Niklas Hagman heads back to the Western Conference after being dealt out of Toronto Sunday. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
For a team in need of change, the Calgary Flames are certainly getting a jolt from GM Darryl Sutter, who traded what used to be a franchise cornerstone in defenseman Dion Phaneuf to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Along with Phaneuf, the Flames gave up towering prospect defenseman Keith Aulie and utility winger Fredrik Sjostrom. In return, Calgary gained forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers, plus blueliner Ian White, who can also play wing.
For Calgary, there are some very intriguing pieces to the deal. First and foremost, Stajan is a center who is used to top-line duty. Don't be surprised to see him get a shot alongside Jarome Iginla, who hasn't consistently gelled with a center since his heyday with Craig Conroy. Of course, Conroy is back with the Flames, but injuries and a reduced role have separated him from Iggy this time around.
Stajan may not be the elite center Iginla deserves, but chemistry is chemistry and the Flames would love to get Iggy back to his standard 90-point-plus pace. This will also be a great trial for Stajan, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.
Hagman may be even more important to the Flames. The shifty winger has a great bag of offensive tricks and was one of the Leafs' most dangerous forwards. With 20 goals on the season, he automatically becomes Calgary's second-best sniper behind Iginla. Only two teams in the West (Edmonton and Detroit) have scored less than the 143 goals put up by the Flames so far (St. Louis also has 143), so it goes without saying Hagman can help. He is also signed through the 2011-12 season at a very reasonable $3 million cap hit.
White has proven to be a solid two-way contributor on the back end and will easily replace Phaneuf on the power play, albeit with a different skill set. White doesn't have the size or booming shot of Phaneuf, but he does get the puck to the net and is tenacious for a player who stands just 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. White is a UFA this summer and was Toronto's best player for stretches during this season.
For Mayers, like Stajan and White, this will be an audition for a new contract. The pending UFA brings veteran leadership, grit from the fourth line and fisticuffs to the Flames, who already have Brandon Prust and Brian McGrattan in that final regard. Nevertheless, Mayers requested a trade out of Toronto and he'll surely give his all in Calgary.
With the Flames teetering on the edge of a playoff spot, getting four NHLers for two will give them the options to concoct a winning lineup. If not, everyone but Hagman can be jettisoned in the summer at no cost, anyway. Also, the Flames are now perilously close to the salary cap ceiling, so don't be surprised if someone is sent down to American League Abbotsford soon.
Calgary gave up the best player in this deal, not to mention a prospect in Aulie who was very strong at the world juniors last year, but change had to come and in trading Phaneuf, Sutter has thrown down the gauntlet to this team: It's time to perform up to expectations, because no one is untouchable.
Whether the rest of the team wakes out of its slumber now is up to them.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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