After learning that Juuso Valimaki will miss a considerable amount of time following ACL surgery, the Calgary Flames are in a bit of a pickle. The team needs to clear some cap room in order to sign Matthew Tkachuk, but can’t afford to send out T.J. Brodie to do it anymore. With Valimaki out their defensive depth is razor thin, which is why Flames GM Brad Treliving told reporters including Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet that the team will “be looking externally” for an addition on the blueline. Treliving did mention Oliver Kylington as an internal option.
While this news comes right as rumors swirl around Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, the Flames would need to move out even more money if they brought in an expensive option like the young Finn. Ristolainen carries a $5.4MM cap hit for the next three seasons, a deal that would leave very little room to sign Tkachuk. The most obvious move now would be trading Michael Frolik, who is on the final year of his deal and has been involved in trade talks in the past. In fact, Frolik was expected to be included in a deal that would have brought Jason Zucker to Calgary at the trade deadline, though that transaction was never completed.
There are certainly no shortage of defensemen the team could go after, but if they want an inexpensive player who can make the same kind of impact that was expected of Valimaki this season they will need to give up more than just Frolik. Those kind of players are few and far between, and usually cost quite a bit in trade if they are even available.
Of course there is always the free agent market as well, though it’s not clear if Treliving wants to go down that route. Veterans like Dion Phaneuf, Dan Girardi, Adam McQuaid and Ben Lovejoy are out there still, along with younger options like Ben Hutton and Alex Petrovic. None of those seem like perfect fits, although they would likely come at a reasonable cost.
One player to consider may be Boston Bruins defender Kevan Miller, who was recently included in some trade speculation thanks to another cap crunch. The Bruins have their own financial troubles when it comes to signing restricted free agents, given they still need to get new contracts done with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. The pair of young defenders are huge parts of the team’s future, and with Miller on the final year of his contract he could be moved out to make a little extra room. The 31-year old carries a $2.5MM cap hit, though his right-handedness may be an issue for the Flames, who already have Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Rasmus Andersson who normally line up on the right.
In any case, there are things to come for Treliving and the Flames who will likely have to pivot any trade talks they’ve had over the last few weeks and months while also hammering out a new deal with Tkachuk.