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Angry Flames fans blow their tops

Not too happy with reacquisition of retreads Jokinen, Tanguay

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No doubt, the Flames caused a frenzy on free agent day.

It wasn't the kind Calgary fans were counting on.

While the biggest prize remained on the table in Ilya Kovalchuk, the most baffling story revolved around the route the Flames chose to take on the opening day of National Hockey League free agency.

Calgary resurrected the ghosts of Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay -- both shipped out of town after disappointing seasons in Cowtown.

"I believe that Olli and Alex complement each other and it was very important for us to be involved in signing both of these quality players," Flames general manager Darryl Sutter said in a news release. "This really ties our centre ice position together nicely."

Jokinen's first stint in Calgary ended with a trade out of town to the New York Rangers last season. He was brought in from Phoenix at the trade deadline in 2009 to be the playmaking centre for Jarome Iginla, but the two never clicked and Jokinen was on the move once again, to the Big Apple before the Olympic break. On Thursday, he inked a two-year deal worth US$6 million to return to Calgary.

Tanguay played two seasons in Calgary, enjoying one superb one --22 goals and a career-high 81 points in 2006-07 --and a mediocre one -- 18 goals and 58 points in 2007-08 -- after which he requested a trade from Sutter and was subsequently dealt to Montreal. He signed with Calgary for one season at $1.7 million.

In 80 games last season with Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old had only 10 goals and 37 points.

"I'm very excited. This is a great opportunity," Tanguay said during a conference call. "I think that when I sat down with my agent at the end of the year, looking at the opportunities and places that I could see myself fit in to, I think that Calgary was at the top of the list. That's why when they came calling that I took the deal."

The complaints came in fast and furious Thursday as soon as the Jokinen rumour broke.

"Please tell me the Jokinen is bunk," one fan wrote to the Calgary Herald's website. "PLEASE."

"If Calgary signs Jokinen, I will not watch hockey this season," pledged another supporter.

The picture was a lot brighter in Ottawa, where GM Bryan Murray got the ball rolling right after things kicked off at 12 p.m. ET by luring defenceman Sergei Gonchar out of Pittsburgh -- signing him for three years at $5.5 million per season.

"Basically we made the call right at 12:01 p.m., made the offer to him and they obviously accepted it. We're very happy as it adds a lot to our back end, great mobility, plays the point on the power play. It's how you win games in the NHL now."

"He was our No. 1 guy... by far."

Gonchar likes what he sees in Ottawa.

"The motivation was that I played against Ottawa last season and I've seen how good they are, and how close they are to make the next step and go far in the playoffs. I do believe I can help them with that," said Gonchar.

Murray likes the way Gonchar forces the opposition into quick, back-pedalling mode.

"It's great to block shots, but I'd like the other team to have to block shots."

Not a surprising comment considering the guy Ottawa counted on to block all those shots the past six seasons was on his way out, and signed by New Jersey.

The Devils, who lost Paul Martin to Pittsburgh earlier, countered by signing shutdown specialist Anton Volchenkov to a six-year deal.

The Senators weren't the only Canadian team to land a big-name defenceman.

The Vancouver Canucks locked up a plum in B.C. native Dan Hamhuis, ex of the Nashville Predators.

The 27-year-old will add a physical presence to the Canucks, and the likelihood is that he'll be on the West Coast for while. Hamhuis signed a six-year deal worth $4.5 million per season.

The Canucks also added checking centre Manny Malhotra and forward Jeff Tambellini.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs' reconstruction plan took further form this week.

Toronto added skill with Kris Versteeg on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Leafs added grit with Colby Armstrong.

The grinding winger signed a three-year deal worth $3 million per season.

The 27-year-old from Lloydminster, Sask., played the last three seasons in Atlanta -- his best season coming in 2008-09 when he scored 22 goals in 82 games. Last season, Armstrong had 15 goals and 14 assists in 79 games.

The Montreal Canadiens cornered the market on backup goaltenders. The Habs signed both Curtis Sanford and Alex Auld.

In Edmonton, the Oilers added blue-liner Kurtis Foster.

The league's newest general manager made some noise on Thursday.

Steve Yzerman's first move in Tampa was to sign star forward Martin St. Louis to a four-year contract extension. St. Louis gets $22.5 million in the deal.

"We still have a lot of holes to fill but I have a lot of confidence in what Steve (Yzerman) is trying to accomplish," said St. Louis, 35. "With the players we have signed now, it's a pretty good core, and just on that alone, I am confident we can be a playoff team."

Yzerman then signed goalie Dan Ellis to a two-year deal, just two days after Ellis' rights were acquired by the Canadiens. The new deal is worth $1.5 million per year.

Thursday also saw some shuffling in the tough guy department.

The New York Rangers went from Option A to Option B.

Minutes after losing heavyweight Jody Shelley to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers replaced his muscle with Derek Boogaard.

The deal for Boogaard -- US$6 million over four years -- is surprising considering his one-dimensional game.

Shelley's deal is also hefty -- three years totalling $3.3 million.

Given that the two teams will meet six times this season, Shelley was asked if he looks forward to fighting Boogaard in each of those games.

"I certainly am, absolutely," Shelley told


-- Canwest News Service



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2010 C3

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