While high turnover-rates are the new reality of today's NHL, the devastation Edmonton feels today with Smyth's shocking trade is nothing compared to the loss Calgary will feel if Iginla is shipped out of his home province.

"I'm sure it was a very tough decision, but that's strictly business," said Flames GM Darryl Sutter, who was asked how many GMs could make a tough move like that, knowing how unpopular it would be.

"Kevin just did, and I could. That's two. Quite honestly, you can't let emotions be part of it - you have to make a business decision."

Don't be fooled into believing Sutter is bluffing - the numbers simply don't add up since both Iginla and Kiprusoff will command roughly $8 million annually. So, one will stay. One will go.

Lowe's only cushion is the fact the Oilers weren't a legitimate playoff team anyway. Sutter won't have that "luxury."

Have pity, Flames fans - next year, the pain could be yours.


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