Despite a 70-game season — yet again — and all the wear and tear which came with it, Miikka Kiprusoff insists he feels healthy as a horse right now.
Make that healthy as a workhorse.
Oh sure, there have been days when the 35-year-old Calgary Flames netminder has felt the aches which come with age — and he sure looked run down in the last month — but Kiprusoff says the heavy grind didn’t take a toll on him with injuries or anything like that because he’s taken better care of himself in the past year.
“All the little things old guys have to do,” he said with a wry grin.
“I feel good. I felt pretty good through the whole year. I did something different. I did work quite a bit more off-ice and try to stay off the ice more than I used to, and that felt good.
“I’m OK — no injuries. And in that way, it was good.”
That’s good news because the Flames are facing a rebuilding process and there doesn’t appear to be a No. 1 goalie waiting in the wings to replace the club’s standout netminder.
Therefore, the reliance on Kiprusoff will likely remain very high in the future.
However, the possibility exists — even if it’s small — he and the Flames may part ways.
After a third consecutive season without reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Flames are staring at changes. How much the team is gutted remains to be seen, but you can’t argue if the Flames really wanted to deal away a veteran player for a healthy return, Kiprusoff would be a great candidate.
Kiprusoff proved this season he still remains a top-level NHL netminder, and there are a handful of teams with more realistic Stanley Cup hopes than the Flames searching for one of those.
Moreover, his contract becomes more financially friendly in the final two seasons of the six-year, US$35-million pact. He’s due to make $5 million next season and $1.5 million in 2013-14.
To top it off, the no-movement clause expires after this season.
If the Flames wanted to trade Kiprusoff, something GM Jay Feaster has in the past vehemently denied to be the case, they could start the auction.
Not that Kiprusoff, who isn’t expected to play Saturday’s season finale against the Anaheim Ducks (2 p.m., Sportsnet West, Sportsnet 960) has asked to leave.
“I have two more years on my contract left, and I haven’t heard any different,” Kiprusoff said of not returning to Calgary. “Hopefully, (I’ll stay with the Flames) but hockey’s a business, and things not in my hands. It’s in my mind to come back and try to help this team again.”
Before then, Kiprusoff will spend the rest of this spring in Calgary while his son, Aaro, completes his first year of school and then return to Finland.
“For sure, we’ll go back home and see my family,” said the netminder, who all but disappears off the face of the world in the summers. “They’re missing my son, not me that much, but him.”
Along the way, he may look back at what was a very good season, at least personally, although he doesn’t seem too happy about his performance.
“You can’t be. We had a team goal here before the season started and didn’t reach that. I don’t think anybody is happy here in this room,” Kiprusoff said. “We have one more game, and we have to work hard, try to win that one, and after that, we can go through the season and think about what went wrong and things like that.”
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