Flames sign Stajan

Matt Stajan has two goals and two helpers in seven games with his new team. (QMI Agency/Al Charest)

Matt Stajan has two goals and two helpers in seven games with his new team. (QMI Agency/Al Charest)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

CALGARY — Matt Stajan has a tough act to follow.

For the better part of two weeks, Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla has been skating alongside superstar Sidney Crosby on Team Canada’s top line at the Olympic tournament.

You don’t need to wiretap the phone lines in Pittsburgh to figure out Crosby won’t be moved at Wednesday’s trade deadline, though, so the job as Iginla’s full-time sidekick still belongs to Stajan.

The Flames confirmed as much Monday morning, announcing they’ve signed the skilled centre to a four-year contract extension, reportedly worth US$3.5 million per season.

“I’m my own player, and obviously Sidney Crosby is Sidney Crosby,” Stajan said Tuesday. “It’s great to see what that team did, and on the winning goal, obviously, Iggy made a great play.

“But we’ll just have to find a way here to keep building some chemistry, and with (Niklas Hagman), as well. We know it’s important for our line to score. We’ll just have to work at it.”

Iginla seemed to strike an instant bond with Crosby at the Olympics, notching a hat-trick in Canada’s tournament-opener and finishing with five goals in seven outings.

His most memorable contribution, though, was assisting on Crosby’s heroic overtime winner against the Americans in the gold-medal match.

With millions of Canadians nibbling on their nails, Iginla won a battle with Team USA rearguard Ryan Suter along the boards in the offensive zone and, while tumbling towards the ice, slid a soft pass to Sid the Kid.

The Penguins sniper took things from there, rifling a low shot between Ryan Miller’s legs and setting off a party few in this country will ever forget.

Stajan has been keeping an eye on the action and admitted he paid close attention when Iginla was on the ice.

“You obviously watch as a fan, rooting for Canada, but I’m a hockey player — I’m always trying to watch tendencies of guys who I’m going to be playing with,” Stajan said. “When you play with them, that’s when you learn the most, but you can definitely learn something from watching.

“And the same goes vice versa. Obviously, Jarome had to play with one of the best players in the world, and he probably had to adjust his game a little bit. You just kind of do that with the guys you’re playing with, and it goes for all three of us on our line.

“I’ve just gotta do my thing, and hopefully, we can make it work quickly and keep improving here.”

It’s worth noting Stajan doesn’t have much more experience skating beside Iginla than Crosby does.

The 26-year-old pivot arrived from the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Dion Phaneuf deal in late January and had only seven opportunities to wear Flames silks prior to the Olympic break.

The Flames have obviously liked what they’ve seen so far.

Stajan was set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, but he can set down roots after inking an extension that’ll keep him in Calgary through the 2013-14 campaign.

Stajan has two goals and a pair of assists during his brief spell with the Flames. His new bench boss, Brent Sutter, expects there’s plenty more where that came from.

“Matt is a really good, solid, two-way centre,” Sutter said. “He’s good on faceoffs. He’s good in his own zone. He’s got good hands. He’s smart. He’s put numbers up this year ...

“I noticed coaching against him the last couple of years, last year, partway through the year, he really took his game to a different level. And he’s a young player still that’s got room for improvement and growth. And that’s exciting.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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