CALGARY – Usually fierce opponents on the ice, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers worked together to complete an NHL trade deadline deal on Wednesday.
The Flames acquired 36-year-old defenceman Steve Staios from the Oilers for 26-year-old defenceman Aaron Johnson and a third-round draft pick in either 2010 or 2011. It’s the first time in the two teams’ storied histories that the inter-province rivals have traded with each other.
“The fact that I’m the first one is something to talk about. For me personally, it’s not a big deal,” said Staois in a conference call. “I’m a Flame now and I’ll have no problem doing what I do once I get the jersey on.”
Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter said he made the deal to acquire a veteran defenceman to help the Flames (30-23-9) in their battle for a playoff spot down the stretch run.
“Steve’s a player that I’ve liked for a long time obviously and (I’ve) seen him in that Calgary-Edmonton rivalry lots over the years,” Sutter said. “Thankfully we get him.”
Sutter says that he worked on the deal with Edmonton on and off for a month before getting it done Wednesday.
“There’s not very many of that type of quality veteran leadership type of defencemen in the market and if they were, we felt that they weren’t as good as Steve or they were making a lot more money. You’re talking about a top guy in terms of leadership and that’s really important to our team.”
In 40 games for the Oilers this season, Staios has seven assists and a minus-19 rating. He has one more season left on his contract worth US$2.2 million and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Also on Wednesday, the Flames swapped backup goaltenders with the Anaheim Ducks, acquiring Vesa Toskala in exchange for Curtis McElhinney, while trading forward Dustin Boyd to the Nashville Predators for a fourth round draft pick.
Calgary and Detroit then swapped minor-leaguers, with the Flames picking up Andy Delmore in exchange for Riley Armstrong.
Sutter is now hoping that Toskala can provide the Flames with a solid back-up goaltender to Kiprusoff with 20 games remaining on the schedule.
“A lot of it was based on Kipper and how much he’s played,” Sutter said. “When you look at the big picture, the No. 1 guys in the league all play 60 to 70 games and those other guys just better not be going in to give (those) guys a night off.”
After taking the morning skate prior to Calgary’s game at the Pengrowth Saddledome against the Minnesota Wild tonight, McElhinney was surprised to hear the news that he’d been traded to Anaheim.
“Obviously it was a tough situation,” said McElhinney, who appeared in 10 games with the Flames this season and compiled a 3-4-0 record to go with a 3.22 goals against average and a .885 save percentage.
“It’s difficult playing behind Kip. He loves to carry the load and he does very well with it, but I think this is a good thing. I’m looking forward to it as a good opportunity and hopefully a new setting will prove good things.”
Having already brought in six other new players via trade prior to the Olympic break in Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik from the New York Rangers, Sutter said he was looking to add some more veteran leadership at the trade deadline.
“I think it’s important that we bring veterans and experience in because of the changes that we’ve made,” Sutter said. “We’re fighting with four of five teams for one or two spots and you don’t want somebody who hasn’t been through that experience.”
Neither Staios nor Toskala will arrive in Calgary in time to suit up for Wednesday night’s game against the Wild. Goaltender Matt Keetley was summoned from the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat to back up Kiprusoff in goal.
“It’s a real positive for me,” said Staios. “To go to a team where there’s a great foundation of leadership, grit and character and a chance to play in some meaningful games down the stretch and going forward into the playoffs.”