Weegar's Flames extension brings Treliving's stroke-of-genius trade full circle

Eric Francis and Ryan Leslie discuss the Calgary Flames and defenceman MacKenzie Weegar agreeing to an eight-year $50 million contract extension and what it means for the long-term future of the team.

CALGARY – So much for the narrative that no one wants to sign in Calgary.

With a stroke of the pen Friday morning MacKenzie Weegar became the third prominent NHLer in the last seven weeks to make a long-term commitment to a team and a city that spent the early part of the summer being rejected.

An eight-year, $50-million ($6.25 AAV) contract extension for the 28-year-old defenceman solidifies the trade that brought him to the Flames as a package deal for Matthew Tkachuk as a stroke of genius for GM Brad Treliving.

Consider the trade returns: both Weegar and Huberdeau are now signed long term (the latter at eight years and $84 million); prospect Cole Schwindt had a decent NHL camp and will get prominent play with their AHL affiliate; and, the first-round pick from Florida was instrumental in allowing the Flames to dump Sean Monahan’s contract, opening the door for the signing of Nazem Kadri.   

All of which turned a sordid situation involving the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk into a re-tooled core that is locked up and loaded to contend for several years.

Somehow, against all odds, Treliving recultivated an environment a newbie like Weegar and the others all wanted to be part of. 

“One of the reasons I signed here is because I believe in this team” said Weegar after news of his deal broke during morning skate.

“They want to win, and we have a winning team, a winning coach, a winning culture in here."

Pressed for more on why he quickly decided he wanted to stay in Calgary long term, Weegar beamed. 

"The winning culture: Looch (Milan Lucic) and (Blake) Coleman, Naz, Darryl (Sutter), lots of guys who have won here, and that's important,” he said.

“We need that down the stretch. They want to win now. I want to win now. I think everybody in this room wants to win here. The city wants to win. Passionate fanbase. Right from when I got here everybody was super excited to have us three come in here."

You can bet Weegar was heavily influenced by Treliving’s ability to ink Huberdeau just a few weeks after the shock of leaving Florida.

They are the best of pals.

"He kept giving me an elbow or two in the gut, saying, 'when are you going to do it?'” he laughed. “I kept saying the same thing to him as you guys, 'hopefully soon.' Now maybe I can get a house next to him or something like that."

Keeping up a strong Treliving tradition when it comes to in-house extensions, the cap hit came in slightly lower than many in the hockey world expected.

Not an easy task considering Weegar would’ve had plenty of suitors waiting for him on the open market next summer.

While it’s cliché for critics to decree that any max-term deal for a veteran won’t age well, the reality is this: with impending salary cap growth, there are plenty of reasons to believe Weegar is positioned to provide great value for the bulk of it.

After all, he fits into a top six that may very well be the league’s best.

“They were all excited, just shaking my hand, saying 'congratulations,'” said Weegar of his teammates’ reaction.

“A few of them said, 'well deserved,' but they don't really know. They haven't really seen me play too, too much. The expectations are high within the teammates, which is great.”

Therein lies one of the most fascinating elements of the signing: no one is quite sure just yet where he’ll slot in this most talented of blue lines.

Expected to start alongside Chris Tanev on the team’s chief shut-down pairing, the versatile, puck-moving defender will have plenty to prove if he’s to be considered better than his partner, as well-rounded as Noah Hanifin or as integral as Rasmus Andersson.

Of his 44 points last season as part of Florida’s top pairing, only three came on the power play – a number sure to change as Sutter gives him opportunities to grow his game with the man advantage.

When world-class partner Aaron Ekblad went down with an injury last season, Weegar continued to post astronomical analytics while pacing the Panthers to the President’s Trophy. 

As good as he’s been the last few years as a late-budding star in Florida, no one doubts there’s plenty more upside than he’s shown.

"Good player. Good city. Good team," said Sutter, who admittedly hasn’t seen much from Weegar through the pre-season. "He's a good player. He can play both sides. He's got a zest for the game. He's coachable. He's the right age group. He's got a lot going for him."

Shortly after arriving in Calgary to get acclimated there was never much doubt this deal would get done. His agent/uncle Matthew Ebb said as much.

Still, there was relief to get it signed, which the Ottawa native said will be followed by an emotional reflection given how far he’s come on a journey that saw the late draft pick battle through adversity and rejection at almost every level of hockey 

“It means everything,” said Weegar of the life-altering pact. “When I signed the deal I just kept thinking of how long of a road it's been for me since Junior B, to the (East) Coast (League) and now to here. All my friends and family and all the support, I think it's not just me that signed the deal. It's everybody around me.

“My mom, I think, has always thought that and her brother Matt, my uncle, my agent. Those two have always kind of believed in me. My friends. Everybody has just been so supportive of me. When times were tough everybody brought me up. I really have no words. It's going to sink in a little later, I think. It'll be emotional later. I'll call my mom and my dad. I couldn't be more thankful.

“This is just crazy.”

For the player, as well as the organization.

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