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Duhatschek: Wooing Dion Add to ...

Anyone who remembers the timeline on the Curtis Joseph signing - about six days, from the moment he was identified as a candidate to join the Calgary Flames until the contract was actually processed and approved by the NHL - shouldn't be surprised if it takes a day or two or six or more to get the final details of a contract extension for defenceman Dion Phaneuf hammered out.

After all, Flames' general manager Darryl Sutter likes to do things strictly by the book. Terms such as "close" or even "tentative agreement" don't mean much to him. Sutter wants the paperwork - Ts crossed, Is dotted - signed off by NHL Central Registry, before he'll ever permits his staff to put out the word that a deal is done.

However, the one thing that Sutter's demonstrated in his almost four years as the Flames' general manager is an uncanny ability to close deals. Agents privately will tell you they admire his candor and the straight-ahead way in which he approaches negotiations - this is why we want player X, this is how much we can afford to pay player X, this is how we see player X fitting into our team structure today and for the foreseeable future.

Sutter previously convinced Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Miikka Kiprusoff - critical members of the Flames' forward, defence and goaltending corps - to sign long-term deals to stay in Calgary. Signing Phaneuf is a priority, ahead of getting Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow, a pair of potential unrestricted free agents under contract.

In the old pre-offer sheet days, it might not have been as much of a priority as it is now, but that all changed last summer when the Edmonton Oilers successfully poached Dustin Penner out of Anaheim and forced the Buffalo Sabres to ante up $50 million to retain Thomas Vanek.

Phaneuf could become a restricted free agent if he were ever to hit the open market this summer and many other NHL teams have already made pre-emptive strikes to get their young, franchise players under contract. Since Phaneuf is so unique a commodity - physically tough, with a resounding slapshot and able to eat up big minutes on the blue line - he would have been an interesting test case on the open market. But Sutter knows all that too and has been working diligently to ensure he stays in the Flames' fold, something that will almost certainly happen … one of these days.

 

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