Commodore worth the 'fro

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Mike Commodore has always stood out from the crowd.

For years it revolved largely around his 6-foot-4 frame, his orange afro and his engaging personality.

However, shortly after the free agency free-for-all opened this summer, he distanced himself even further from the masses with a contract signing that was the talk of the hockey world.

Four years after making a name for himself in Calgary during the playoffs as a useful, if not one dimensional, spare part, the 28-year-old defenceman signed a five-year, $18.75 million deal with Columbus.

Often mentioned alongside the four-year/$14 million deal Jeff Finger signed in Toronto, many have cited Commodore's pact as the perfect example of how reckless and insane NHL GMs have once again become.

Not only did it shine a rare spotlight on a stay-at-home blueliner who has, in fact, come a long way the last three years, but it put the two-time Stanley Cup finalist in an odd position where he will almost undoubtedly have to defend the deal at every turn.

"To be honest, I really don't care what the public thinks," said the local folk hero who spent the latter half of his summer in Calgary where he bought a condo overlooking the 'Dome at which his NHL career started.

"My buddies told me (TSN's) Pierre McGuire was running his mouth off and I couldn't care less. Whether I deserve it or not is not up to guys like Pierre McGuire. I've worked hard to get where I am. The market is at where it's at. It's not like I was going to say, 'no I'll just take one-and-a-half.' "

Fact is, after being traded by Calgary to Carolina four years ago, Commodore not only won a Stanley Cup with the 'Canes but has developed into a player that had seven teams interested in him July 1, including two that drove his price right up. And while he feels extremely privileged, he said the $3.75 million he'll make annually is close to the number he was expecting and is not out of whack.

"I'll be the first to admit I got a really good contract for myself," said Commodore, who led all Carolina defencemen in points two years ago with seven goals and 22 assists while making $2.5 million.

"Four years ago, I got my big break here due to injuries and was just trying to stick. But a lot of good things have happened since then and, honestly, if you take my stats and what I've done the last three years and put me in categories and compare me to other defencemen and the contracts they've signed I think I'm right in the market where I should be."

Best part, he says, is that it wasn't just the money that made Columbus a good fit, it was the role they want him to play -- something that was diminished in Ottawa where he finished last season following a trade.

"If there's one thing I learned in Ottawa, it's that if I want to be happy where I'm at I have to play," said the North Dakota grad who also won gold at the 2007 Worlds.

"I think I can be out there against the top lines and I think I should be out there every third shift and kill penalties. By no means do I think I should be out there on the powerplay. I think I'm an 18- to- 20-minute guy and that's what I think I deserve and when I think I'm at my best. I had a conference call with Columbus and asked how they saw me and they basically described me the same way and that went a long, long ways."

Owner of a Ford diesel truck and a Corvette, Commodore insists he couldn't think of any way to spoil himself, instead insisting on buying both his parents new vehicles.

"After I agreed to terms, I just sat down and said 'wow, I can't believe that just happened,'" said the character from Fort Saskatchewan.

"Then I called my mom. I said, 'look, you're both driving cars that are about to die -- I'll buy you two new cars. Whatever you want.' "

Their modest choices: A Toyota Highlander hybrid and a Honda Accord.

Good deals just seem to follow Commodore around these days.


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