Warrener not ready to waive goodbye to playing days

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

If Rhett Warrener's tenure with the Calgary Flames is over, he's hopeful his NHL career will continue.

"I still think I can play. I don't think that I should be packing it in or thinking that way," the 32-year-old said yesterday from his home in Calgary.

As of early last night, the rugged defenceman was still a member of the Calgary Flames -- he'd yet to receive the paperwork necessary to complete a buyout of the final year of his contract -- but he knew that could change in the next day or two. He didn't have any advance notice he would be waived along with teammates Marcus Nilson and Anders Eriksson Thursday, available to every other NHL team at his current $2.5-million salary.

It wasn't a total surprise, though.

Despite coming into training camp before last season in the best shape of his life, Warrener suffered bone fractures in his leg and ankle late in the fall, and then again in the spring.

"I got injured, but I think they were more fluky injuries -- breaking bones and stuff -- than it was body wear-down," he said. "It wasn't my shoulder getting sore, my back being sore ... It was kind of an unlucky break."

In between injuries, Warrener was often forced to watch games from the press box as a healthy scratch.

"I've been around long enough. The writing was on the wall that something like (waivers) could happen. I wasn't taken aback about it, that's for sure," said Warrener, who admits he will be disappointed if the buyout does play out the way it's expected. "I always wanted, or expected, to finish things out here."

Rewarded for his gritty play with a three-year contract in August 2005 after the lockout ended, the beefy (at the time) deal is the reason Warrener will likely be playing somewhere else this year.

"I think the thing that's probably changed is they've got guys making more money ahead of me," Warrener said. "To have that much money on a guy that was a healthy scratch ... It's pretty hard to pay a guy that much money to sit and watch from the press box.

"That's not what I want to do, either."

A buyout would save the Flames more than $1.5 million against the cap this season, while Warrener would be paid two-thirds of his $2.5-million salary over the next two years ($833,333 per year).

With the accountability Warrener brings to a dressing room, the move would be strictly financial.

That's how Warrener is looking at it. The Flames have several defenceman, including Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr, signed to lucrative, long-term deals.

"They've got a lot of money wrapped up in defencemen," said Warrener, who says his relationship with GM Darryl Sutter has always been good, and likely always will be.

"It's certainly sad to go, because this is the place I felt was home and would be home -- and probably still will be home when I'm done."


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