by D'Arcy McGrath
|Signed! Jarome Iginla and the Calgary Flames came to terms on a two year deal Friday
The Calgary Flames will have everyone in camp next week when the Flame players take to the ice in Banff to kick off the 2002-03 NHL season.
The last domino, clearly a key domino at that, finally fell on Friday when Jarome Iginla inked a reported two year, 13 million dollar contract with the Flames.
The deal makes Iginla the highest paid player in Flames history, pushing himself over 2 million past teammate Roman Turek.
At an average of 6.5 million the tale of the tape has the Flames moving just over 800 thousand from their 5.65 offer, and Iginla coming down a million bucks from their reported 7.5 million offer.
The signing was very much anticipated after Iginla's agent, Don Meehan, hinted at such by telling Montreal reporters to "stay tuned on Friday" when doing a presser for goaltender Jose Theodore.
So what does the signing mean to the Flames, their fans, and the hockey season about to unfold?
Short term it means the team should be well poised to get off to another good start, a feat they accomplished last fall before falling on hard times in December and January.
A good start is crucial in the ultra-competitive West, and doing as much would have been next to impossible with Iginla missing out right or rusty from a shortened camp.
Long term things get much more dicey.
Iginla's 6.5 million ticket for this season should push the Flames over the 32 million dollar barrier this season, up from roughly 26 million last season. A 23 per cent gain in budget is no laughing matter at the best of times, but considerably more dubious with the fact that the team lost six million (Canadian) last year.
The jump could mean one of two things for this season, and the season following, the last before the collective bargaining agreement expires.
The Flames could be loading up and going for it ... risking some short term losses to get the team back into the playoffs, build their fan base back up and then avert the losses with higher season ticket totals and playoff revenue.
Or ... the team could be looking to shed other salaries in an attempt to build the squad around two marquee players in Iginla and Turek.
If that's the case, look for Derek Morris to be moved if not this season, then by the draft next summer. A persistent rumour has Morris on his way for the as of yet to be signed Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay plus a prospect or pick.
Morris had his contract jump from 1.4 million last year to a 2.5 this year, and with a good 2002-03 season he may be looking in the 3.0 to 4.0 range when it's time to sit down and negotiate.
Dealing Morris before the start of this season shakes down to a risky proposition for GM Craig Button. Morris is the clear number one defenceman in Calgary, and it would be a serious stretch to expect the rest of the crew to pick up the slack in the event of his departure.
At any rate, the Iginla deal, set to expire at the same time as the CBA, could very well be his last in Calgary unless a lockout/strike situation drastically alters the playing field in hockey.
In a word, enjoy your superstar while you can Calgary, this could be a limited showing.