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Flames Watch: Cammalleri, Flames should talk deal now

Memo to Mike Cammalleri: Don’t dismiss a suggestion to discuss a contract extension even though we’re in the middle of the season. If Henrik Zetterberg thinks it’s a good idea, maybe it is for you, too.

Conventional wisdom among soon-to-be unrestricted free agents has always been to wait until the July 1 signing frenzy. At least one team will be happy to overspend for a top notch UFA. Why would a pending UFA not wait to see how high those figures get?

But the times they are a changing. The global economic recession has been slow to hit hockey because the bulk of the league’s revenues – season ticket payments – were earned last summer before most North Americans realized they were trending towards a slowdown.

NHL revenues are up marginally or flat this season and next year’s salary cap will likely remain in the $56 million range. But paying customers and NHL team owners surely realize there are troubled times ahead. Even the NHL Players Association is ramping up escrow payments beyond 20 percent in preparation for darker days.

Set to become a UFA in July, Cammalleri is having a fabulous season and is on pace for 40 goals and 80 points. Were we not entrenched in a worldwide recession, credentials like that would net the 26-year-old Cammalleri a long-term deal averaging at least $5.5 to $6.5 million.

But look around at the sagging financial fortunes of the Phoenix Coyotes and other sunbelt teams and its clear we’ll see more fiscal constraint than ever before come July. Sure, there will be some buyers out there, but the chances of Cammalleri getting a $6 million deal are dwindling with each passing gloomy report in the business section.

Cammalleri was quoted as saying his pending UFA status is “out of his hands.” No, it’s not. Tell your agent you want a deal done now. Considering the chemistry you and Jarome Iginla have together, a five-year home team discount deal worth $25 million would be beneficial to both yourself and the team’s chances of remaining Cup contenders.

Wait till the summer in the hopes of getting a few million more and you might wind up in a less palatable situation with less cash.

Maybe that’s why Zetterberg signed for an average of $6 million with a winning organization.

This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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