CALGARY, AB -- Thanks to the Olympic-condensed NHL schedule this season, the four newest members of the Calgary Flames won't have much time to get acclimatized to their new team before being thrust into action.
Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan
, Jamal Mayers and Ian White were sent to Calgary in exchange for Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie on Sunday morning. All four players will arrive in Calgary on Sunday evening and are expected to be in the lineup on Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Despite the rush, all four players expressed excitement at the prospect of playing in Calgary.
"Obviously it is a shock when you realize you've been traded - it's the second time I've been traded - but hockey wise, I'm excited," Hagman said on a conference call on Sunday afternoon.
Head coach Brent Sutter said that while he was sad to see players like Phaneuf and Sjostrom gone, he was looking forward to getting to know the new additions.
"Trust me, we’ve got some pretty good players coming back. It’s a tough day, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s tough on everybody and yet the Calgary Flames are excited about acquiring the players that we’ve got and the Toronto Maple Leafs are excited about acquiring the players they got. Like all trades you want it to work out best for everybody."
The four men stated that the only distress facing them in this trade is the logistics for their families. Every player has a family, most of them with young children, to consider when moves like this are made.
"Having family and a couple of kids, it's not the hockey thing that goes through my mind because hockey is the same in Toronto or Calgary or wherever," Hagman said. "It's the off-ice stuff can shock you a little bit and kind of makes you wonder 'What do you do?' but I've done it before so it shouldn't be that big of a deal."
Hagman, Mayers and White have been through trades before and stated that experience made this move a lot easier.
"Anytime you get that call - it's my second time being traded - it does come as a surprise." Mayers said. "You first think about your family and logistics in regards to what you're going to do and how you're going to figure it all out."
Mayers continued on to say that the easiest part of this trade was hockey-wise.
"The easy part is going to the rink and you can instantly have 23 friends so it's easier on us. It's trying to get those things at home squared away and as far as hockey, things haven't gone as we had hoped heading into the season. We had high expectations. For me personally, I don't feel like I played as well as I could have but gradually I'm starting to feel better and I'm definitely excited about a new chapter and becoming a Flame and playing in Calgary, another great hockey city."
Calgary will be just the second team Stajan has every played on and he admitted the surprise factor was high.
"It does come as a shock," he said. "I've been in Toronto my whole career. At the same time, I'm very excited. I'm excited to go to a hockey city, a team that's right there in the playoff mix, and to go with four other teammates that I know. We're all pretty close and going through this together, with a great group in Calgary from what I hear, it's pretty exciting for all of us. I'm looking forward to it and while I'll miss Toronto, because it's home, you've got to move on and it's a new chapter in all of our careers."
Hagman is now second in Flames scoring, with 20 goals in 55 games, and hopes he can continue on his successful season now that he is in lineup with more skilled players and a conference he's more comfortable in.
"I've gotten the chance to play quite a bit on the power play, logging on some pretty good minutes, and I've managed to score some goals too. Hopefully, that's the case, that I'm getting better every year. I'm trying to work on it and trying improve myself," he stated. "Hopefully I can continue that with Calgary. I'm excited to go play in the West again. I have some good memories with Dallas, playing over there. Maybe there is a bit more travelling but I like the hockey, the way they play it in the West."
Sutter saw a lot of Hagman when he coached the New Jersey Devils and was quite pleased the Finn was joining his squad.
"He’s a player that plays hard. He’s got good skills. He’s very responsible in all three zones. I’ve coached against him here the past few in New Jersey when he was in Toronto and there wasn’t a game that we didn’t play against the Toronto Maple Leafs that he wasn’t very noticeable and in a positive way."
The Flames have been desperately searching for the perfect centreman for the top line and have been mixing and matching wingers and centers with Jarome Iginla
all season. Stajan is known for his playmaking abilities and being able to play on the wing or at center. When questioned about being inserted onto the top line with Iginla, Stajan said that while that would be great, he would be happy to play on any line.
"I don't know who I'm going to play with or where I'm going to play but whoever it's with, I'm going to try and make the most of it. I've been lucky to play a lot of minutes in Toronto the last few years with some key players. I've played with Hagy a bit and with Phil Kessel. I like to pass the puck and find guys who can shoot the puck so maybe there's a fit there. All I can do is try my best with what the coach wants and make the most of the situation I'm in."
Sutter was happy that Mayers was involved in the trade, stating his grit and leadership will be a great addition to the locker room dynamics.
"Jamal brings us a guy that’s going to bring us great experience, great leadership and plays hard and competes hard every night and brings us that energy with experience that he can play in any situation."
White was the only defenseman brought over in the trade and while he realizes some expect him to essentially replace Phaneuf, he sees his role differently.
"I don't personally feel like I'm there to replace anyone. I have my own style of game and I play a certain style that I know how," he said. "I'm pretty sure they didn't bring me in there just to replace somebody. I have some attributes that can help the team and we'll where I fit in with their plans. I don't feel any extra pressure or any of that scrutiny. We've been under the microscope for quite a few years and I dealt with the pressure of playing in a market like this so I'm just excited to have the chance to go there and help the team win."
Sutter said that White brings a lot to the table both defensively and offensively.
"He’s a right handed shot. He’s a guy that moves the puck well. He’s an intelligent player. He may not have the stature as far as being a real tall guy like a 6’2” or 6’3” defenceman, but he’s someone that’s very capable of handling that part of the game.
"I’ve known Whitey, obviously coached against him in junior when he was with Swift Current and was an outstanding player in junior and he’s starting to find himself at the National Hockey League level now too."