Confident Flames avoid rentals at deadline, look long-term with Lazar

Curtis Lazar joins the HC panel after being traded to the Flames, says everything was working against him in Ottawa, but is really looking forward to a fresh start in Calgary.

This wasn’t the year for the Calgary Flames to push in their chips, declaring themselves all in.

So they didn’t.

Didn’t have to, really, as the team had shored up its most glaring three roster holes over the last month – goaltending, defensive depth and a top-line winger.

Not that the list of options available at this year’s deadline were all that attractive, but GM Brad Treliving found it easy to resist the temptation to swap futures for rentals.

So he grabbed something more familiar, more long-term.

“We gave up a pick today for a 22-year-old player who we think will be here for a long time,” said Treliving of his acquisition of Curtis Lazar from the Ottawa Senators. “We weren’t really interested in betting heavy on the rental market. A lot of today is about the belief we have in this group. It’s a message we believe in them.”

And a message they believe in Lazar, so much so they gave Ottawa a second-round pick in 2017 and Jyrki Jokipakka for the Senators’ young centre and 31-year-old AHL blueliner Mike Kostka.


On paper Lazar truly does have it all.

Translating that to the ice is the Flames’ new objective, and they vow to be plenty patient with it.

Captain of Team Canada’s winning world junior entry in 2015 who also led his Edmonton Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup a year earlier, the six-foot, 210-lb. ball of energy was a junior scoring machine who has already logged two and a half years of NHL action.

Problem being, his current campaign has him scoreless in 33 outings, marking the end of a relationship the former 17th-overall pick failed to make good on.

Yes, he started this season with mono and never recovered.

But what’s clear is the Senators no longer saw the upside of a kid now bound and determined to change his fortunes, especially given that that he’s suddenly much closer to his hometown of Salmon Arm, B.C.

“It was music to my ears when Brad answered the phone and said he’d been after me for a while,” said Lazar, with an unbridled enthusiasm clearly necessary to effect the significant change required to further his young career. “I feel like weight has been lifted off my shoulders. He wants me to come out there and be me.”

Making good on his promise last month that the players would dictate his trade-deadline actions, Treliving followed up on his team’s current 9-2-1 run by keeping a surging team completely intact and making just the one notable addition Wednesday.

“This is a kid who moves well, has a thick body, excellent character — we look at hockey sense and he’s got it in spades,” said Treliving, who had a two-hour lunch with Lazar as assistant GM of the Coyotes before the youngster was drafted in 2013. “We’re not making this bet based on what he’s doing today — we think there is significant upside. He fits right in with our age group. He’s got a lot of work to do to get to the level we want him to, and he’s committed to doing that.”

A centre who shoots right and has played plenty of wing as an NHLer, Lazar will undoubtedly be slotted on the third line alongside Sam Bennett, who has also struggled to gain significant footing as a scoring NHLer.

Two feisty young players with decent size, high expectations, offensive upside and plenty of energy, the thought is that they can perhaps elevate one another’s game.

If so, this deal will pay dividends far earlier than expected.

Acquiring Lazar most certainly is a better tack then sending a second or third rounder somewhere for a pure (and aging) rental who will walk away in two months with nothing to show for it. Besides, Flames assistant coach Dave Cameron (and former Ottawa head coach) vouched for the youngster’s character, as did Flames assistant GM Brad Pascall, who worked with him at Hockey Canada.

A month ago it looked like rentals would be in play for the Flames at the deadline.

Midway through the season the Flames had three glaring holes in their lineup – they were missing a top-line right winger, their goaltending was suspect and they lacked defensive depth.

All three holes have been addressed during the club’s latest surge, which has seen them win five in a row, including a crucial overtime win over Los Angeles Tuesday.

Lazar ecstatic for new opportunity in Calgary
March 01 2017

The team’s winning streak coincides with moving left-handed shot Micheal Ferland onto the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, as the burly youngster has scored four big goals in that span. The sample size is small, but with seven goals in his last 13 outings there’s increasing reason to believe he’s the fit this team has been looking for.

He’s a far better option than adding rentals like Radim Vrbata, Thomas Vanek or even Jarome Iginla for precious draft picks.

Brian Elliott’s resurgence has the 31-year-old playing the way the Flames envisioned when they acquired him from St. Louis last summer. His 12-4-2 record since mid-December eliminated any serious consideration the Flames gave to trying to acquire Ben Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury before Wednesday’s deadline.

Defensively, last week’s additions of Michael Stone and Matt Bartkowski gave the club solid No. 4 and No. 6 blueliners who have seamlessly fit into a lineup of tight-knit lads.

“We’re totally fine with our group,” said captain Mark Giordano of the likelihood the Flames would do nothing the final day of trading. “As players we get along – that’s an important thing. We’ve proven, especially in the last little bit, we can put together some good stretches and beat some really good teams.”

Indeed they have, changing the Flames from a playoff bubble squad to a team just two points behind Anaheim for third in the Pacific.

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