CALGARY - Lee Stempniak sounded awfully excited for a guy who just finished a trip to the dentist.
The talented winger was en route to have some teeth fixed when he learned Monday afternoon he’d been traded to the Calgary Flames.
His mouth still frozen with novocain, he estimated he had about 30 missed calls and text messages on his cellphone after his appointment.
“I was definitely distracted, and I think that took my mind off the actual dental procedure,” Stempniak said. “It was hard going in there, but it definitely took my mind off being in the dentist chair, so it was a nice little break.”
The Flames shipped veteran centre Daymond Langkow to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for the 28-year-old winger. The deal is pending physicals for both skaters.
In Stempniak, the Flames acquire a two-time 20-goal marksman who has averaged 44 points per season in his five full NHL campaigns.
He’s six-and-a-half years younger than Langkow and, with a US$1.9-million salary-cap hit next winter, also comes cheaper than the Flames’ former assistant captain, who is due $4.5 million this season.
Both Langkow and Stempniak are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July.
“With Stempniak, it’s a player who can play either wing. He can play the left side or the right side,” said Flames GM Jay Feaster. “He’s a guy who can kill penalties. He’ll play on the powerplay. He’s a player that can legitimately play in your top-six forwards.”
Feaster suggested Stempniak, who notched 19 goals and 19 assists in 82 games last season, will likely compete with Curtis Glencross and Rene Bourque for a spot on the second unit.
Even without Langkow, the Flames have Mikael Backlund, Olli Jokinen, David Moss, Brendan Morrison and Matt Stajan up the middle.
Langkow was one of the feel-good stories of the 2010-11 campaign, returning from a fractured vertebra in his neck to suit up for four games late in the regular season.
Feaster told reporters the Coyotes made a major push to acquire the gritty pivot, a guy he referred to as “a warrior.” Langkow, who skated in Phoenix for three seasons between 2001 and 2004, agreed to waive his no-movement clause to return to the desert.
“It didn’t take too long,” Langkow said of his decision.
“I told my wife, talked with her for a bit, and we decided that it would be a good move for us, and we did it.”
Stempniak, meanwhile, is anxious to return to a traditional hockey market after going from a fish bowl in Toronto to an often-empty lower bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
The Flames missed the post-season last spring, but Stempniak’s sore mouth didn’t slow him down as he started to list the reasons he’s excited to join his new team.
“I just think there’s a lot of talent on this team. I know from playing against them that they’re physical, talented and really play an up-tempo, fast-paced game which, personally, I really like to play,” he said. “And I really respect Jarome Iginla, too. From playing against him and watching him while I was growing up a little bit,
I think he’s the ultimate hockey player and ultimate leader.”