Calgary goalie Rick Tabaracci stepped to the podium at the Molson Cup three-star luncheon Monday and began his speech on a serious note.
"I'd like to thank the fans, because I know the fans played a big role in getting me back here," said the Flame netminder.
Then he paused.
"That and (Calgary general manager) Al Coates telling me that I was the cheapest guy available."
Well, that's just not the case anymore as Tabaracci signed a new, two-year deal earlier Monday which significantly increases his salary.
Slated to make $875,000 Cdn this season, Tabaracci will now make closer to $1 million Cdn. Next year the salary is to be paid in American dollars and is in the $1.2 million range.
In both cases there are significant incentive clauses based on games played and wins that could add to the salary.
The deal, agreed to about a week ago, coincides with Tabaracci's stellar play of late -- he is the main reason the Flames head into tonight's home game against Chicago on a three-game winning streak.
Tabaracci, who had a decidedly shaky stretch through the middle of October, has improved his statistics of late and has been in the net for seven of Calgary's wins this season.
In the last three games, for example, he has allowed only one goal in each as the Flames have outscored their opponents 10-3. So, in a season that has had more lowlights than highlights thus far, Tabaracci is one the highlights.
For the 28-year-old Tabaracci, signing a new deal is like coming full circle with the Flames' organization.
Last year he was placed on waivers and eventually traded to Tampa Bay. He was reacquired at the NHL entry draft in June for a fourth-round pick in this summer's draft and, when the Flames traded Trevor Kidd to Carolina along with Gary Roberts, he entered the year as the team's No. 1 goalie.
"It takes a little weight off your mind," Tabaracci said in an interview. "We had talked about some of these things in the summer. We started talking about it again a month ago."
Tabaracci was eligible to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season had he not signed a new deal.
Asked if he was looking for a longer deal, Tabaracci shrugged.
"I don't think there was a four-year deal out there where both sides could agree to terms," he said. "This gets another year. At that point, the organization may know where they want to go as far as goaltenders. They have a lot of young guys that they may want to try out."
Tyler Moss, who had a five-game stint in late October and early November, is currently the American Hockey League's No. 1-ranked goalie. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who came over in the Kidd-Roberts deal, is tagged as the goalie of the future.
Tabaracci's deal is hardly in the ballpark of the blockbuster numbers that Paul Kariya signed for -- $5.5 million and $8.5 million -- in Anaheim recently.
But it suits Tabaracci just fine, particularly having his salary converted to American funds, which can be viewed as a 40 per cent raise.
"I was going to hold out until Eric Lindros signed," joked Tabaracci. "I signed before Paul did.
"Now I'm kicking myself. Actually, it's a similar contract, with the decimals moved over a couple of spots."
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