“It’s going to be better than last year, let’s put it that way,” the newest Calgary Flames addition said Tuesday. The 35-year-old Nolan signed a one-year contract worth US$1.75 million in base salary with another $250,000 attainable in performance bonuses. The deal was struck Monday but announced by the NHL club on Tuesday.
He heads to training camp a different player after a full comeback season under his belt. He missed two years after recovering from a serious knee injury and ended up with 40 points (16-24) in 76 games with the Phoenix Coyotes last season when he earned $1.225 million.
“I think the biggest issue I had last year was getting my timing down,” Nolan said on a conference call. “After being two years off, my timing took quite a while to come back, more than I expected. . . . Once I got that under control, I felt more free in the game, and I don’t think that’s going to be an issue this year.
“I know what to expect now, I know what the pace of the game is. I just expect to have a good year.”
The Flames, who are also expected to soon announce contract extensions for defenceman Robyn Regehr and star winger Jarome Iginla, were not a surprising choice for the unrestricted free agent. Nolan nearly signed with them last summer and is now finally reunited with Flames GM Darryl Sutter, his head coach in San Jose when Nolan’s career was at its peak, including a 44-goal season.
“Darryl designs his teams around physical players and talent. And Calgary’s got a ton of it,” said Nolan. “I’m just willing to come in and be part of it. I feel we’ve got a great chance to win and that’s why it was probably my top option to come here.”
Except this time Sutter won’t be behind the bench. Veteran Mike Keenan will call the shots but Nolan doesn’t expect an issue.
“I’ve had Darryl for several years and with Mike being there I don’t think it’s going to be any different,” said Nolan. “He’s going to command respect from his players, and he’s going to want them to work hard. And I’m ready to do it.”
Nolan found himself in all kinds of differents situations with the struggling Coyotes last season so he’s ready to do anything with the Flames.
“I played several roles in Phoenix, from playing fourth line defensively to moving up in the lines to try and score more goals,” Nolan said. “I killed penalties, played a little bit of power play. I played everywhere and just tried to chip in wherever I could.
“Coming into Calgary, I want to play a physical style, score goals and be accountable for my defence.”
Nolan has 775 career points (365-410) in 995 regular-season games with Quebec, Colorado, San Jose, Toronto and Phoenix.