One goalie down, plenty more to go

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

The ink had yet to dry on Miikka Kiprusoff's $35-million dollar deal late yesterday afternoon when the question was thrown at Darryl Sutter:

What does this mean in terms of trying to sign Dion Phaneuf, Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius next year?

After all, with Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr, Alex Tanguay, Adrian Aucoin and now Kiprusoff eating up more than half the team's $50.3-million cap money, surely a few studs will soon be squeezed out of the picture.

"There are 700 players in the NHL and over 200 are unrestricted or restricted free agents, so it's always 'what about that guy or this guy,' " shrugged Sutter.

"The key is who is under contract. Hey, we're still in October '07, and we've found a way to make it work so far. There's a number of young players who could play in Calgary -- that's why you want to sign up that nucleus and add to it with young guys."

Asked what he'd say to fans terrified at least two of those three players will relocate thanks to Kipper's six-year deal, Ken King was coy.

"I say the same thing to them -- that we were terrified we were going to lose Jarome and Robyn and Miikka," smiled the Flames prez.

"It doesn't end -- that's today's NHL. I can tell you, though, that Darryl has never made a move that didn't contemplate the next one."

In other words, worry not as the architect of this budding juggernaut is well aware of his parameters.

He knows someone will pull a 'Penner' and throw huge money at Phaneuf, and that Huselius and Langkow are poised for massive raises.

But in the meantime, fans should step back and take solace that the key cog to any potential Flames Stanley Cup run -- a superstar goalie-- has been locked up until 2014.

"This is a big day in Flames history, but we have a lot of big days," said King.

"We have always said we will have a sustainably good team over a long haul that can compete for the Stanley Cup, and you can't do that if you're not signing these players."

So while the threat of losing the team's best all-around forward (Langkow), best young defenceman (Phaneuf) and craftiest winger (Huselius) is daunting, it's pretty narrow-minded thinking given the troika of superstars King mentioned who've joined Tanguay as Flames fixtures.

"It's the toughest position to find a number-one guy," said Sutter, pointing out a no-trade clause was inserted into a portion of the deal based on performance.

The abundance of highly-touted youngsters in the organization waiting for Kipper's job will have to do just that while the workhorse Vezina winner stays rooted in the city in which he was given his chance to shine.

And while the annual cap hit of $5.8 million will have the league abuzz over what appears to be a slight discount for the Flames, the lengthy term will also have some wondering if a 37-year-old will be worth it at that price.

It will be.

Fact is, teams go nowhere without netminding.

The Flames know that better than most given the fact Mike Vernon was the only other goalie that gave this team a fighting chance each spring.

How fitting, then, that the seeds for this deal were planted the night Vernon's jersey was lifted to the Saddledome rafters.

With Kiprusoff here long-term, Calgary just became even more attractive to B-list free agents who will ultimately have to be lured here to replace cap casualties like Langkow and Huselius.

Another brilliant move, Mr. Sutter.

The only bigger move in club lore was signing Iginla.

But it's what you do for an encore that already has everybody talking.


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