Conroy OK to play summer contract waiting game

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Dion Phaneuf's contract negotiations have taken centre stage among the Calgary Flames faithful lately.

The possibilities regarding offensive standouts Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow -- both due to become unrestricted free agents this summer -- have also been monitored closely.

The status of Craig Conroy, however, hasn't been in the limelight.

"I understand there are big guys here that need to get done, so I'm in the wait process," Conroy said yesterday.

"Hopefully, if the team does better, we win and things are good, you can fall into a line somewhere.

"Right now, nothing. They're way more busy than thinking about me."

Also due to become a UFA this summer, Conroy's status has taken a back seat for GM Darryl Sutter, and the veteran forward expects that won't change for a time. A long time.

"July first, second, third, fourth, I don't know. It's a long line," he said with a laugh.

"And I don't blame them. Obviously, you love to get something done early, like Kris Draper did, but I understand.

"You don't know where the cap's gonna be. You don't know what will happen with Juice or Langks.

"It sounds like Dion is close, and when that happens, they'll have a better grasp, but it's wait and see."

Conroy left the Flames after the 2004 playoff run, signing with the Los Angeles Kings at what was likely the peak of his career.

"It was different. With the lockout there was so much uncertainty," he recalled.

"Darryl said I could wait, see what unfolds, because they weren't signing anyone, and I talked to (NHLPA director Bob) Goodenow and he said to get a deal because they didn't know what the landscape would be.

"It wasn't like I was an unrestricted free agent when it was a normal unrestricted free agent period. I would have taken $2.2 (million) to stay, but then I went on the market and ended up getting $3.2, which was great.

"But I'd just went to the finals and didn't want to go from here. I honestly didn't think I was gonna, but as the summer went on, I knew.

"When I look back now, it worked out great. They got all those great players -- Langks, Juice -- and I got to come back."

The 36-year-old centre still believes he has a few more seasons left in him and would love to remain in Calgary.

"When I came back, it felt like it was meant to be," he said.

"Darryl was great to take a chance to get me back and Mike (Keenan) has been great to me.

"I like the city, love the hockey atmosphere and love the nucleus of the team -- I think it's going to be good for a long, long time.

What remains to be seen, though, is whether the Flames can afford to keep Conroy in the fold.

The Flames will be bumping the salary cap, no matter where it ends up, and Conroy realizes that.

"It's pretty high -- $38 million with 13 guys, and Dion's gonna take what he ends up with. You can do the math, there's not a ton (of space) remaining," Conroy said."You'll have to wait and see."

Which won't be easy. It's easy to look at Conroy now and see the situation Martin Gelinas found himself in after the lockout.

Sutter wanted to lock up his key players first and then see what he had left in regards to the salary cap before talking to Gelinas. In the meantime, the winger signed with the Florida Panthers.

Conroy knows all about what Gelinas went through and will probably use that experience for himself.

"I'm high-strung anyways, a panicker by nature, so I have to try to relax," he said.

"Jarome (Iginla) could wait three or four months -- 'It doesn't matter, we're OK' -- but I'm on the edge, so I could see where Marty was feeling, 'What's going on?' and had to take it.

"You hope here is a situation where they say, 'These are our guys, this is what we're doing' and I can fit in."


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