CALGARY – After signing a four-year contract extension, forward Matt Stajan wants to prove to the Calgary Flames that they made a sound investment.
Acquired in a multi-player deal from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 31, Stajan has scored twice and added two assists in seven games with the Flames.
“I’ve got to do everything I can now to pay them back and make sure I’m on top of my game and really dedicated to helping this team win,” said Stajan, whose deal is worth a reported average of US$3.5 million per season. “It’s good to get it done now. We have some important hockey coming up. We’ve got to go out there and work hard and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Prior to the Olympic break, Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter gave the Flames (30-23-9) a major facelift by acquiring Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie. He also shipped Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik.
Sutter then signed forward Rene Bourque to a six-year contract extension worth a reported US$20 million.
“(Signing Stajan) was an opportunity similar to Bourque, to tie those guys up in their 20s if we could,” said Sutter, noting he was pleased to get both contracts signed now instead of waiting until after the season. “It’s a big commitment on both sides. It’s not just one side.
“You have to be able to work together to make it work because you’re trying to keep a good team together for as long as you can.”
With the NHL trade deadline set for Wednesday afternoon, Sutter bluntly told reporters that he’s not actively looking to make any more deals.
“I don’t think you expect much,” Sutter said. “We’ve added six via trade and seven with (Mikael) Backlund and two guys re-signed. I think that’s significant.”
Backlund appeared in nine games with the Flames this season and notched a goal and an assist prior to the Olympic break, before being sent back down to the American Hockey League to play for the Abbotsford Heat. The Swedish forward, who will turn 21 on March 17, was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week on Monday after recording two goals, four assists and a plus-6 rating in three victories for the Heat over the past week.
Even without Backlund, Jarome Iginla or Hagman, the Flames had 13 forwards suiting up for Monday morning’s practice. Fresh off a gold-medal performance in Vancouver, Iginla will rejoin the Flames on Tuesday, along with Hagman and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who helped Finland win bronze in the men’s hockey competition at the Olympics.
“More is better as long as they’re productive,” said Sutter in regards to the excess number of forwards the Flames currently have on their roster.
With the Flames playing 15 games over 28 days starting with Wednesday night’s home-ice clash against the Minnesota Wild, coach Brent Sutter said having extra bodies around could prove to be beneficial.
“I think it’s healthy too to have competition,” he said. “You’ve got obviously guys that aren’t going to play every night. For them to get in the lineup, they’ve got to do things right and for the guys that are in the lineup, they’ve got to do things right. There’s nothing wrong with it. As a coach, you just keep moving forward. Every game’s a big game for us. We’ve got to dress our lineup every night that gives ourselves the best chance to succeed that night.”
Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester said he’s confident that the new-look Flames can play well enough down the stretch to secure one of only eight playoff spots in the Western Conference.
“We certainly have a lot of forwards and a lot of depth there now,” Bouwmeester said. “I think everyone’s excited about it. Everyone knows the situation here, there’s only 20 games left. It’s kind of like you’re already in the playoffs.”