- Although Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau was pulled from Wednesday’s game against Boston by concussion spotters, he is feeling fine which should have him in line to play on Friday night versus Nashville, reports Sportsnet’s Eric Francis (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Francis adds there won’t be any disciplinary action towards Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who delivered the hit on Gaudreau.
Through four games this season, young Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett has just one point. He has yet to score a goal and has taken just six shots. He is seeing just over ten minutes of ice time per game, down more than four minutes from his career average. Bennett is currently on pace for just over 20 points on the year. It seems like a disappointing start and perhaps just an aberration for the 2014 fourth overall pick. In reality, it is par for the course for the 22-year-old forward. Since his strong 36-point rookie campaign in 2015-16, Bennett has failed to improve his production and has seen less and less ice time. This is simply a continuation of the trend.
To say that Bennett has failed to live up to the expectations of his lofty draft position would be to understate the issue. Drafted ahead of the likes of William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dylan Larkin, and David Pastrnak in 2014, the Flames certainly expected far more out of Bennett thus far. His overall production is decreasing, he has never cracked 20 goals or 20 assists in a season, and a center when drafted now plays almost exclusively on the wing. Bennett has simply not at all been what the Flames thought they were getting at fourth overall. Meanwhile, the team is without a playoff win in the three years since Bennett became a regular and patience is running out in Calgary. Bennett has shown flashes of immense ability, but has lacked consistency and, more than anything, has been a poor fit in the Flames’ system. With the hire of new head coach Bill Peters, many expected a turnaround from Bennett this year, but it has been far from it so far. It would seem that Bennett’s time in Calgary is almost up, right?
Wrong, in fact. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman led off his latest edition of “31 Thoughts” by acknowledging the trade interest in Bennett, but doubting that GM Brad Treliving and the Flames were ready to move on. Calgary is wary of trading Bennett while his value is at its lowest to a team seeking to buy low on the talented forward and finally find a way to get the most out of his ability. Friedman expanded on his comments with Sportsnet Radio 960 in Calgary, stating that the Flames appear to be obsessed with avoiding the mistake that provincial rivals the Edmonton Oilers made in trading away Taylor Hall at well below his true value. Hall was also struggling to meet the expectations of his draft slot, first overall in 2010, and it was compounded by the team’s struggles as well. Hall was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson and is now the reigning Hart Trophy winner and a top ten forward in the league. The Flames could certainly use a Larsson-caliber piece in their pursuit of a playoff berth this season, but not at the cost of losing a player that they still believe has untapped potential.
That is not to say that the team hasn’t considered offers, though. Friedman states that, while no deal was ever close, Calgary went “far down the road” in trade talks with several teams. Friedman specifically names the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, and Tampa Bay Lightning as teams that he knows have had interest in Bennett before and, especially in the case of Anaheim and Montreal, likely continue to. The fact that Bennett is perceived as being available via trade would seem to indicate that the Flames continue to field offers for the young forward, even if they aren’t actively selling. While Friedman doesn’t see it happening, Bennett’s play so far this year is trending towards 2018-19 being a new career low. With a year remaining on his contract beyond this season, giving a new team the time to attempt to turn his development around, a poor season for Bennett could see Calgary finally give up on their once-top prospect. It’s fair to want to avoid giving up on potential, particularly for a disappointing return, but a point is fast approaching when Bennett can no longer be seriously compared to a player like Hall.
Forward Logan Shaw has re-joined a familiar locale. The journeyman power forward, who attended Calgary Flames training camp on a PTO, was unable to secure NHL employment this season. Instead, he has signed a one-year AHL contract with the San Diego Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks’ affiliate announced. The Gulls are one of the seven different NHL or AHL teams that Shaw has played for in his five-year pro career, albeit only briefly with a pair of contests in the 2016-17 season. Were it not for the Montreal Canadiens claiming him on waivers last season, that number would be much higher. The Anaheim Ducks, who had traded for Shaw early in 2016-17 and gave him a then-career high 55 games and a contract extension, attempted to slide the big winger through the waiver wire after another 42 games last year, only for the injury-riddled Canadiens to claim him. Shaw skated in 30 games for Montreal and, combined, recorded a career-best 72 games and 14 points last year. However, that wasn’t enough to drum up NHL interest and Shaw has instead returned to the AHL level and a team in San Diego with which he has some familiarity. Shaw made his Gulls season debut last night, notching an assist in a narrow loss to the Tuscon Roadrunners. Shaw could be a leading scorer for San Diego this year and, at 26 year old, the door to an NHL return may not quite be shut just yet.
More minor moves as the day goes on:
- The Boston Bruins have assigned forward Martin Bakos to their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, the team announced. Bakos, a free agent signing out of the Czech Republic, began the season on the injured reserve after suffering a lower-body injury early in training camp. That lack of ice time with the starters in the preseason eliminated any chance that Bakos had of cracking the Bruins’ roster right away, but the team does have high expectations of the veteran Slovakian forward. Bakos, 28, has several season of experience in the KHL as well as the Czech League, including his career-high 40-point campaign with Liberec last season. Bakos is a versatile, two-way forward who can play all three forward positions and competes in all three zones. The Providence Bruins are deep with talent, both young and older, but Bakos could be one of the first call-ups if he stays healthy, adjusts to the North American game, and produces for Providence.
- The Montreal Canadiens have recalled goalie Charlie Lindgren from the AHL’s Laval Rocket, the team noted this morning. It is an emergency recall for Lindgren, as starter Carey Price is apparently unavailable do to the flu. The Habs square off with the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight and it will presumably be the first appearance of the season for primary backup Antti Niemi. However, given the Penguins’ scoring punch, Lindgren could also potentially make his season debut. The 24-year-old has made 17 NHL appearances in his young career, posting a save percentage of .914 and a goals against average of 2.78.
- With their injury-plagued parent club already drawing on their roster depth, the Belleville Senators have re-signed forward Daniel Ciampini to a two-way contract for this season, the team announced. Ottawa could prove to be a team with a fluctuating roster this season in need of AHL reinforcements, so Belleville has proactively added one of their own in Ciampini. The 27-year-old played in 49 games with the junior Senators last season, recording 16 points. The former Union College standout has also scored at a better than a point-per-game clip in the ECHL the past two years, showing some production potential that Belleville hopes spills over into the AHL.
- The Florida Panthers have sent defenseman Jacob MacDonald to the AHL, the team announced. MacDonald will head to the Springfield Thunderbirds, somewhat of a return for a player who briefly played for the former Springfield Falcons back in 2015-16. The MacDonald experiment always seemed to have an expiration date with the Panthers having several injured defensemen on the mend, but MacDonald did score on his first (and only) NHL shot and performed well in sheltered minutes through two games. However, the team will move on without MacDonald for now, as he looks to continue the success he found at the AHL level last season. In the meantime, KHL import Bogdan Kiselevich has been activated from the injured reserve and will likely take on a regular role in Florida.
The Vancouver Canucks have had an interesting start to the year, with impressive performances from rookie Elias Pettersson but bad losses at the hands of the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes. The team has allowed 14 goals in three games, and is busy shaking up their blue line to try to find answers. One player that won’t be taken out of the lineup because of his play is Alexander Edler, but there might be a break-up coming down the line anyway. Edler is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, but has made it clear he wants to spend the rest of his career in Vancouver.
Still, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet points out in his latest 31 Thoughts column, Edler would be an attractive rental piece at the trade deadline for a contender. The 32-year old defenseman is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time through the first three games and is coming off his most effective offensive season in some time. Friedman notes that the Tampa Bay Lightning has shown interest in the left-hander before, and that “someone” will again even if he’s determined to return to the Canucks in 2019-20.
- The Montreal Canadiens will face a tough decision in the coming days, as Eric Engels of Sportsnet writes that the team will likely put either Jacob de La Rose or Nikita Scherbak on waivers once the former is back to full health. Both high draft selections, neither player has really found much consistency in the NHL and even their youth can’t get them into the current lineup. Engels believes that both would be prime targets for a waiver claim, given that they still hold some substantial potential. There are obviously other ways out of the roster crunch, but if it does come down to a waiver placement and attempted minor league assignment, the Canadiens could find themselves losing some of their forward depth for nothing in the coming days.
- Ryan Kesler was on the ice at the Anaheim Ducks morning skate, and even took line rushes between Andrew Cogliano and Kiefer Sherwood according to Josh Cooper of The Athletic. The veteran forward was not expected to return so soon, and head coach Randy Carlyle wouldn’t even confirm that he’ll be in the lineup tonight against the Arizona Coyotes. If he is back to health it’s at the perfect time as the Ducks are without Ryan Getzlaf and are struggling to find much offense up front. An expected Stanley Cup contender, the Ducks have been ravaged by injuries early and could use some good news on that front.
Derek Grant of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Matt Taormina of the Calgary Flames have been placed on waivers today according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. New York Islanders forward Jan Kovar has also been placed on the unconditional variety in order to terminate his contract.
While Grant and Taormina are both interesting options, the focus today will be on Kovar whose NHL career will end before it even starts. The Islanders signed Kovar out of the KHL for $2MM this past offseason, but cut him near the end of training camp and tried to send him to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. Kovar didn’t report to the minor league club and will likely head back overseas as soon as his contract is terminated. The 28-year old forward will give up his entire contract, and the Islanders will not have to carry any penalty against the salary cap.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen a KHL player fail to crack an NHL squad, as just last season the Vegas Golden Knights went through a similar situation with Vadim Shipachyov. While they had to deal with a multi-year contract termination, Kovar at least was only signed to a one-year deal and isn’t giving up a huge amount. In fact, he’ll likely sign a more lucrative contract in the KHL if he returns, given his success there through five seasons.
Grant could be a target for various teams around the league, as he’s coming off a season where he scored a career-high 24 points in 66 games. Though that was partially due to the fact he was forced into an increased role while the Anaheim Ducks dealt with injury woes, he’s been a strong scoring threat at the minor league level for some time. Clearly not fitting into the Penguins plans right now, Grant is only on a one-year deal at the league minimum and could provide some forward depth to desperate teams.
Just like their professional and junior counterparts, the college hockey season is underway. With each passing year, the NCAA’s influence on the world of hockey grows. The NHL boasts more than a few top rookies fresh out of the college ranks this season and those still in school in 2018-19 will soon join them. This year’s crop of talent is sticking with the trend, with several players in need of watching:
The Recent Draft Picks
D Quinn Hughes, Michigan (VAN): Hughes very nearly signed his first pro contract with the Vancouver Canucks this summer before deciding to return to Michigan. The seventh overall pick back in June, Hughes was the second defenseman off the board behind top pick Rasmus Dahlin, and many even saw No. 7 as being a steal for Vancouver. An electric skater who can’t help but draw the eyes of spectators as he moves effortlessly around the ice, Hughes pairs his skating ability with the vision and positioning that makes him a threat in all three zones. Hughes also has an NCAA season under his belt already and should be even more prepared to dominate opponents this season. Hughes is a complete two-way defenseman and the centerpiece of a Wolverines team that was a Frozen Four finalist last year. Hughes himself could be eyeing the Hobey Baker Award this season. Michigan almost had Hughes’ younger brother and presumptive top 2019 pick Jack Hughes joining them this season, before he decided to stick with the U.S. National Development Program for another year before almost certainly turning pro.
F Oliver Wahlstrom, Boston College (NYI): Perhaps the most gifted goal scorer of the 2018 draft class, Wahlstrom was a late addition to BC’s freshman class, changing his commitment from Harvard, and the Eagles could not be happier. Wahlstrom is a rare combination of both high-end skill and hard-nosed play who dominated with the U.S. National Development Program last year. The right winger has had the attention of scouts for his puck-handling ability since he was nine years old, but as he’s grown up he has also filled out his frame and added a menacing physical element to his game. Wahlstrom can skate and possess the puck as well as anyone, but is even more of a threat as the go-to shooter, which he will be skating with a roster of play-makers up front for BC. Wahlstrom could be the next big NHL power forward and may very well be one-and-done in the NCAA if he continues to score at a torrid pace this year and force the hand of the rebuilding New York Islanders, who selected him with the eleventh pick this past year.
F Joel Farabee, Boston Univ. (PHI): Wahlstrom’s teammate with the U.S. National Development program last season, Farabee was the one feeding Wahlstrom most of the time with 43 assists to his linemate’s 48 goals. Farabee is now a cross-town rival of Wahlstrom’s as he joins the uber-talented BU Terriers. Farabee is a threatening presence in the offensive zone, but is even more dangerous due to his two-way ability. An extremely intelligent winger who is beyond his years in terms of decision-making and positioning, Farabee is as responsible a freshman forward as you can find in the NCAA. He may not light up the score sheet right away this year, but will no doubt make a difference for the title-chasing Terriers. Farabee’s style bodes well for an NHL career in Philadelphia, after the Flyers used the No. 14 pick on him in June.
F Jay O’Brien, Providence (PHI): Some considered it a reach when the Flyers used their second first-round pick on O’Brien, another college-bound forward and one who was coming from the prep school ranks with Thayer Academy. However, the 19th overall pick more than earned his draft slot after scoring 80 points in 30 games while also displaying an impressive two-way game. O’Brien now bring his talents to Providence, a program that lost their top two scorers from last season and are looking for their next star forward. O’Brien could emerge as both the top scoring threat and dependable defensive forward for the Friars in his first collegiate season. O’Brien is also ready to take on Hockey East competition with a gritty games that all Philly and Providence fans will appreciate.
The Soon-To-Be NHLers
D Cale Makar, UMass (COL): Few will argue that Makar isn’t the best prospect in the NCAA, if not the best drafted player not playing in the NHL. The smooth-skating defenseman was the fourth overall pick in 2017 by the Colorado and would be skating on the Avs’ top pair right now if he had not committed himself to Amherst and to entering the pros as well-rounded as possible. Makar possesses elite puck-handling skills and vision and can out-skate almost anyone in the college ranks. Makar should improve upon his 21 points in an up-and-down freshman campaign and could flirt with point-per-game production from the blue line. The newly-named UMass captain, along with talented fellow defenseman Mario Ferraro (SJS) and top forward John Leonard (SJ) have the Minutemen thinking NCAA Tournament for the first time in years, while Makar could easily be a Hobey Baker candidate.
G Jake Oettinger, Boston Univ. (DAL): Oettinger nearly turned pro this off-season, but returns to BU with his sights set on backstopping the team to a national championship. A first-round pick at No. 26 in 2017, Oettinger was selected by the Dallas Stars with the expectations that he would be the heir apparent in net. Even with the emergence of Colton Point, the Dallas job is still there for the taking. The team’s veteran duo of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin won’t be around forever and Oettinger could conceivably compete for starts as early as 2020. Expect the big goaltender to put up stellar numbers behind a deep Terrier defense this season before joining the pro ranks next year.
F Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud (MTL): Poehling was drafted for his intelligent, professional, two-way style and Montreal hoped he would develop into a capable bottom-six center. However, they have to be pleased with the improvement in his offense, after he registered 31 points in 36 games for a St. Cloud team that was top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Poehling lacks the high-end skill of other first-round prospects, but the 2017 No. 25 pick makes up for his skating and hands with positioning and composure. Poehling should again improve this season while maintaining his elite defensive play and could be in the running for the Hobey Baker Award, especially if the Huskies are dominant yet again. The Canadiens prospect should then compete for a roster spot right away next season.
The Trade Return
F Josh Norris, Michigan (OTT): The recent centerpiece prospect of the Erik Karlsson trade, a lot of eyes in Ottawa will be on the performance of Norris this season. The entire top line of the Michigan Wolverines’ Final Four roster has moved on to the pros, leaving Norris as the team’s top center. The No. 19 pick in 2017 by the San Jose Sharks, Norris is a freak athlete who can hold his own against anyone in the NCAA. The Senators’ new addition also has a deceptively quick release on his shot and is deadly accurate with both passing and shooting. Norris simply needs to embrace his role for Michigan, both carrying the puck and shooting more often. Some more experience, specifically as the team’s top scoring option, should go a long way for the promising center’s development.
F Shane Bowers, Boston Univ. (COL): Of course, who can forget the top center prospect that Ottawa recently traded away themselves. Bowers, part of the regrettable package that the Senators sent to the Colorado Avalanche for Matt Duchene, is set to be the go-to guy up front for BU this season. Bowers’ 32 points in 40 games last season ranked third last season for the Terriers, but with Jordan Greenway and Brady Tkachuk now gone, Bowers should be the top option and could be a dark horse Hobey Baker candidate on a talented BU team that should provide plenty of scoring chances. Bowers is quick-thinking and quick-skating offensive presence who is especially dangerous on the power play and works the puck down low perhaps better than anyone in the college ranks. A breakout campaign for Bowers should give the 2017 No. 28 pick an opportunity to compete for a spot among the Avs’ young forward corps next year.
D Adam Fox, Harvard (CAR): Fox, entering his junior year with the Harvard Crimson, has already seen his NHL rights traded. Fox had allegedly expressed a resistance to signing with the Calgary Flames, but so far no such sentiment has been associated with his new team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Fox is a mature, intelligent defender who has been a point-per-game player in college and especially excels as a power play quarterback. However, Fox is more than capable on the back end as well. Assuming he is yet again producing a Hobey Baker campaign for Harvard this year, Fox seems like a prime candidate for a late-season contract and brief tryout with the Hurricanes. Carolina’s depth on defense may block him from being a full time NHLer for a few years, but when Fox finally does land that job, he has the complete game to be a dangerous presence on any blue line.
The Top Prospect
D Ben Brinkman, Minnesota: If there is one thing that the 2018-19 NCAA class lacks, it is many standout draft-eligible prospects. Brinkman alone is a candidate for early selection next June, but the Minnesota native is a surefire first-rounder. The Gophers have rarely given a true freshman defenseman the role and minutes expected of Brinkman this season, but the teen blue liner is a special talent. A smooth skater who excels with the puck on his stick, it will be no surprise to see Brinkman frequently carry the puck up and start the rush for Minnesota and he should see ample power play time as well. Brinkman is no slouch in his own zone either, as he plays a competent game that allowed him to shut down high school competition. The adjustment to the college level will come with some lumps for the young defenseman, but Brinkman should emerge from this season as a bona fide NHL prospect.
With the NHL season now just underway, we continue our look at what each team has done this summer and what to watch for in the year to come. Next up is a look at the Calgary Flames.
Last Season: 37-35-10 record (84 points), fifth in the Pacific Division (missed the playoffs)
Remaining Cap Space: $1.35MM per CapFriendly
Key Subtractions: D Matt Bartkowski (free agent, Minnesota), F Troy Brouwer (buyout, Florida), F Micheal Ferland (trade with Calgary), F Tanner Glass (free agent, Bordeaux, Ligue Magnus), D Dougie Hamilton (trade with Calgary), D Brett Kulak (trade with Montreal), F Jaromir Jagr (free agent, Rytiri Kladno, Czech Republic), F Nick Shore (free agent, unsigned), F Matt Stajan (free agent, EHC Munchen, DEL), F Chris Stewart (free agent, retired after signing in the Czech Republic), F Kris Versteeg (free agent, Avangard Omsk, KHL)
[Related: Flames Depth Chart From Roster Resource]
Player To Watch: D Mark Giordano – The 35-year-old has been a workhorse on Calgary’s back end for the better part of a decade. However, he has shown some signs of slowing down which likely played a role in their decision to acquire Hanifin, sacrificing one of their better right-shot defenders in Hamilton in the process.
With Hanifin now in the picture as well as T.J. Brodie, the Flames now have three legitimate top-four defenders that are natural lefties, not to mention youngster Juuso Valimaki who impressed in training camp. With that in mind, it’s going to be worth watching to see if Calgary tries to scale back Giordano’s ice time after he averaged nearly 25 minutes of playing time per night. They certainly have the depth to back down his playing time and with four years left on his contract (including this one), thinking long-term would be a wise strategy.
With Hanifin in the fold and locked up long-term, there will be a changing of the guard on that top pairing at some point. How quickly will it come or will Giordano be anchoring the top pairing for a while yet?
Key Storyline: Goaltending in Calgary has been a question mark since the days of Miikka Kiprusoff. Veterans like Brian Elliott and Jonas Hiller had some good moments but Mike Smith was viewed as an improvement when they brought him in a year ago. However, he also wasn’t able to get the job done and his injury late last season was quite damaging to their playoff hopes.
Between Smith, 36, and David Rittich, who has just 22 games of NHL experience, there are still legitimate questions about their goaltending situation, both in the short-term and long-term. Can Smith stay healthy and give them decent netminding throughout the full season? Can Rittich or Jon Gillies pick up the slack if Smith falters or gets injured and is one of them going to be able to take on the number one job in the next year or two?
Given those questions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Calgary monitoring the trade market for goalies throughout the season. If a controllable starter happens to become available or even a more proven option as a backup, the Flames will probably find themselves in the mix before too long. If not, they’ll be a team to watch in free agency next summer.
Overall Outlook: With the additions of Neal and Lindholm, Calgary’s offense should be a lot better than the group that placed 26th in the league in goals scored last season. That alone should pick them up a few more wins and if Smith avoids the late-season injury this time around, they’re certainly going to be in the mix for a Wild Card spot in what has quickly become a very tight Pacific Division.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Flames forward Sam Bennett was on the fourth line to start the season which has already fueled some speculation that he could become a trade candidate fairly quickly. However, despite his struggles the last couple of years and limited role to start the season, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested in an appearance on Sportsnet 960 (audio link) that Calgary’s asking price for the 22-year-old would be quite high given his age (22) and draft pedigree as fourth-overall pick in 2014. Bennett is in the final year of his deal that carries a $1.95MM cap hit which makes him a non-tender candidate in the summer if he doesn’t improve. Accordingly, it will be interesting to see if GM Brad Treliving will eventually lower the price or decide to move him for a player in a similar situation.
- Still with Calgary, the Flames announced that they have recalled winger Anthony Peluso from Stockton of the AHL. The 29-year-old is in his first season with them after spending last season in Washington’s organization. Peluso is best known for his pugilistic skills and has 213 penalty minutes in 144 NHL games with another 416 in 240 AHL contests. He’s not expected to play tonight against Vancouver.
When the Calgary Flames recalled Rasmus Andersson yesterday, it was an indication that defenseman Travis Hamonic’s facial fracture, suffered in the team’s opener, was going to cause him to miss some time. However, the team has now officially announced that Hamonic has been placed on injured reserve. The team has labeled his status as week-to-week with no specific timeline for a return. Hamonic suffered the blow in a first period fight with the Vancouver Canucks’ Erik Gudbranson and was forced to leave the contest early. Hamonic has been sidelined frequently in his career, with his 74 games for Calgary last season actually setting a new career-high. Hamonic missed eight games for the Flames in his first season with the team, but spread throughout the season and not more than four at a time. The Flames would be fortunate if this injury only costs Hamonic four games. In the meantime, Andersson, fellow rookie Juuso Valimaki, and veteran depth defender Dalton Prout will be asked to pick up the slack in Hamonic’s absence.
- The rival Edmonton Oilers are getting one of their top defensemen back from injury, as the team announced that Kris Russell has been activated from the injured reserve. Russell’s injury was never disclosed by the team, nor was a timeline given, making his activation both a surprise and not a surprise at all. Russell traveled with the team to Europe and returns in time for the Oilers’ season opener against the New Jersey Devils in Sweden. Russell will skate with rookie and 2018 first-round pick Evan Bouchard, as he makes his NHL debut. In a corresponding move, Edmonton has returned young puck-moving blue liner Ethan Bear to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Bear has been established as the next man up on defense, so if Bouchard’s early action does not impress and he is returned to junior, expect a prompt recall for Bear.
- The New York Islanders are keeping defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and forward Stephen Gionta with the team on extended PTO’s, notes Newsday’s Andrew Gross. Both veterans played for the Islanders last season and are familiar with the roster and seem willing to hang around in case an opportunity to officially return arises. Per Gross, head coach Barry Trotz called the pair “long-term insurance”. Seidenberg and Gionta will participate in practice and wait to see how the early season unfolds for the Isles, both in health and performance. Neither veteran has much of a ceiling at this point in their career, but are experienced, serviceable, hard-working pros who could step in if needed and provided some immediate support.
It’s been a tough career so far for Curtis Lazar, who today was assigned to the minor leagues and will report to the Stockton Heat of the AHL. The Calgary Flames forward has admitted this offseason that he’s willing to go down and rebuild his game, and he’ll get the chance to play a lot in the minor leagues as he tries to find something to send him back in the right direction. The 2013 17th-overall pick wore out his welcome with the Ottawa Senators in 2016-17 and was traded to the Flames for a second round pick, but still failed to produce much offense last season and finished with just two goals in 65 games. Lazar cleared waivers on Monday, and now faces the tough task of rebuilding his stock before being forgotten as a washed up top prospect.
There is so obviously plenty of talent in Lazar, but the 23-year old has never been able to establish himself at the NHL level. Caught somewhere between a checker and a scoring threat, his role led to fewer than 10 minutes a night last season for Calgary. In Stockton he should be given every chance to perform at a high level, likely including some time on the powerplay and a regular shift among the team’s best forwards. If that can spark something in him and get him back on the right track the Flames might still have an NHL player on their hands, but with a $950K one-way cap hit he’ll have to really prove it before being recalled for any length of time.
The toughest hurdle for Lazar may be that the Flames have several other young players who’ve already made a bigger impact in their short careers. Mark Jankowski staked a claim to a full-time role last season and now Dillon Dube looks to be doing the same in the early going. Lazar, who was a big time offensive weapon for the Edmonton Oil Kings in junior, is at risk of being left behind and going unqualified next summer. As an arbitration eligible forward coming off a $1.05MM salary, the Flames may decide to just move on from him if there isn’t a quick turnaround.