UPDATE: Apparently he hasn't signed an extension yet.
Stajan on contract rumours: “We’re in discussions. I haven’t signed anything yet but I’d love to be back here and we’re working towards it.”— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) January 20, 2014
This morning Elliotte Friedman reported that Matt Stajan would likely be extending with Calgary today- we don't have details on the contract yet, but chances are it'll be worth it.
Expect a contract extension sometime today for Matt Stajan in Calgary.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 20, 2014
Over the years I've spilled a lot of digital ink on Matt Stajan. Something about his career cycle and its relationship to Calgary has fascinated me, and I couldn't be more thrilled that he's (probably) not going anywhere. Don't get me wrong, Stajan is hardly a building block for the future. He's not a top line forward to build the Calgary Flames around, he's not a "face of the franchise" like so many of the older guys that get paid to stick around franchises.
No, Matt Stajan is a perfectly acceptable average player, and keeping him is important for a few reasons.
1. Someone's gotta eat the ugly minutes
Even when things where at their worst for Stajan and he was getting ten minutes a night from Brent Sutter, he was still not a bad player. He'll never be Mikael Backlund for Corsi or Jarome Iginla for offense, but he's always been "pretty decent". With more and more prospects coming into the Flames, or projected to come into the Flames, it's important to have players who can be thrown to the wolves and not be a complete shitshow.
Sean Monahan has had a pretty decent season for a 19 year old. He hasn't been a Calder trophy kinda guy, but he's been good enough. That said, hee's also gotten some very easy matchups this year and still managed to get eaten alive in possession. Now just imagine a team filled with Monahans- players still figuring out the league, half of them getting wrecked by "easier" matchups and half of them being obliterated by the Sedins and Crosby's of the NHL— it's ugly. It's also bad for development.
Someone like Stajan is important to keep around if only because he'll eat up a lot of the tougher matchups, and there's no development to worry about there. Just as importantly, he won't be fodder to the top end players, which means the younger prospects won't see bloodbaths on a nightly basis.
2. He's been through some real shit
While this is hardly a sole reason to keep someone on a given team, it matters here given Stajan's established capabilities. So given that the Flames need someone like him, this is the edge that pushes him ahead of similar players.
Stajan has, for years, been the Calgary Flames whipping boy. Part of the return in the infamous Dion Phaneuf trade, Stajan and his 2010 contract extension came to represent the worst of Darryl Sutter, rightly or wrongly. It didn't get much better when Brent Sutter came to loathe Stajan and frequently left him in the bottom six, if not the fourth line.
These are good lessons to have around for younger prospects. There are going to be times when players are torn apart in the press or punished by horrible coaches for mysterious reasons- and it's good to have guys like Giordano and Stajan around to reassure to the younger guys that you just have to keep plugging.
Sure, if that was all Stajan brought to the table I'd advocate kicking him to the curb, but he is a good hockey player and he does have a use on the team on the ice as well as off.
3. He'd provide a poor trade return
With Stajan's contract expiring this season, the Flames had three options: let him walk, extend him, or trade him. Obviously letting him walk is a waste of an asset- they'd get nothing back at all. Most Calgary fans therefore assumed he'd be gone at the deadline, and while that's still a possibility, the new contract makes it seem unlikely.
So how was extending Stajan instead of trading him the better call by Burke?
The fact is, Stajan still doesn't have a great reputation. Even with his improved play this season, Flames fans still ironically call him Matty Franchise. In a vacuum, he's probably worth a low first or a high second round pick. In this NHL, with his reputation and history, Stajan is far more likely to return a 3rd round pick or worse. Stajan- even with an expiring contract, is worth more as a viable NHL player than a theoretical mid to late round pick.
I'm glad Matt Stajan, barring a six million dollar cap hit, is sticking around. He's a quality NHLer who can benefit the team both on and off the ice. Most importantly, I'm glad that management didn't decide to get whatever they could for him and move on- it would be a poor waste of an asset.