SUN Hockey Pool

Flames calm as cash flies

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Anyone in Calgary complaining of boredom when it came to the lack of activity by the Flames yesterday should be thankful their favourite team didn't have to be an active player on the opening day of free agency.

Former Flaming C defenceman Mike Commodore making almost $4-million a season for the next five years?

One-way wonder Brian Campbell set for the next eight years at more than $7M per?

Just imagine what Flames blueline staples Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf -- who are a million times better than Commodore and Campbell -- would have made on the open market had general manager Darryl Sutter not taken care of business early and locked those two pillars up in the past year.

Even Cory Sarich's $3.6-million average over the next four campaigns looks brilliant after the frenzy that took place yesterday.

With his Big Five (captain Jarome Iginla, centre Daymond Langkow, Phaneuf, Regehr and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff) in place for at least four more seasons, Sutter didn't do much yesterday.

He added left-winger Rene Bourque to the mix at forward, trading a conditional second-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the restricted free agent who had filed for arbitration.

"He will be an important part of the remaking of our left side along with other young players already under contract," Sutter said in a statement.

The competition for spots on the flanks includes Kyle Greentree, who was picked up Sunday in a trade with Philadelphia, the recently re-signed Eric Nystrom, David Moss, converted centre Dustin Boyd and likely a few prospects such as David Van der Gulik, Brandon Prust and Grant Stevenson.

Van der Gulik and Prust were re-signed last night along with defencemen Mark Giordano and undrafted free agent Ryan Wilson.

Owen Nolan reportedly is close to a two-year deal that would see him finish his career in Calgary.

A source told Sun Media yesterday Prust's deal is one-way for two years and worth $1-million.

Bourque, a 26-year-old product of Lac La Biche, Alta., hopes his game on the ice is better than on the links yesterday.

He got the news of his trade 20 minutes before teeing off in a par-3 golf tournament in his home town and was a little distracted.

"It kind of rattled me. I haven't been too good today," said Bourque with a laugh. "I haven't hit too many greens."

Excited to be playing in his home province, Bourque will quickly become a key part of Calgary's penalty kill.

One of the knocks on the 6-ft.-2, 213-lb. combination of size and speed is the fact he has played just 183 NHL games over his first three seasons because of injuries.

But both a serious neck wound from an errant skate in 2006-07 and a broken thumb that required surgery last season were suffered during shifts on the penalty kill -- freak injuries that tell you he's willing to get in harm's way.

"Hopefully I can stay healthy for a whole season here coming up," said Bourque.

"I'm still at a good age where I can peak in my career and hopefully I'll get a chance to show myself in Calgary."

Unless Sutter can convince Bourque to file for arbitration (which would give the Flames a second buyout window in August to clear salary) or manages to find value with what's left over in free agency, Bourque will get a legitimate shot at playing in the top six rather than the top nine.

Names on many a Flames fan's wish list went elsewhere yesterday.

Darcy Tucker settled for a $4.5-million deal over two years with the Northwest Division rival Colorado Avalanche.

Defenceman Wade Redden earned some hefty praise from Sutter in the past week, but he was way out of the Flames' price range and inked a six-year contract worth $39 million with the New York Rangers.

The Flames also saw former players Eric Godard go to the Pittsburgh Penguins on a three-year contract, and goaltender Curtis Joseph return to the Toronto Maple Leafs to be closer to his family.


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