Pleasant surprise for Sarich

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Cory Sarich awoke yesterday morning believing he'd have a new place to call home through the winter.

Who'd have believed it would be the same locale as the summer?

"I guess it'll be a permanent home," said the newest member of the Calgary Flames.

"My wife (Reagan) was ecstatic when she heard about the opportunity and that means a lot."

Sarich, who'll turn 29 next month, was an unrestricted free agent for only a few hours before signing a five-year, US$18 million deal with the Flames.

The contract pretty much completes Calgary's blueline brigade with Robyn Regehr, Adrian Aucoin, Dion Phaneuf, Rhett Warrener, David Hale all signed and Mark Giordano a restricted free agent.

Both Roman Hamrlik and Brad Stuart are expected to sign elsewhere.

After six seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sarich knew he was on his way out, in big part because of the team's salary cap struggles.

Even though his family moved into a home here in the fall of 2004, he didn't figure on being courted by the Flames.

"I made a mental list and looked at a few different teams, teams that needed defensive help, and Calgary didn't pop up right away because of their situation with Hamrlik and Stuart. I thought for sure they'd bring one of those guys back in," said the the 6-ft. 3-in., 210-lb. defenceman.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter had Sarich targeted all along, looking for him to help the team's penalty killing unit.

"It was really a short list for our team. We wanted a right-handed defenceman that could play with Robyn or Dion. He was a perfect fit," Sutter said. "I think (Sarich's game is) similar to Robyn, a very solid games."

The financial security is obviously a big part of Sarich's decision -- his contract last season was worth $1.9 million -- but the term was a huge enticement.

"I'm a guy that likes to stay put, I was like that in Tampa. Another big thing for me is becoming a team guy and becoming a core part of the process," he said. "That can happen here."

Sarich has played 536 regular-season games and another 45 playoff contests, which includes the 2004 Stanley Cup final victory over the Flames.

He moved to the Stampede City shortly after.

"Yeah, I was a little afraid of some arson happening to our place but it turned out all right," he joked.

"It turned out and looks like it might be a good investment, so I'll have to give my wife some credit for that."


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