SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper's hip to Calgary

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff talks to media at the start of training camp on Thursday. (Sun...

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff talks to media at the start of training camp on Thursday. (Sun Media/Brett Gundlock)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff has a message for Calgary Flames fans.

His top priority is to re-sign with the club.

Rumours may be swirling the star netminder wants to bolt the Stampede City in favour of a warmer locale or one with less scrutiny, but Kiprusoff said his No.-1 priority is to ink a pact with the Flames.

"That's my first option, for sure," he said after going through the paces of fitness testing yesterday at the Saddledome as training camp opened. "I'd love to stay here."

This summer, Calgary GM Darryl Sutter managed to sign two-thirds of his big three pending unrestricted free agents a year early when Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr agreed to five-year extensions that keep them under contract through the 2012-13 season.

The Flames have some other key pending unrestricted free agents after this season -- such as Daymond Langkow, Kristian Huselius and Stephane Yelle -- as well as Dion Phaneuf, who will be a restricted free agent.

But there's no doubt the most important player they need to re-sign is Kiprusoff, who is heading into the final season of a three-year, US$10-million contract.

Kiprusoff is optimistic a deal will get done, which would keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2008.

"We are talking. My agent (Larry Kelly) and Darryl, they are talking all the time. Hopefully they're gonna get it done," he said. "I will tell you guys if something happens.

"He (Kelly) knows I'd love to stay here and that's the main thing. Now he's talking with Darryl about the numbers and I try to stay away from that and do my job here.

"For sure, he knows this is the number one place where I'd like to stay."

Kiprusoff is coming off his third consecutive season as a Vezina finalist -- he won the award after the 2005-06 season -- since joining the squad from San Jose in November 2003 for a second-round draft choice.

The netminder, who'll turn 31 next month, is known for his unflappable nature on the ice. Which is why it should come as no surprise he's not setting a timeline on a new deal.

"That would be nice to get it done before the season starts, but, anyway, it's more my agent's job. I'm gonna concentrate on hockey (today) and it's his job," he said.

Iginla and Regehr's deals -- both for less than they'd have received on the open market -- do make the Flames a more attractive team. But nobody in the dressing room has put the screws to Kiprusoff to re-sign as soon as possible, and to a long-term deal.

"We don't talk too much about that here," Kiprusoff said. "There are more important things right now here, and that's get ready for the season.

"I still have one year left."

There will be a noticeable change in front of Kiprusoff this year. The defence corps has three new faces -- Adrian Aucoin, Cory Sarich and Anders Eriksson -- all expected to be in the top six and log plenty of minutes.

"I've been talking with them and it looks good," Kiprusoff said.

"Our defence looks strong and it's good news for me."

Also about to have an impact on Kiprusoff is new head coach Mike Keenan.

Keenan has been called Captain Hook for his willingness to yank his netminder. However, he's also the same coach who put Grant Fuhr in goal for 79 games during the 1995-96 season.

Kiprusoff has suited up for 74 regular-season games in each of the past two seasons, so it's possible he'll see at least as much action this year.

"I'm fine with that. I love to play lots," he said. "But it's always up to the coach. Hopefully, I'll play well enough he'll give me lots of ice time because that's what I like."


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