- Johannes Kinnvall of the Calgary Flames suffered a lower-body injury during the team’s prospect camp, and GM Brad Treliving described it as “significant” today at his opening press conference. The 24-year-old defenseman will not be able to participate in the main training camp, obviously a big blow to his chances of making the team to start the year. It was always a long shot, but Kinnvall has played extremely well over the last two seasons in the SHL, racking up 62 points in 83 games.
- While many expected the Flames to shake up their core this summer, that didn’t exactly happen aside from the departure of defenseman Mark Giordano to Seattle in expansion. Sportsnet’s Eric Francis spoke with GM Brad Treliving who commented that a lack of viable options is what played a role in no big moves being made: “I know everybody screams for change, and we talked about that, but we can only do things that are available to you. I can’t click my heels and make things happen. You have to have a trade partner. Nobody is ever done in this business — you’re always looking for ways to improve. But it has got to make sense.” Calgary did make some additions to get tougher this summer, adding Blake Coleman, Nikita Zadorov, and Erik Gudbranson, giving head coach Darryl Sutter a grittier roster to work with.
The Calgary Flames have signed defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year contract worth $1.95MM. Michael Stone is also on his way back on a one-year deal worth $750K. PuckPedia reports Stone’s deal is one-way, unlike last year’s two-way deal.
Gudbranson, 29, has become something of a joke among analytics-leaning fans because of his brutal possession statistics, but seems to keep getting opportunities because of his size, draft pedigree, and a short stretch of success with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 6’5″ right-handed shot defenseman was the third-overall pick in 2010 and has played in 563 regular season games to this point, but not many of them have been very productive. Gudbranson has just 77 points in those games, while racking up 640 penalty minutes and 1,330 hits.
Last season, playing for the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators, Gudbranson recorded four points in 45 games while averaging fewer than 18 minutes a night. That was his lowest average ice time since his rookie season, but don’t expect him to get much more in Calgary. This move gives the team some additional depth on the right side, but certainly shouldn’t eat any minutes away from Rasmus Andersson or Chris Tanev, two of the team’s most important defensemen.
Stone meanwhile isn’t even guaranteed playing time with his league-minimum contract, though he obviously brings some familiarity. The 31-year-old has spent parts of the last five seasons in Calgary, and played 21 games for them last season. All of those appearances came after Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, however, suggesting that perhaps Stone will get a chance after all. In fact, this contract is a one-way deal after he played 2020-21 on a two-way contract, meaning he’ll make that $750K no matter where he plays.
The Flames have turned to experience, grit, and size this offseason, adding players like Blake Coleman, Tyler Pitlick, Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson, Nikita Zadorov, and now these two, but it’s not really clear if they’re all that much improved. It certainly looks a lot more like a Sutter roster and does have plenty of depth at all positions, but whether this mix will be more successful remains to be seen.
These signings could very well spell trouble for Calgary’s younger players, like Connor Mackey and Oliver Kylington, though both of them play the left side predominantly. There are now a lot of defensemen fighting for minutes on the back end, and even with Mark Giordano’s departure there may not be enough to go around.
It has been speculated over the past few weeks that the Oilers are likely to bring a right-shot defenseman on a tryout basis for training camp. It appears they have a couple of targets in mind as Postmedia’s Jim Matheson pegs veterans Michael Stone and Jason Demers as the likeliest candidates to sign one of those deals with Edmonton. Stone is no stranger to the PTO route having been on one with Calgary last year before ultimately signing a two-way deal where he got into 21 games with the Flames and four more with AHL Stockton. Demers hasn’t been in that situation before but after a tough year with Arizona that saw him dropped to a third pairing and reserve role, he may have to settle for a tryout at this stage of free agency.
- The Flames announced that 2020 fourth-round pick Daniil Chechelev has signed a one-year AHL deal. The 20-year-old goaltender spent last season split between the VHL and MHL in Russia, suiting up in 40 games along the way. He joins Dustin Wolf, Adam Werner, and Tyler Parsons as those that will be battling for time with AHL Stockton next season and as a result of that battle, Chechelev may find himself with ECHL Kansas City if they want to give him ample playing time.
Here is a snapshot of the free agent market at the goalie position: Tuukka Rask, who is committed to the Boston Bruins, Devan Dubnyk, Curtis McElhinney, who is older, played less, and performed worse than Dubnyk last season, Cory Schneider, who is also older than Dubnyk and didn’t play an NHL game last season, and a scattering of young goalies that did not receive qualifying offers and have a handful of NHL appearance between them. In short, the UFA goalie market is essentially just Dubnyk.
Now this doesn’t erase his performance from last season, or the year before last for that matter. The 35-year-old has not been on his game for some time now, performing well below his career numbers in each of the past two years. His age compounded by a number of years as a workhorse starter for the Minnesota Wild has shown in Dubnyk’s play, which has lacked sharpness and consistency even playing behind good teams like the Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
With that said, it speaks volumes that Colorado, a Stanley Cup favorite, still went out and acquired Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks at the NHL Trade Deadline last season. The team was facing down several injuries and net and were desperate for help, but still would not have given up assets for a player they didn’t trust could help their team. While Dubnyk was ultimately forgettable in his short stint with Colorado, he delivered five starts and three wins for the team as they battled for supremacy in the division standings.
At this point in his career, Dubnyk is what the Avalanche saw in him: an experienced veteran who was once one of the best in the game and can still be relied upon in a pinch. In the meantime, Dubnyk can mentor young goalies and contribute to a locker room. It’s not exactly the sales pitch of a league-winner, but Dubnyk can still contribute even if he is no longer capable of serving in a starting or even 1B role. Ideally, the veteran could find a spot where he can act as a No. 3 and, if need be or if he shows he is capable, can take over a backup role. Again, it isn’t the most valuable label, but it could benefit a number of teams.
At the end of the day, for those clubs who decide they need another goalie this late in the off-season or in-season but don’t want to make a trade, Dubnyk is the best of a group of less than stellar options. Teams are not going to be looking for a young player with upside or a cold, broken down veteran if they are in urgent need of help. Outside of Rask, who may as well be signed, Dubnyk is the only goalie that can provide value as a free agent addition. Teams would be smart to keep tabs on him as training camps begin to open up.
2020-21: 22 GP, 6-11-2 (.368), .895 SV%, 3.20 GAA, .444 QS%, 1 SO
Career: 542 GP, 253-206-54 (.546), .914 SV%, 2.61 GAA, .539 QS%, 33 SO
At first glance, the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres are the two teams with the greatest needs in net. Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar for the ’Yotes and Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell for the Sabres is a list of names that would be hard-pressed to even find backup jobs elsewhere in the league. With that being said, neither team has much incentive to bring in yet another veteran. Both Arizona and Buffalo are resigned to bottom-dweller status this season and don’t need to add depth in goal, especially when it blocks young keepers like Korenar in Arizona or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Only if the veteran starters for these clubs suffered long-term injuries would Dubnyk really make sense.
Instead, the veteran is a more realistic target for a contender that needs depth and experience in net. Even after adding Louis Domingue, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goalie group that also includes the inconsistent Tristan Jarry and the injury-prone Casey DeSmith could use added stability and guidance. Another team that jumps out as an option is Calgary. The Flames acquired promising youngster Daniel Vladar this summer to back up Jacob Markstrom and he cannot be reassigned to the AHL without the risk of waivers. However, if Vladar struggles in his first full-time NHL role and Calgary is not any more secure with Tyler Parsons or Adam Werner, Dubnyk could be a nice free agent addition to stabilize the net.
Any other suitors would likely be a product of injury at this point, but that could mean more than it sounds. Injuries in hockey are obviously not uncommon and Dubnyk clearly stands out as the best unsigned option available.
Barring an off-season training injury before camps open, a PTO seems like the most likely “contract” to be heading Dubnyk’s way. The experienced veteran would provide a good camp presence while proving that he does (or does not) have gas left in the tank. If anyone was urgent to add a goalie it likely would have happened by now, meaning some patient team is probably going to merely extend Dubnyk the opportunity to earn a deal.
With that being said, urgency can be created quickly, especially once camps begin. If Dubnyk isn’t already on a PTO elsewhere, he will be the first call from teams with thin goalie depth who suffer an injury in net and don’t want to waste time or capital on the trade market. Even in this situation though, the league minimum $750K is likely the extent of Dubnyk’s value. It would likely take several injuries across the league to force a bidding war that lands the veteran anything more.
Richardson, 36, has 825 games to his name in the NHL and will join a Flames forward group that is suddenly full of experienced bottom-six options. Trevor Lewis, Tyler Pitlick and Blake Coleman were all brought in this offseason, giving head coach Darryl Sutter several physical, veteran options to fill out the lineup. Richardson represents the latest example of that trend towards hard-nosed, defensively responsible forwards, and adds another center to the mix for Sutter to work with.
In fact, Sutter should know exactly what he can get out of Richardson, since they were together with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, winning the Stanley Cup after the coach took over partway through the year. While he wasn’t even a playoff regular–Richardson played just 13 games that postseason–the veteran forward will understand what he’s getting himself into with the defensive-minded coach.
Richardson could serve as a replacement for Derek Ryan on the penalty kill this season, but shouldn’t see a ton of ice time at even-strength whenever he does get into the lineup. Though he did score 19 goals in the 2018-19 season with Arizona, that was an obvious outlier for a player who has just 107 in his long career. He won’t be asked to score, but Sutter teams have always relied on the bottom six to check more than contribute offensively. Given he took just 18 shots on goal in 17 games last season, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The Calgary Flames have inked their final restricted free agent, signing Connor Mackey to a two-year contract. The deal will carry an average annual value of $912,500. Mackey was eligible for salary arbitration but decided not to file. CapFriendly reports that both years of the contract are actually two-way, with Mackey earning $150K at the AHL level in 2021-22 and $175K in 2022-23.
Mackey, 24, was an undrafted free agent signing by the Flames out of Minnesota State-Mankato in 2020, after several NHL teams showed interest in him. He made his NHL debut in 2020-21, playing six games, but spent most of the year at the AHL level with the Stockton Heat. In 27 games for the Heat, he registered 16 points, the exact kind of offensive production that made him so intriguing coming out of college.
Standing 6’2″ with good skating ability, there’s reason to believe that Mackey could secure a full-time spot on the bottom pairing in Calgary this season. The team has bid farewell to captain Mark Giordano, opening up plenty of minutes to be spread around. While he’s certainly not guaranteed any playing time, Mackey’s direct competition is players like Oliver Kylington and Andy Welinski, not players that have done anything to lock up the job so far.
Interestingly enough though, Mackey’s waiver status may actually end up leaving him on the outside looking in when the season begins. Of the defensemen in contention for the last few spots, he’s the only one that is still waiver-exempt and can go to the minor leagues without issue. Kylington and Welinski have both cleared in the past, but depending on how the Flames want to deal with their cap situation, Mackey could end up being bounced up and down through much of this season.
- Flames goaltending prospect Daniil Chechelev will play in North America this season, his agent Aljoša Pilko of CAA Hockey announced (Twitter link). The 20-year-old was a fourth-round pick of Calgary (96th overall) back in 2020 and split last season between the VHL and MHL, playing in 40 games in total. Calgary already has five goalies under contract for 2021-22 so Chechelev may be headed for the USHL as he was selected in the 15th round of their draft by Sioux City back in 2020. That would give him a chance to get acclimated to the smaller North American surface before possibly signing for 2022-23.
The Calgary Flames have signed restricted free agent forward Dillon Dube to a three-year contract. The deal will carry an average annual value of $2.3MM, leaving him an arbitration-eligible RFA in 2024. Pat Steinberg of Sportnet reports that Dube will earn $2.2MM in 2021-22, $2.3MM in 2022-23 and $2.4MM in 2023-24.
It’s been a busy week for Flames GM Brad Treliving, working his way through a long list of restricted free agents in Calgary. He has now signed Juuso Valimaki, Nikita Zadorov, Justin Kirkland, Glenn Gawdin, and Dube in the last few days, leaving just Connor Mackey to negotiate with. While Kirkland and Gawdin are still depth options, the same can’t really be said about Dube, who has worked his way into a full-time role with the Flames over the last two seasons. The 23-year-old recorded 11 goals and 22 points in 51 games for the team this season, averaging 13:38 of ice time.
That’s not a huge role, but this new contract secures him as a fixture in the lineup for the next several years. Originally selected 556th overall in 2016 as a center, he never really has been given an opportunity to play in the middle for Calgary. It will be interesting to follow Flames training camp to see how the lineup shakes out under head coach Darryl Sutter given the influx of gritty, physical presences. The team added Blake Coleman, Tyler Pitlick, and Trevor Lewis to the mix, all three of whom are likely better suited in the bottom six. If Dube, who has built up his two-way game, can find a home on one of the top two lines, there’s a good chance he produces a lot more offense than a $2.3MM contract usually warrants.
Even if he doesn’t take another significant step forward offensively, a $2.3MM cap hit doesn’t pose much risk for the Flames. As long as Dube can keep himself in the lineup, providing solid defensive play, there shouldn’t be many complaints from the Calgary faithful. There’s room for upside in a deal like this, which is key for a team like the Flames that are trying to find their way in the Pacific Division.
Gawdin, 24, will actually become a Group VI unrestricted free agent next summer should he fail to secure a full-time role in Calgary’s lineup this season. With just seven games under his belt to this point, that certainly isn’t a guarantee, though he has put up big numbers at the minor league level. Originally selected by the St. Louis Blues in 2015, Gawdin became one of the most dangerous offensive players in the WHL in 2017-18, scoring 56 goals and 125 points in just 67 games for the Swift Current Broncos. He led that team to the WHL championship and then took that success right into the professional ranks, posting seasons of 38 and 47 points in his first two years in the AHL.
Now, after making his debut but recording just one point in seven games, he’ll be in a battle for NHL playing time with several other depth forwards. The fact that the Flames brought in Trevor Lewis and Tyler Pitlick probably doesn’t help Gawdin’s cause, but he still could be in line for a roster spot.
Kirkland on the other hand is a longshot for any consistent playing time at the NHL level. The 25-year-old has yet to make his NHL debut after being the 62nd overall pick in 2014, and had just two goals in 16 games for the Stockton Heat last season. Kirkland is a good minor league player to have in the system and he potentially could bring some size to the bottom of the Flames lineup, but with the number of other forwards under contract, it seems unlikely he’ll break camp with the team.