SUN Hockey Pool

Old dog in new house

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- It's hard to say which makes the bigger statement: Curtis Joseph picking the Calgary Flames or the fact the Flames courted Cujo in the first place.

After taking his time to consider all the offers that came his way over the last couple of weeks, Joseph decided to join the Flames yesterday.

In spirit, if not in body.

While the club refused to announce the new addition, one could be made as early as today with the veteran goaltender expected to join the team in time for tomorrow's game against the Minnesota Wild.

Joseph's agent, Don Meehan, confirmed his client chose to make his return to the National Hockey League as a member of the Flames.

"We couldn't be happier," Meehan told the Sun yesterday, adding "several teams" were involved in the final hours before they agreed to a deal.

No terms were released, but a one-year deal worth $1.5 million would pay him about $650,000 in pro-rated salary.

Normally, signing a 40-year-old backup goaltender who hasn't played a game in the NHL this season wouldn't be such a big deal.

But by inking with the Flames, Joseph must believe he has a legitimate shot at winning a Stanley Cup. Likewise, Flames general manager Darryl Sutter wouldn't have brought in an experienced backstop unless he was sure his group was in need of some insurance for the stretch run in case Miikka Kiprusoff slumps or suffers an injury.

Kiprusoff said he had heard the rumblings yesterday but didn't want to comment on the addition until the club confirmed he had a new partner.

At first glance, it doesn't seem to affect the starter's standing with the club, but head coach Mike Keenan now has options.

That could mean the return of his Captain Hook persona. Kiprusoff will no doubt still get to carry the load, but no longer will Keenan be afraid to yank the 31-year-old Finn after a bad goal, or bench him for a game or two following a shoddy performance.

Even though he is nearly 10 months removed from NHL action, Joseph has a track record as one of the league's top goaltenders.

His recent showing for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup was good enough to draw interest from at least a few teams looking for experience, and his presence should help bolster a dressing room that still seems to struggle with consistency.

Getting a break from what has so far been a manic schedule should ultimately be a good thing, though, for the guy who has started all but one game for the Flames.

Kiprusoff would tell you he has had no problem with the current workload. His stats tell a different story. Age isn't a factor, but Kiprusoff isn't your top-of-the-line athlete.

He displays tremendous flexibility and a knack for reading plays, but the common thought is his body hasn't been treated as a temple the way some of today's top athletes take care of their bodies.

What better than the addition of another aging great to help lighten the load?

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SIZING UP CUJO

Age: 40

Seasons: 16

Games Played: 913

Record: 446-341-95

Teams: St. Louis, Edmonton, Toronto, Detroit, Phoenix.

Career GAA: 2.78

Career Save Percentage: .907

Notable: Trails Terry Sawchuk (477) by one for fourth on the all-time wins list.


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