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Newest Flames excited at opportunity

by Brian Hunter
Jamal Mayers had asked to be traded. The veteran forward got his wish Sunday morning, and he'll be taking several of his former Toronto Maple Leafs teammates along with him.

Mayers, fellow forwards Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan and defenseman Ian White were all sent to the Calgary Flames in a deal that sent All-Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie in the opposite direction.

"Any time you get that call -- and this is the second time for me -- it comes as a surprise," said Mayers, 35, who was previously dealt from the Blues to the Leafs. "Obviously the first thing you think about is family and logistics in regards to what you're going to do and how to figure that all out, but the most important thing is it'll be easy for us go to the rink and have 23 friends instantly."

Mayers will bring his traditional gritty style to the Flames, but for a Calgary team that had lost nine straight before a win over Edmonton on Saturday and is 22nd in the League averaging just 2.54 goals per game, the additions of Hagman, Stajan and White should be particularly exciting from an offensive standpoint.

The Flames' 6-1 win over the Oilers on Saturday night was their first since Jan. 9 against Vancouver. In spite of their slide, they're still tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with Detroit.

Hagman is a seven-year veteran who has already reached 20 goals for the third season in a row. Stajan registered a career-high 55 points last season and currently has 16 goals and 41 points. White has already matched his career high with 26 points and is one off his best total of 10 goals set last season. He has four more points this season than Phaneuf, a player he'll probably hear his name mentioned alongside for the foreseeable future.

"I don't personally feel I was brought there to replace anyone," White said during a conference call Sunday introducing the newest Flames to the media. "I have my own style of game and play a certain style that I know how. I'm pretty sure they didn't bring me in there just to replace (Phaneuf), but I have some attributes that will help the team and we'll see where I fit in with their plans. I don't feel pressure or scrutiny -- we've been under the microscope in Toronto for years and I've dealt with the pressure. I'm just excited to go (to Calgary) and help team win."

Hagman, who scored a career-high 27 goals for Dallas two seasons ago and is on pace to break that, said he is looking forward to going back to the West.

"I've gotten the chance to play quite a bit on power play, logged some pretty good minutes and managed to score some goals too, so hopefully that's the case that I'm getting better every year," he said. "Hopefully I can continue that with Calgary. I'm excited to go and play in the West again. I had some good memories with Dallas playing over there. Maybe there is a little more traveling, but I like the hockey the way they play it in the West."

Stajan could be a candidate to play on a line with Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who leads the team with 24 goals and 51 points but endured a lengthy January slump before busting out recently.

"I'm really excited. I don't know who I'm going to play with or where, but whoever it's with I'm going to try to make most of it," he said. "I've been lucky to play lots of minutes with some key players, Haggy a bit and Phil Kessel. I like to pass the puck and find guys who can shoot the puck, so maybe it'll be a fit there but all I can do is try my best with what the coach wants and make most of the situation I'm in."

Calgary is a physical team, which means Mayers' aggressive style should fit right in. The 12-year veteran has two goals, six assists and 78 penalty minutes this season.

"I'll just play the same way I have my whole career, try to use my speed and be physical, crash the net, help kill penalties and take some faceoffs," he said. "That's the type of player I am and hopefully I like to think I can fit in. I'm sure they have an idea of where they want to play me, and I'll come in and do whatever they ask for me and whatever it takes to help us win."

While the trade was something Mayers had requested, both Hagman and Stajan said it came as "a shock." But with the Leafs languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference -- their loss to Vancouver on Saturday coupled with Carolina's win over Chicago allowed the Hurricanes to tie them in the standings and technically move ahead of them by virtue of having two more victories -- GM Brian Burke decided it was time to shake things up.

Stajan, who played in three postseason games in 2004, the last time Toronto qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, admitted there was some disappointment in leaving before realizing the chance to turn the Leafs' fortunes around.

"We're all hockey players and you want nothing more than to succeed and have your team win," he said. "Playing in Toronto, like any Canadian city, the expectations are to have a winner, and to be here through that and know what it was like, my first year being in the playoffs and then falling short the next four years, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

"I wish things would have worked out differently and the team would have gotten over the hump. It was not for a lack of trying. (Getting traded) is just the way this business goes sometimes, and I'm excited to be going into a situation where the team's right there in the playoffs and hopefully we can bring to this team what’s needed to get them over the hump."

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