Flames signs veteran Conroy

Craig Conroy will be suiting up for the Calgary Flames once again. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)

Craig Conroy will be suiting up for the Calgary Flames once again. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:25 PM ET

At best, Craig Conroy reaches the 1,000-game milestone, plays one last season and contributes before going out on his terms.

At worst, one of the most popular players in Calgary Flames history goes through training camp, doesn't earn a roster spot but can walk away from the game knowing he gave his best shot.

The contract he signed with the Flames has no risk, only reward to a player who has given all he can to an organization which helped him go from a defensive specialist in St. Louis to a top-line player alongside Jarome Iginla.

A few months ago, Conroy wasn't sure whether he'd reached the end of the line.

When the Flames season ended without a trip to the playoffs, the veteran centre didn't know if he'd have another chance to play in the NHL, but vowed to do all he could for another crack.

The opportunity came with the Flames in the form of a one-year, two-way contract worth US$500,000 announced Wednesday.

"It was Calgary or bust for me," Conroy said from his off-season home in New York state. "That was my mindset. I enjoy everything about the city, the fans. I enjoy everything about being a Calgary Flame.

"I really feel good. I fee like I can come in and fill a role."

The contract for the league minimum doesn't even include bonuses, which Conroy was eligible for. It's more about the opportunity.

The Flames have a top-three up the middle of Olli Jokinen, Daymond Langkow — who is making progress from the neck injury which ended his campaign last season — and Matt Stajan.

Conroy will have to win a battle for the fourth-line role. On the surface, that would mean beating out top prospect Mikael Backlund, but it's more likely against such players are Ryan Stone and John Armstrong.

(It's hard to imagine the Flames using Backlund in a fourth-line role with a $1.3-million cap hit. More likely, Backlund will be used as a winger — a very likely scenario if the club can jettison Ales Kotalik and his contract worth $6 million over the next two seasons.) Conroy, who'll turn 39 next month, suffered through a disappointing 2009-10 season. He was hampered by a trio of injuries — wrist, knee, broken bone in the foot — and collected just three goals and 15 points in 63 outings.

"It was a bad year, and I wanted to come back and have a chance to have a better year," he said.

Not only does Conroy believe he can contribute more on the ice Ñ with production, as well as by winning faceoffs and killing penalties — but off the ice.

"I know the locker-room and know the guys. I think I can help Olli and Tangs (Alex Tanguay), take some of the pressure off those guys. I can take some of the pressure off Jarome, too," he said.

Conroy's signing had the conspiracy theorists believing it was forced by Langkow's injury, but assistant GM Jay Feaster said the two are not related.

"I can tell you with absolute certainty the signing of Conroy had nothing to do with Daymond's health status," Feaster said via e-mail.

"Conroy signing is an organizational recognition of a player who has meant a lot to the franchise and wants a chance to show he can still play and be productive."

The fact he's so close to reaching 1,000 games is a factor.

"That's a big thing for me, too," Conroy said. "A sixth-round draft pick, I didn't think I'd make the NHL. It would mean a lot."

Likely, it's his last contract.

"Probably. But if I have 40 points, maybe not," said Conroy, who had 48 two seasons ago. "Last year was so frustrating, I felt it was the worst year of my career. I want to go out at least feeling I did the best I could."


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