Some terrible news has come down the pipe for the Calgary Flames, as the team announced today that Juuso Valimaki has suffered a torn ACL in his offseason training and will need surgery. Valimaki will be out indefinitely, but ACL surgery usually comes with around a six-month recovery timeline and could potentially put his entire 2019-20 season at risk.
Valimaki, 20, was expected to compete for a full-time role on the Flames blueline this season after showing he could handle the NHL level last year. Playing in 24 regular season games he registered just three points, but in his two playoff contests looked more than capable against the Colorado Avalanche. Originally selected 16th overall in 2017, Valimaki was about to enter his second professional season with high expectations but will now have to fight just to get back on the ice.
The injury also complicates things even further for the Flames, who don’t have a ton of cap room available to sign Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane before the year starts. Recent speculation had T.J. Brodie as the most likely player to be traded to make some room, but with Valimaki now on the shelf the team’s defensive depth is a lot thinner. Oliver Kylington will likely step into a bigger role, but moving out Brodie would make the team extremely susceptible to injury troubles throughout the year.
The long-term status of the young defenseman is perhaps more important though, as knee injuries have derailed more than a few careers over the years. We won’t be seeing Valimaki on the ice for quite some time, but hopefully he can return to full strength at some point in the future.