Tabby's a Keeper
By George Johnson
Tuesday, December 16, 1997
The jolly elf bearing gifts just happened to be named Klos.
That'd be Stan, not Santa.
But when Rick Tabaracci's agent phoned his one and only client yesterday, he had an ideal pre-holiday present to deliver from his sack: A one-year extension to Tabaracci's current contract, some extra cash for this year -- driving his earnings up to $1 million Cdn. -- and an upgrade in personal bonus incentives.
Next season, the base figure jumps to around $1.2 million, in U.S. currency. Not a bad hike considering the American dollar exchange sits at 1.40.
Nice stocking stuffer!
Tabaracci was asked -- strictly tongue-in-cheek, understand -- if his contract negotiations had been caught in a holding pattern while Paul Kariya put the finishing touches on his $14 million, two-year U.S. windfall.
"Actually," he deadpanned in reply, "we were waiting for Eric's deal to get done ..."
Yeah, but a guy can't sit around the whole live-long day twiddling his thumbs waiting for procrastinators like Carl Lindros and Bobby Clarke to come to an understanding.
"Oh, Tabby," called out trainer Brian Patafie, king of the throw-away one-liners, over his right shoulder, "the limo's waiting!"
Freshly-shaven, and nattily dressed to attend yesterday's Molson Cup 3-Star Luncheon, Tabaracci, feeling flush and happy, nevertheless had to drive himself over to the chowdown at the Westin Hotel.
"I'm pleased to get this done, obviously," said the No. 1 puck-stopper for the Calgary Flames.
He may only be a Tabby, but he wasn't big on the idea of being a stray come June.
"I wanted to know," Tabaracci said, "where I was going to be."
That question has been answered.
"We didn't want him wondering all season what his future was with us," explained Flames general manager Al Coates. "When we re-acquired him from Tampa, we talked about revisiting his contract if we could get term. This is a performance business. And we wanted to show faith in him."
The organization clearly felt Tabaracci's numbers -- 23 appearances in 34 games, seven of the Flames' nine wins and a 2.79 GAA-- his experience and his qualities inside the room justified this show of faith. Although only Daren Puppa (.892) has a worse save percentage among No. 1 goaltenders than Tabaracci's .896, he's been providing stellar performances of late as Calgary stitched together a three-game winning streak.
Tabaracci has started 13 of Calgary's last 14 games, surrendering just 29 goals.
This latest 'streak' has enabled the Flames to leapfrog Vancouver in the standings, get up alongside the Leafs and begin pressing the Hawks, Sharks and Oilers for a playoff spot. It's almost unbelievable, but they're only seven points out of fifth in the conference.
And Tabaracci can take a lion's share of the credit without blushing. "Actually," he said, "I don't really think the timing of this entered into (the extension) at all."
Tabaracci would have been a restricted free agent June 1 if no agreement had been consummated.
"This is something we started talking about in the summer," he continued. "Obviously, I was ecstatic to come back here and I want to stay awhile. Coatsy's had a lot on his plate."
This is a critical time for Tabaracci. At 28, the remainder of the time on this Calgary contract will determine how long his career will continue after that. And where.
"One year's actually pretty good," he said. "We weren't going to agree on, say, a four-year deal with the numbers each side would come up with. After another season, the organization will decide which way it wants to go (in net). They've stockpiled a lot of young goalies here. Some work out. Some don't.
"We'll see what happens in the next year and a half and go from there."
Back to articles