Calgary is certainly stoking the flames of rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks this off-season. The Canucks reiterated all season long that re-signing starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom and defensive mainstay Chris Tanev were two of their biggest priorities this off-season. Instead, both players signed with none other than the division rival Flames. Now you can add another name to that list. After it was reported on Thursday that Vancouver was still actively pursuing a new contract with forward Josh Leivo, the Flames have come out today and signed him, as first reported by Nick Kypreos of Line Movement. It is a one-year, $875K deal, as confirmed by the team’s press release.
Leivo, 27, has not played since before Christmas after suffering a fractured kneecap in December. Had he not been sidelined by that injury, Leivo likely would have had a career year and would have had much more free agent attention resulting in a larger contract, rather than settling for a one-year deal and salary decrease. In 36 games to open the season, the skilled winger recorded 19 points. This put him just five points back of his career best but in 40 fewer games. A player who usually opted for shots over passes still managed to showcase some newfound playmaking ability, setting a career high with 12 assists prior to his injury. The Canucks suited up for 69 games before the NHL was put on pause. Had Leivo been healthy through the whole season, he would have finished with 36 points on the year. This would have placed him sixth among free agent forwards in points.
The Flames hope that this move is more than just a shot at the Canucks. If Leivo can return to the level of play he displayed prior to his injury, they could be paying less than $1MM for a player with 40-point upside. However, even if Leivo’s recovery is not complete by the time the season begins or if he doesn’t quite work his way back to full strength this season, Calgary is still getting a talented bottom-six forward who can chip in on offense. It’s hard to see this contract being anything less than a worthwhile gamble for a team who needed to add another offensive asset to their forward corps.