SUN Hockey Pool

Let the contract talks begin

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Brad Stuart's windfall is coming this summer and he's smart enough to know it.

That's why the pending unrestricted free agent has an even bigger stipulation in his mind about where he signs.

"The most important thing is I want to be on a team I feel has a chance to win," said the Calgary Flames defenceman after packing up his belongings at the Saddledome yesterday. "Obviously this game is a business and money's part of that but, first and foremost, I'm not gonna go to a team I don't think is gonna win just because they're giving me the most money.

"I want to be on a team I feel good about. I definitely feel good about this team, so that's not an issue."

As well as that sounds, Stuart re-signing with the Flames is no slam dunk.

The 26-year-old defenceman, who was acquired from Boston late in the season, will have plenty of options if he waits until July 1st.

Calgary, however, is in the mix.

"Definitely, it's a place I could see myself coming back to but I'm not at that point where I'm making that decision yet," he said. "I'm gonna take some time, think about that stuff, and discuss it with various people and we'll go from there.

"I'm sure there'll be some discussions with myself, my agent, my family and until that happens, I'm not too worried about it. There's a lot of time for me to go through that process."

Stuart isn't the only key player Flames GM Darryl Sutter may look to re-sign before Canada Day. Sutter likely won't be able to keep both Stuart and Roman Hamrlik as part of his blueline corps, but if Stuart is going to walk, Sutter would be well served to keep Hamrlik in the fold.

The veteran who just turned 33 said yesterday he'd like to remain with the Flames, who he joined in August 2005 after signing a two-year, $7 million US deal.

"I really like this team and this organization is one of the best I've been (with). I'd really really like to be back," Hamrlik said. "That's one of my priorities, to come back."

Hamrlik, with 999 NHL regular season games under his belt, also said money won't be the biggest factor in his decision.

"It's not really important, I'll be honest. I've been here long enough and the money never was an issue," he said. "I've been in the league long enough to know what it takes to win hockey games and I think this team has a chance to go pretty deep in the playoffs.

"This season's over but my (Stanley Cup) dream is still there. I just want to win the Cup and this team is good enough to do it."

Calgary's list of pending UFAs also includes six forwards -- Wayne Primeau, Jeff Friesen, Marcus Nilson, Tony Amonte, Darren McCarty and Byron Ritchie -- and goalie Jamie McLennan.

It's possible none of them will be back, though Primeau may fit into the plans.

He quickly said Calgary is a place he would strongly consider.

"Oh yeah, for sure. I enjoyed my time here and it's a great bunch of guys," said Primeau, who'll turn 31 in June.

The versatile centre/left winger stepped in well in a checking role, and would be a key component with the Flames.

However, having been traded during the season in each of the last two campaigns, and having played for six teams in his NHL career, Primeau would like to curtail his nomadic existence after having to spend so much time away from his family following the trade from Boston.

"Being wanted is the biggest thing. Having a deal that has a no-trade in it (would be beneficial) because it's kinda getting old," he said. "Or, if there is a trade, that it's in the off-season."

Who knows? Maybe Stuart and Primeau will remain together longer, seeing as they were both dealt from San Jose to Boston in the Joe Thornton swap and then off to Calgary.


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