SUN Hockey Pool

Bang for buck aim of Dion game

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Does anybody out there believe the Calgary Flames won't re-sign Dion Phaneuf?

Anyone? Anyone?

Since there are only crickets chirping, we'll take it news the Flames and Phaneuf's agents -- namely Don Meehan -- are zeroing in on a deal comes as no big surprise.

Phaneuf would become a restricted free agent on July 1, but it appears the Flames won't let that happen with the possibility he could be poached by another team.

Really, it's not hard to believe a few teams out there would be willing to hand out a massive contract to the 22-year-old in exchange for a handful of first-round draft choices.

The Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks learned that lesson the hard way last summer due to offer sheets handed out by the Edmonton Oilers.

The Sabres are paying Thomas Vanek more than the Flames are giving Jarome Iginla and Anaheim balked at the price tag and lost Dustin Penner.

The real mystery is what a new deal for the rising star defenceman will look like.

Yesterday, less than 24 hours after reports began to circulate only "minor details" were left to iron out on a new pact, all the parties involved remained silent.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter said he won't discuss with the media anything regarding a contract for Phaneuf until it's complete and approved by the league.

Meehan is currently in Europe and couldn't be reached, and Phaneuf reiterated the stance he took after Wednesday night's 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks: He won't discuss it, leaving all the business side of the game to Sutter and Meehan.

According to sources, the deal they're close to finalizing is long-term -- around six to eight years -- worth between US$6.5 million and $7 million per season.

The deal was not complete as of yesterday, with some issues remaining to work out. Until they're done with, it's not a contract.

Either way, Flames fans should expect in the near future a gathering with smiles all around and a contract that would take a Fred Flintstone-sized cheque to fit all the zeroes.

And for a long time.

There have been reports an agreement between the sides may be short-term by standards you're seeing now among the high-profile, pending restricted free agents -- three or four years.

However, as one agent said, the Flames won't likely be convinced "to give Dion all that money only to have him be up again in just three or four years."

At the same time, the length of the deal is one reason the dollars will put him among the top-paid defencemen in the NHL.

With seven goals and 26 assists in 51 games heading into tomorrow night's clash with the Dallas Stars, Phaneuf's offensive output is among the league's top 10.

Throw in the fact he was named a starter at his second all-star game this season, and it's easy to say he's truly one of the elite.

As of right now, he's probably not in that category, but it appears the player chosen ninth overall in 2003 will indeed be in that stratosphere before long.

Therefore, the Flames will probably be over-paying in the first year or two but -- they hope -- getting great bang for their buck in the last couple of seasons.

It's a patient approach to take, but that's where everyone is at with the situation regarding Phaneuf.

A little patience and it'll all come together.


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