The buck stops here
Flames lock up Kiprusoff with $35-million deal
STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media
|Miikka Kiprusoff will be a Calgary Flame for a long time. (Sun Media File/Al Charest)
In typical Miikka Kiprusoff fashion, the Calgary Flames goaltender was nowhere to be seen as one of the biggest moments of his NHL career was announced.
The Flames inked the camera-shy Finn to a six-year deal worth about $35 million yesterday, but, as he did when the Vezina Trophy he won two seasons ago was handed out, Kiprusoff stayed away from the spotlight.
"I would like to thank the Calgary Flames owners for making this long-term commitment to me and my family so we can remain in this city and be part of this organization," the 31-year-old backstop was quoted in a press release. "I look forward to the responsibility and challenge that comes with this contract.
"Calgary is a loyal hockey community that expects and deserves the very best from its home team."
The city certainly does expect the best from its team. It's also come to expect big signings from its general manager. Darryl Sutter signed both captain Jarome Iginla and defenceman Robyn Regehr to five-year deals over the summer and now has three of his cornerstone players locked up for years to come.
Kiprusoff's contract is heavily front loaded -- and sources say he may retire rather than play out the final season -- but averages about $5.8M per season against the salary cap, which Sutter admits was a critical negotiating point for a team that hopes to continue to add to the supporting cast in the future.
"Absolutely (that) was the most important thing in the contract," said Sutter of the cap figure. "There's a little bit of compromise on both sides, always. Even though you have elite players, you still have to be able to make them fit into a 21- or 22- or 23-man payroll."
Kiprusoff has a no movement clause worked into a portion of the deal, which Sutter said is incumbent on performance. But there's a reason the Flames GM wanted to lock his netminder up long-term.
"He just turned 31. If you do your homework, you'll find out that the best years are 28 to 35, in there somewhere," said Sutter of the former San Jose Sharks backup he snagged for a draft pick during the 2003-04 season. "And he hasn't played many games. Clearly, his best games are ahead of him. The next three or four (years) are where most of the money is.
"Bottom line is he's one of the best three goaltenders in the National Hockey League. You've got to be able to show your fans and show your players that you intend to have those top players on your team for a long time."
Many speculated Sutter wouldn't be able to get a deal done, especially in the wake of Iginla's $7M and Regehr's $4M extensions. But the boss never doubted it.
"This is a formality today," said Sutter, adding the process is three-fold with verbal and formal contracts being agreed to before a letter of agreement is sent to the league.
"The first two were done over a period of days.
"Negotiations take a long time. Two of the big areas that are the most critical (are) does the asset want to play in this town and are you willing to commit to him?
Lucky for Flames fans everywhere, the answer to both is yes.
NHL'S TOP $$ 'TENDERS
Heaviest cap hits for NHL goaltenders
N. Khabibulin, Chi $6.75M
R. Luongo, Van $6.75M
J-S Giguere, Ana $6M
M. Kiprusoff, Cgy $5.8M
Marty Turco, Dal $5.7M
Tomas Vokoun, Fla $5.7M