Russian back to Flames

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

His one-year Russian exile over, defenceman Mark Giordano called up his former roommate to let him know he'd be back with the Calgary Flames.

"I called Dion (Phaneuf) first," said Giordano, a restricted free agent who officially rejoined the Flames yesterday with a three-year, one-way deal.

"He was excited. He was happy for me."

Not happy enough to open up his doors again to the 24-year-old who played for the Moscow Dynamo after failing to garner a one-way deal from the Flames last summer following his rookie NHL season.

"Naw, I'm getting the boot," said Giordano over the phone from Toronto late last night. "I think he's had enough of me. I'll go get my own place this year."

He might be able to offer up some space for wingers Brandon Prust and David Van der Gulik, whose signings were also announced by the Flames last night. They also inked unsigned free-agent defenceman Ryan Wilson from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.

The decision to bolt for the Russian Elite League wasn't an easy one for the smooth-skating Giordano, but it ultimately paved the way for him to return to the NHL.

Partnered with former NHLer Danny Markov, Giordano logged a lot of ice time in all situations, and honed his skills in the defensive end to add to the offensive flair he displayed during 48 games with the Flames in 2006-07 when he forced the team to keep him on the big roster out of training camp.

"He expects a lot out of his teammates -- especially his partner," Giordano said of Markov. "It was good. He pushed me and I think it helped."

The end result is Giordano now deemed worthy of the one-way deal Flames general manager Darryl Sutter wouldn't offer a year ago.

"Mark is an NHL player and we are glad to have him back," Sutter said in a statement. "He was a good player when he left to play in Russia and has improved playing against European players on the larger ice. He is a year older and year more mature."

Giordano says there was never any bad blood between himself and the Flames. The decision to leave was the toughest he's had to make as a player so far.

He can relate to guys like Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin and how difficult a transition it must be for them to come here and deal with the language barrier.

"There was a bit of a culture shock, with the language and all that. I got used to it. It wasn't as bad as some horror stories I've heard from over there," he said.

"All in all it was a good experience and it got me to where I wanted to be today."


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