Iggy's deal would send a message

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

The contract extension Jarome Iginla is about to sign as early as today may not set the hockey world on fire due to its length, dollar figures or terms.

But it will reiterate the most powerful of messages to players and teams around the league: Calgary is the place to be.

In light of the fact the salary cap is going up $6 million this year and lesser players like Scott Gomez and Chris Drury are making slightly more than the $7 million Iginla is reportedly set to continue earning annually, it only stands to reason the Flames' 30-year-old captain could garner upwards of $8 million on the open market next year.

However, Iginla is clearly willing to forego unrestricted free agency (again) and take slightly less money in exchange for the longer term of his four- or five-year guaranteed deal.

He's not the first player in hockey history to do it but he's one of the best.

And he's doing it because there is no more desirable a place to play in the eyes of a good ol' western Canadian kid than Cowtown.

But don't take our word for it, take his: "I'd like to play in a place where the passion and the Red Mile and Sea of Red are," said Iginla months back.

"If you could win in a place like this with that crowd it's what you want. It's amazing. It's one of the best places to raise a family in the world. The traffic isn't bad, it's safe and for my wife and I, it's close to home so the grandparents can come down. It's a hockey town and when we go out as a family people are very passionate but very respectful."

Calgary Tourism should include those words in every brochure.

While notable free agents league-wide avoid teams with ownership problems (see Nashville), poor management (see Long Island, Edmonton, Toronto) tax issues (see Montreal), fan apathy (see a third of the U.S. teams), and a long list of other undesirable traits, Calgary and the Flames offer up everything a player could want these days.

And now that the face and heart of the franchise is ready to commit another half decade of his career, it opens the door for even more free agents to choose Calgary down the road. Not just because of the organization's stability, class and depth, or the city's appeal and fan support, but because it offers up one of the best chances to win a Stanley Cup.

And players focused on doing that are the only ones the franchise should be interested in anyway.

You can bet Iginla's willingness to extend his 12-year stay here impacted Robyn Regehr's desire to re-work his deal past this season. Fans can only hope it has the same effect on Miikka Kiprusoff who could prove to be the toughest re-signing Darryl Sutter has.

Many feared the hiring of Mike Keenan would scare free agents and pending free agents away from signing in Calgary. Some suggested Iginla should hold off on signing an extension until he experienced the wrath of Iron Mike for a few months.

Then again, Iginla's never been afraid of hard work.

The theory here has long been the Flames have one more year to win the Cup before Sutter has to choose which unrestricted free agents to keep amongst Iginla, Regehr, Kiprusoff, Daymond Langkow, Craig Conroy and Kristian Huselius.

Once he signs Iginla and Regehr to solidify a team brimming with talent, the future will be bright here for years to come.


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