Good for Goodenow

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:57 PM ET


 TAMPA -- Hockey fans in Calgary and Tampa are thrilled.

 The owners of the Flames and Lightning are ecstatic, too.

 Actually, with those clubs facing each other in the battle for the Stanley Cup, all fans stand to win should the battle turn out the way it's expected.

 After all, these are clubs based on speed, size and skill.

 Don't expect to see the plodding, trapping style that's made so many post-season parties fizzle.

 However, there's another winner thanks to the match-up.

 The National Hockey League's players' association.

 It's easy to applaud the fact a couple of unheralded, small-market clubs are facing each other in the battle for the Cup.

 However, with the league's collective bargaining agreement coming to a close before next season begins -- if it does -- a Flames/Lightning final adds the kind of ammunition the NHLPA has been looking for in the coming months.

 For years, the NHLPA has argued long and hard teams can compete within the guidelines of the existing system.

 One that keeps players within restricted free agency until they are as old as 31, making it the most confining agreement in pro sports.

 They've argued the owners only need to spend wisely. That they shouldn't expect a system -- read: hard salary cap -- to protect them from themselves.

 Since the Flames and Lightning were roughly two-thirds down the list when it came to the salary structure, it only adds credence to that argument.

 "We have learned to spend it wisely," proudly stated Flames GM-head coach Darryl Sutter. "You can't make mistakes. Obviously, you come in with some existing contracts but I think we did 16 or 17 contracts last summer and all with the philosophy that we need a new system going forward.

 "That's still the belief."

 Under the current system, all the teams in the upper half of the salary scale have fallen by the wayside. In fact, only one of the final four -- the Philadelphia Flyers -- were among the big spenders.

 That's not the only turn of events showing parity is possible.

 Consider the clubs that reached this year's final four. The Flyers, for all their free spending, hadn't been to a conference final since 2000, while the Flames got this far for the first time since 1989 and both Tampa Bay and San Jose were this far for the first time in franchise history. That's not a one-year trend, either.

 Recall last year's final four: New Jersey-Ottawa and Anaheim-Minnesota.

 In 2002 it was Toronto-Carolina and Colorado-Detroit.

 Three different seasons and 12 different clubs in the final four.

 At this time, Sutter and so many others see only the positive to the situation.

 Understandably so, too.

 After all, the flipside from this year's final proves teams can win with a smaller budget, provided they have a plan -- like the Flames' idea to go with younger, bigger and faster players -- and follow it to the end.

 "When you are in that market, the smaller market, number one you have to identify players that want to play there and that it's really special to play there," Sutter said. "I think that was part of our process."

 With a result beyond anyone's realistic expectations.

 That may change the thought process around the league.

 Lightning head coach John Tortorella wouldn't go that far but said his club was built with a similar plan, one based on enthusiasm and speed.

 "We felt it was best for our team to win. We feel it's a fun way to play for the players," he said. "There's no right or wrong way but we go about it this way. I know Calgary likes to chase things down and pretty much go straight ahead also. For these two teams to get here, does it change anything? That's not up for us to decide."

 Added Sutter: "Our teams are both younger teams and a good coach has allowed teams to play with what they have.

 "What nobody has talked about is the reason that these teams have had some success is that they are fun teams. They are exciting teams. That's what will make the finals a good series because it will be an exciting series."

PAYROLL REPORT            
2003-04 SEASON            
CALGARY FLAMES            
Jarome Iginla, RW             $7,500,000
Roman Turek, G                $4,250,000
Martin Gelinas, LW            $2,400,000
Craig Conroy, C               $2,200,000
Rhett Warrener, D             $1,800,000
Toni Lydman, D                $1,700,000
Stephane Yelle, C             $1,600,000
Steve Reinprecht, C           $1,500,000
Dean McAmmond, LW             $1,500,000
Denis Gauthier, D             $1,300,000
Robyn Regehr, D               $1,250,000
Chuck Kobasew, RW             $1,130,000
Marcus Nilson, LW             $1,100,000
Oleg Saprykin, LW             $1,000,000
Jordan Leopold, D               $900,000
Miikka Kiprusoff, G             $880,000
Shean Donovan, RW               $752,950
Chris Clark, RW                 $700,000
Ville Nieminen, LW              $600,000
Krzysztof Oliwa, LW             $500,000
Andrew Ference, D               $500,000
Matthew Lombardi, C             $500,000
Steve Montador, D               $350,000
Dave Lowry, LW                  $250,000
Flames' total salary      $36,662,950 US
- - -
TAMPA BAY                 
Nikolai Khabibulin, G         $4,434,579
Cory Stillman, LW             $2,750,000
Vincent Lecavalier, C         $2,625,000
Pavel Kubina, D               $2,500,000
Brad Richards, C              $2,400,000
Dan Boyle, D                  $2,300,000
Fredrik Modin, LW             $1,870,000
Jassen Cullimore, D           $1,650,000
Dave Andreychuk, LW           $1,550,000
Martin St. Louis, RW          $1,500,000
Cory Sarich, D                $1,150,000
Alexander Svitov, C           $1,130,000
Brad Lukowich, D              $1,100,000
John Grahame, G               $1,000,000
Ruslan Fedotenko, LW            $950,000
Tim Taylor, C                   $850,000
Andre Roy, LW                   $825,000
Dmitry Afanasenkov, RW          $790,000
Ben Clymer, RW                  $790,000
Chris Dingman, LW               $675,000
Martin Cibak, C                 $500,000
Nolan Pratt, D                  $425,000
Darren Rumble, D                $290,000
Lightning's total salary  $34,065,379 US

TEAM BY TEAM
ALL FIGURES IN MILLIONS OF US DOLLARS  
1. Detroit Red Wings               $77.8
2. New York Rangers                $76.4
3. Dallas Stars                    $68.5
4. Philadelphia Flyers             $68.1
5. Colorado Avalanche              $63.3
6. Toronto Maple Leafs             $62.4
7. St. Louis Blues                 $61.6
8. Los Angeles Kings               $53.8
9. Anaheim Mighty Ducks            $53.2
10. Washington Capitals            $50.8
11. New Jersey Devils              $48.9
12. Boston Bruins                  $46.5
13. Vancouver Canucks                $42
14. New York Islanders             $40.8
15. Ottawa Senators                $39.5
16. Phoenix Coyotes                $39.2
17. Montreal Canadiens             $38.8
18. Calgary Flames                 $36.6
19. Carolina Hurricanes            $35.9
20. San Jose Sharks                $34.4
21. Tampa Bay Lightning              $34
22. Columbus Blue Jackets            $34
23. Edmonton Oilers                $33.3
24. Buffalo Sabres                 $32.9
25. Chicago Blackhawks             $30.8
26. Atlanta Thrashers              $28.5
27. Minnesota Wild                 $27.2
28. Florida Panthers               $26.1
29. Pittsburgh Penguins            $23.4
30. Nashville Predators            $21.9


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