One of the seminal players in Calgary Flames’ history, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, made it official Monday. He is through with the NHL after a 10-year career with the Flames that put him alongside Mike Vernon as one of the team’s two greatest goaltenders.
Kiprusoff had one year remaining on a front-loaded six-year, $35-million contract he signed back before the start of the 2008-90 season that initially paid him $8.5-million but would have dropped to only $1.5-million for this, the final year of the deal. Rather than accept such a significant pay cut, Kiprusoff opted to call it a career.
The Kiprusoff announcement, which saves Calgary his $5.888-million salary-cap charge, came on the eve of training camp for the 2013-14 season, but according to the Flames, they’ve known about his plans all along, but chose not to make them public in case he changed his mind.
Even as Kiprusoff told Finnish reporters and their Olympic team all summer that he wasn’t coming back – and wasn’t preparing to play again – the Flames didn’t make it official until Monday. However, their actions in the off-season, signing two new goalies (Karri Ramo and Reto Berra), plus getting backup Joey MacDonald to agree to an extension, suggested they had a pretty good idea of where this was all going.
In a statement, Flames’ general manager Jay Feaster said that “Miikka has been up-front with us since the trade deadline that he wanted to finish his outstanding playing career as a Flames player, and that the 2013 season was going to be his last.”
Feaster’s comment was a reference to trade talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs that fell through at the deadline. The Leafs asked – and received permission – to speak to Kiprusoff about waiving his no-trade clause to join Toronto for the stretch drive, but ultimately, Leaf GM David Nonis was unable to convince him to move. Kiprusoff had by far and away his worst season with Calgary last year – an 8-14-2 record, with a 3.44 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage. It looked as if the constant losing finally got to Kiprusoff, after he’d spent years propping the team up with elite-level goaltending. The prospect of playing for Calgary in a rebuilding era probably had no appeal to Kiprusoff, who also didn’t appear interested in starting over elsewhere in the NHL.
Feaster said the organization wanted to give Kiprusoff time to reflect in the off-season, so that he wouldn’t make “a rash or hasty decision. We wanted to give him time to get refreshed during the summer and spend some additional time to make his decision.
“Had we been prepared to accept Miikka’s position back in April we could have announced his retirement at the end of the season. We purposely chose to wait and give him more time to ensure this was the course he wanted to take. In returning to Calgary this month he advised us that his decision remained the same, and that he was retiring as a player.”
Kiprusoff’s best moment came in the spring of 2004 when he led Calgary to the Stanley Cup final against a Tampa Bay Lightning team run by Feaster. The Flames did not win another playoff series after that unexpected success, however.
Still, Feaster hailed Kiprusoff as “backbone of the Calgary Flames since his arrival here in 2003, and every night for more than 70-nights per season, his magnificence between the pipes gave the team a chance to win. He inspired hope and confidence, and he made those around him better players as a result of his brilliance. Miikka will take his place in the pantheon of great NHL goaltenders, and his place in Flames’ history is secure. He will be missed by players, teammates and fans, and we wish him all the best in his retirement.”
Statistically, Kiprusoff finished as the Flames all-time leader in wins (305); games played (576) and shutouts (41).
In a statement, Kiprusoff confirmed that he made his retirement decision after last season but appreciated the fact that Feaster gave him the chance to reconsider.
“It’s an important decision for me personally, my family, the Flames organization and fans,” said Kiprusoff. “Jay and I had conversations over the summer and nothing had changed for me and upon returning to Calgary last week, I once again spoke with Jay and confirmed with him that I would be retiring.”
Kiprusoff plans to live in Calgary this year anyway, largely so his children can continue to go to school here.
“I’ve been very lucky to have spent 10 years of my career in Calgary. There is no better place to live and play. I look forward to taking the next year with my family to enjoy everything wonderful about southern Alberta.”
Former Flames’ general manager Darryl Sutter originally acquired Kiprusoff back on Nov. 16, 2003 from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a second round draft pick in what looked like a minor trade. He finished the 2003-04 regular season with the Flames posting a modern day NHL record GAA of 1.69. He also won 15 games, five of them by shutout, leading the Flames to within one victory of a Stanley Cup championship and was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
For his career, Kiprusoff finishes with 319 wins, a 2.49 GAA, 44 shutouts and a .912 save percentage.