Calgary Herald

Blue chip asset

Kiprusoff is not only Flames’ MVP, he’s their most tradable commodity

- VICKI HALL

Miikka Kiprusoff routinely vanishes on garbage bag day for the Calgary Flames.

His annual sleight of hand — presumably accomplish­ed by ducking out a back exit in spite of numerous media requests — renders it necessary to chat with the shy netminder a couple days early about season-ending business.

And this year, with his nomovement clause set to expire this off-season — questions about the future seem more important than ever.

For starters, will the Flames start the 2012-13 NHL season with No. 34 in net?

“Well, I have two more years on my contract,” Kiprusoff said late Thursday night after knocking off the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in his 70th, and likely final, appearance of the season.“i haven’t heard any different, so hopefully . . .”

On the surface, a trade involving Kiprusoff sounds prepostero­us on the part of the Flames. After all, he’s clearly the most valuable player in these parts.

To borrow the words of GM Jay Feaster, the Flames would have finished below 30th this season without their meal-ticket goalie.

Obviously, there are only 30 teams in the league.

On the other side of the equation, Kiprusoff is clearly the most tantalizin­g asset the Flames have to offer on the trade market. In order to acquire prospects/draft picks, something has to go the other way.

No dummy, Kiprusoff recognizes other forces — besides onice performanc­e — might come into play.

“Hockey is a business,” Kiprusoff said. “Those things are not in my hands. But that’s in my mind to come back and try to help this team again.”

Try being the operative word. Talk to Jarome Iginla or Craig Conroy. Talk to long-term fans of the team.

For much of this season, Kiprusoff played better, if that’s even possible, than he did in his prime.

In 2004, Kiprusoff led the Flames to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. And in 2006, he won the Vezina Trophy.

In spite of the nightly heroics this time around, the Flames will finish with their lowest point total since 2003-04.

Kiprusoff’s stats look like this: 35 wins, a 2.35 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .921.

“A pretty disappoint­ing season,” he said. “We came here and our goal was to make the playoffs. “It didn’t happen, so it’s tough.” Tough, because 70 appearance­s from the future Hall of Famer could not save the Flames from themselves.

“He’s our heart and soul,” said left wing Curtis Glencross. “Our backbone. He’s the one who gives us a chance to win most nights.”

A chance too often not seized upon.

“He just keeps getting better as a goalie,” said forward Tom Kostopoulo­s. “I think there was a stretch during the season where he made two or three of the best saves I’ve ever seen in every game. He’s held us in a lot of games. He’s won us a lot of games. The fans in Calgary are lucky to see him play every night.”

That luck dates back to the 200304 season when Darryl Sutter acquired the unknown netminder from San Jose for a second-round pick.

Back in October, Kiprusoff eclipsed Mike Vernon for the most wins in franchise history (263).

“Outstandin­g all year,” goalie coach Clint Malarchuk said of his netminder. “Just so consistent overall. He’s our MVP hands down. Simply phenomenal.”

Truth be told, Kiprusoff did look tired at times down the stretch. Mortal, perhaps might be a better word. At age 35, with such a heavy workload, perhaps that’s not surprising.

“I felt pretty good throughout the year,” Kiprusoff said. “I did some things different, I did work quite a bit more off the ice. I tried to stay off the ice a little more than I used to. That felt good. “So yeah, I’m OK. No injuries.” Kiprusoff said he takes care of his body by stretching and doing “all the other little things that old guys have to do.”

Come Monday, he will likely disappear out a back door and fade into obscurity in his home just outside of Calgary.

A trip back to Finland will have to wait.

“My son is in school, so we’re going to stick around here even after when we’re done,” he said. “But for sure I’m going to go back home and see my family. They’re missing my son more than me.”

Should the Flames ever trade Kiprusoff, the fans will miss him more than he could ever know.

Hockey is a business. Those things are not in my hands

MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF

 ?? Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald ?? Miikka Kiprusoff enjoyed his best campaign in years, which also means his trade value is at its peak.
Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald Miikka Kiprusoff enjoyed his best campaign in years, which also means his trade value is at its peak.
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