Stajan can't ignore infamous trade talk

Calgary Flames Matt Stajan. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

Calgary Flames Matt Stajan. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 PM ET

TORONTO — It’s his hometown.

So, of course, Matt Stajan has heard more than enough opinions about the infamous Dion Phaneuf trade in Toronto.

You can bet Stajan knows full well how the deal which sent him, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames for Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie is being touted as a fleecing by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Such talk would be impossible to ignore.

What remains to be seen is how Stajan reacts, especially in the long-term by getting his game back on track, but also in the short-term, as in Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada clash between the Flames and the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Naturally, you have to wonder whether Stajan is fuelled by all the talk.

“Sure,” he said after Friday’s practice. “Everybody’s going to have their own opinions. I think you can look at any trade and have an opinion on it. That’s not what I’m worried about. You look at things and pick out positives.”

What anybody can be positive about is how the trade hasn’t worked out the way the Flames envisioned.

Whether you want to believe Phaneuf was traded because he was a divisive force among the team or simply because the club needed to find more offence by spending the salary sent his way on more forwards, the Flames had to figure Stajan would be an impact centre and Hagman would provide 20 to 30 goals from the left wing.

Neither has happened.

Hagman’s game-winning goal in Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens is just his 17th tally and 40th point in 101 games with the Flames.

As for Stajan, who is in Season 2 of a four-year, US$14-million contract inked a few weeks after being traded to Calgary, the numbers are no better.

Through 106 games for the Flames, he’s netted nine goals and 48 points. This is a player who arrived having potted 16 goals and 41 points in the 55 games he skated for the Leafs in the 2009-10 NHL season prior to the deal.

Phaneuf hasn’t exactly set the world on fire offensively — with 11 goals and 43 points for the Maple Leafs in 94 games — but has become a leader for a Toronto team which had an identity crisis at the time.

Combined with the fact the Leafs are high on Aulie, while the Flames dealt White for fourth-line winger Tom Kostopolous and third-pairing defenceman Anton Babchuk, it’s not hard to see why former Flames GM Darryl Sutter has been panned for the deal.

“I don’t worry about that — I didn’t make the trade,” Hagman said. “I was part of it, but I’ll just concentrate on the part I can do better.”

Starting with Saturday’s game, where he can prove to the hockey world — even if it’s just for one night — he can still be a contributor by exacting revenge.

“I wouldn’t say revenge, but there’s a lot of guys I played with and the old coach, and obviously, I want to show them I can play,” Hagman said. “It’s boring to say, but it’s part of the game. Trades happen — you go to a new place and move on. I had a lot of fun here. I liked it here.

“We don’t come here that often, so for sure, I want to play well.”

In the two games last season against the Leafs, Hagman collected one goal and four points. Stajan netted a goal and an assist.

For what it’s worth, Stajan and Hagman arrived in Toronto with upside in their game lately.

Hagman, who was placed on waivers last season and had to earn a NHL spot this fall despite his contract, has forged his way onto the second powerplay unit.

Stajan, who started the season on the fourth line — a dubious spot considering young centre Mikael Backlund is out due to a broken finger and veteran centre Brendan Morrison is still sidelined by off-season knee surgery — played his way one rung up the ladder.

Stajan, Hagman and Rene Bourque now make up the team’s third line.

Maybe Stajan has started to rebuild what everyone believes was a shattered confidence.

“Everything’s related back to confidence,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “But I just think the pace to his game (Thursday) night was much better. It started coming in the St. Louis game, and his details in his game have been good. Little things.

“The last two games have been his best two games.”


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