CALGARY — Mason Raymond will have to adjust on the fly to his new team.
Limited to a pair of pre-season games with the Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury, Raymond says the first few games of the NHL season will be a lesson in adaptation.
“Would I have liked a few more pre-season games? Sure,” Raymond said. “Coming to a new team, there’s new things to learn, there’s new systems, new everything kind of walk of life. I try to pick that up as much as I can, but in saying that I think actually being on the ice and in those situations is the best way, quickest way to learn those.
“Part of being a professional is being able to adapt. I’ve been a pro in this long enough. You have to learn, you have to adapt, that’s just part of the way it is.”
The Flames signed Raymond to a three-year, $9.5-million deal when unrestricted free agency opened July 1. Mike Cammalleri, Calgary’s leading scorer last season, departed for the New Jersey Devils the same day.
Looking to fill the void on offence, the Flames came to terms with Raymond, who is from Cochrane, Alta., just northwest of Calgary. The six-foot, 185-pound left-winger had 19 goals and 26 assists and played all 82 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013-14.
What was a “bounce-back” season with the Leafs made Raymond attractive to the Flames. He’d gone to Toronto’s training camp without a contract and earned a one-year deal.
Raymond spent his first six NHL seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and posted a career-high 25 goals and 28 assists in 2009-10. He suffered a broken vertebra in Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins.
The long recovery from the injury hampered his output in subsequent seasons. The Canucks did not re-sign him in 2013.
No other teams showed interest until the Leafs took a flyer on him and invited him to training camp.
“Truth be told, I couldn’t get a contract, so I was there on a tryout,” Raymond said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity that Toronto gave me and to be able to succeed.
“It’s satisfying for me coming off a good season, playing well and proving you still deserve to play in this league. I think I proved it to myself, first and foremost, but proved to others I deserve to be here.”
Goal scoring is a question mark for the Flames to start this 2014-15 season and predicted to be “by committee.” Raymond, 29, is expected to be a significant producer on that committee.
“The reason why we went to get Mason is that we had two priorities . . . to get us bigger and to get us faster,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said during training camp.
“Mason fits in in the second category. He’s been through battles.
“When you’re stuck in a corner and feel like none of the 30 teams want you anymore, you’re facing adversity. He did this with flying colours. Last year he had a great season in Toronto and now he’s with us.
“He wanted to be a Flame so it’s my job, it’s all our job and his job to make sure we come up with a plan that will make him feel good and make him feel he’s going to be a big contributor for us.”
Raymond relishes the idea of increased responsibility on a re-building hockey team.
“The work ethic that’s been going on here, it’s something very intriguing for any player to come into,” he said.
“You want to contribute wherever you can for sure. Ultimately, you want to be a part of the solution. I love playing in the O-zone and producing. In saying that you have to be responsible at both ends of the ice.”
It’s easy to romanticize a local hockey product playing for the hometown NHL team. Raymond did go to Flames games as a youngster and recalls once meeting Lanny McDonald, who was captain of the Flames in 1989 when they won the Stanley Cup.
Raymond says “it’s cool” to play for the Flames and having immediate family close by was attractive for him, his wife and young son.