The Calgary Flames will be without one of the top young defensemen for awhile, as Juuso Valimaki will be undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. With Valimaki out indefinitely, the challenge for general manager Brad Treliving is replacing him.
Let’s assume that since the Flames lost a left shot defender, they’re going to be looking for one – and with their precarious cap situation they’ll be looking for bargains. There are four places the team can look.
Promote from within
Let’s start with the obvious contender: Oliver Kylington was likely pegged to start the season as the top pairing option in Stockton (with fellow lefty Brandon Davidson serving as the Flames’ seventh man). With Valimaki out, Kylington is the guy with the next-best skillset to play a puck-moving role on the third pairing.
He’s young. He skates well. He has a $730,833 cap hit, 39 games of NHL experience and a ton of familiarity with the team’s coaches and systems.
The waiver wire
But let’s suppose that the Flames want additional left shot depth – they can probably make room on the NHL roster for an inexpensive lefty by shuffling the waiver eligible Davidson and waiver exempt Kylington around. The waiver wire might provide the Flames with some options, particularly close to the Oct. 1 roster deadline when the teams with oodles of waiver eligible defenders try to sneak bodies through.
Left shot fringe blueliners to keep an eye on include:
- Toronto’s Martin Marincin
- Columbus’ Dean Kukan
- Chicago’s Carl Dahlstrom or Slater Koekkoek
- St. Louis’ Derrick Pouliot
- San Jose’s Radim Simek
The waiver plan has some holes, though. The big one? The waiver priority to open the season is based on last season’s standings, meaning the Flames would get the 30th crack at waiver claims and it would be rare that somebody really enticing falls to them. Also, there’s no guarantee that anybody that would fall to them would be definitively better than Kylington.
A free agent signing (or a PTO)
If the waiver wire isn’t exciting, the Flames could kick tires on any of the remaining left shot UFAs – with the exception of Jake Gardiner, who they won’t be able to afford. Some potential options could include Ben Hutton, Joe Morrow, Fredrik Claesson, and Forever a Flame David Schlemko.
An alternate version of this plan could see what the Flames did a few falls ago: keep an eye on the PTOs in other camps to see who’s impressive, then swoop in with a better offer. (We call this “Versteeging.) The Flames were very good last year and joining them as a depth option might be pretty enticing to a player weighing their options.
Finally, the Flames could try to solve their depth issues with a trade. It’s not clear who’s available – and probably won’t until camps open and/or all the restricted free agent mess gets sorted out league-wide – but dangling an asset like a mid-round pick might be enough to grab an extra defender off a team that might face losing them for nothing on the waiver wire.