CALGARY — Proud owner of a shiny new pickup truck, MacKenzie Weegar is now looking two steps ahead in solidifying his status as a full-fledged western Canadian.
“The truck makes me an Albertan, but I think a cowboy hat would solidify it,” he laughed, pausing before adding one more ingredient.
“And a contract would help a lot.”
Nestling into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the dressing room he now calls home, Weegar isn’t interested in issuing ultimatums, nor does he want his contract situation to hang over the organization.
So the 28-year-old defenceman and his agent have informed the Calgary Flames of his desire to wrap this up soon.
“Mack is the ultimate team guy, and once the season starts he does not want to be a distraction, and doesn’t want to be dealing with this in the media room,” his agent/uncle Matthew Ebbs told Sportsnet from his law firm in Ottawa.
“That’s why our preference is if we can get something done before the season, that’s definitely where our head is at.
“If we can’t, we’re not saying we won’t have any discussions, but we’d prefer to just leave it so there are no team distractions after Oct. 13.”
Shortly after trading for Weegar and his longtime pal Jonathan Huberdeau in the five-player swap that sent Matthew Tkachuk to Florida, Flames GM Brad Treliving made clear his intentions to sign the six-foot, 200-pound veteran to a lengthy extension.
After getting over the initial shock of learning he’d be relocating from the only NHL organization he’d ever known, Weegar has been enthusiastic about extending his stay in Southern Alberta beyond next summer’s contract expiration.
With Huberdeau signing an eight-year, $84 million extension two weeks after the swap, Weegar was urged by Ebbs to get out to Calgary as soon as possible to start figuring out if it was indeed a fit.
“I said, ‘you have to at least meet Darryl (Sutter), and it was all great,” said Ebbs.
“I don’t have to mince words, Brad, and the city, and his teammates and everyone and everything has been phenomenal.
“He sees this trade as a blessing in disguise.
“It is just about the numbers at this point. We have a range in mind, and I think we’ve addressed that very clearly, so I certainly think, to a certain extent, the ball is in their court.”
Indeed, it always comes down to the numbers.
Weegar’s comparables are an interesting study, as the seventh-round pick is a late-bloomer who has really only produced offensively the last two seasons.
His eight goals and 44 points landed him 27th amongst NHL defenders and his plus-40 rating ranked him sixth, both just behind one of his chief contemporaries, Justin Faulk, who signed a seven-year, $45.5 million deal ($6.5 million AAV) in 2019.
Hampus Lindholm’s eight-year, $52 million pact ($6.5 million AAV) signed this year with Boston is another benchmark, although the Swede’s numbers the last handful of years have paled in comparison to the pace Weegar has set of late.
Dougie Hamilton’s seven-year, $63 million deal ($9 million AAV) is the high water mark, but could be somewhat relevant if Weegar lights it up this year.
Weegar certainly appears to be approaching his prime, and with the salary cap going up next year you can bet he’d be paid more than $6.5 million annually on the open market.
Keep in mind, only three of his 44 points last season came on the man advantage.
Sutter reiterated Wednesday night he believes Weegar could be effective on the power play, and certainly plans to try him there, either alongside Rasmus Andersson on the top unit, or with the second group.
If so, that could only bolster his stock, as could playing alongside Chris Tanev, as is expected.
“It just comes down to Brad and the organization and our side coming down to terms on a deal that’s good for both sides,” said Weegar, whose final year of his current deal has a $3.25 million AAV.
“I want a long-term deal here. Being here, the guys have been great and the city is very warm and welcoming.
“(Nazem) Kadri was a big free agent signing — he chose to come here before he even knew the city.
“My best buddy Huby, I’d love to spend another five, six, seven, eight years here with him.
“I believe he’s the kind of guy who can take you deep, same with Naz.
“I think all the pieces are here to be a successful team for years to come.”
The bet here, for the Flames, is that Weegar’s trajectory continues and he can remain one of the league’s better defensive players, while also building on the offensive side.
He’s an analytics darling.
The GM is motivated to get this done for many reasons, including the optics of maximizing the long-term return for Tkachuk.
While it may be worth seeing how he fits in with the new group, how he adjusts to a different style out west and his new environment, the team also doesn’t want to risk losing him by waiting, a la Johnny Gaudreau.
The two situations are very different, as Gaudreau’s intention was to leave Calgary, and his refusal to talk contract after the season started wasn’t negotiable.
“The desire is long-term and to settle in there,” said Ebbs.
“He’s a Canadian kid who wants to play in a Canadian market.”
Optimism still abounds on both sides of the negotiating table.
“I’d take all the years I can for sure,” said Weegar, adding that his girlfriend Maggie is “a little bit country,” in that she owns cowboy boots.
“I’ll just give the nod when I think it’s a fair deal.”