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Analysis: Phaneuf signing good, but cap troubles pose a problem

Like many teams before them this season, the Flames aren’t taking any chances with their most vaunted youngster.

In signing wrecking ball defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a six-year deal worth $6.5 million per season, Calgary followed the path forged by Philadelphia with Mike Richards and San Jose with Matt Carle, not to mention the long-term megadeals received by superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin from their respective teams.

Since “offer sheet” has become a four-letter word for GMs (see Lowe, Kevin), locking up Phaneuf was the prudent thing to do for the Flames.

Already a fan favorite and everyone’s go-to reference as the next Scott Stevens (unless you’re in Nashville, where Shea Weber is a convincing choice), Dynamite Dion just looks at home in a Flaming C sweater. He’s also on pace for his best offensive season to date and the intimidation factor of his game cannot be overlooked.

His signing also locks down Calgary’s top five blueline corps for at least one more season after this one: Adrian Aucoin, Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener will all get two cracks at the Stanley Cup in Cowtown, while Anders Eriksson is also under contract for two more.

But while the defense is solid, the Phaneuf deal does put Calgary at approximately $44 million of salary tied up already for the 2008-09 season and prominent forwards Kristian Huselius, Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy are all unrestricted free agents, as is key plugger Stephane Yelle and a resurgent Owen Nolan. A legitimate, long-term backup goalie has yet to materialize, either.

If Calgary intends on mounting any sort of offense other than Jarome Iginla next year, big moves or tough choices are going to be made.


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