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Weegar’s Journey Pays Off With Massive Flames Signing



Flames TV

If the story sounds at all familiar, it’s because you’ve heard it before. Or something like it. MacKenzie Weegar’s road to the NHL has some similarities to that of a former Calgary Flames defender.

That would be the team’s former captain, Mark Giordano.

It’s not an identical path, but the underlying theme of it all is. Odds stacked against them. Hard work and determination that paid off in NHL employment. Late-bloomer. Overachiever.

The undrafted Giordano’s story with the Calgary Flames is familiar.

Weegar’s is just getting started. With a $50-million extension signed Friday morning, the 28-year-old will become the team’s highest-paid defenceman next year in the first of eight additional seasons.

The team appears to have added some term, with Weegar perhaps leaving some annual salary on the table to get the deal done before the season started.

His time in Calgary has been brief but he has the same humble, genuine persona that drew people to Giordano, too.

Continuous improvement a common theme

Giordano got his shot after working his way up to the Ontario Hockey League for a couple of seasons, then he cut his teeth in the AHL during the season the NHL year was wiped by the lockout. After some call-ups and a role as a part-timer with the Flames, he went to Russia for a year when he and the Flames couldn’t agree to a one-way contract.

Betting on himself paid off and he was a full-time NHLer the following season. Never satisfied, Giordano improved almost every year, climbing from 30-plus points into the 40s, then 50s, then a magical 74-point season that earned him the Norris Trophy.

He was 34.

At 28, it seems Weegar is just tapping into his potential.

He was drafted — but nearly wasn’t. Only five players were taken below the seventh-rounder in  the 2013 NHL draft after he fought his way from Jr. B to the QMJHL.

Weegar bounced from the AHL to the ECHL and then the NHL with the Florida Panthers. Once he got there, he refused to let it go. He showed improvement every year. And his role expanded.

Two goals and eight points in 60 games as a rookie. Four goals and 15 points the next season, with 64 more games under his belt. Seven goals and 18 points followed, in just 45 games this time.

Weegar’s breakout came in the COVID-shortened season — a six-goal, 36-point campaign for the Panthers in 2020-21 He followed that up with a career-high eight goals and 36 assists for 44 points last year. It was his first season with 80 or more games played.

It’s no wonder his $50-million deal didn’t feel real when he spoke in the locker-room.

Emotional Weegar rewarded for long road to NHL stardom

“It means everything,” Weegar told Flames TV. “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 Coast (ECHL) 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,” he said.

“My mom, her brother Matt, my uncle, my agent, 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. This is just crazy. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

The Calgary Flames are thankful, too.

They’ve cemented another guy who will do whatever is asked of him on the ice, and also seems capable of excelling in every one of those situations.

“He’s got a zest for the game, he’s coachable, he’s the right age group,” Sutter said of the signing. “Got lots going for him.”

Flames fans get another nine seasons to watch it unfold.