Another day, another RFA down. The Calgary Flames have signed Adam Ruzicka to a two-year contract. The deal will be a two-way contract in 2022-23, one-way in 2023-24, and carries a cap hit of $762.5K.
Ruzicka, 23, made it to the NHL as a part-time player last season, suiting up 28 times and scoring ten points. The fourth-round pick has been impressive in the minor leagues and comes with the size and strength that can make him a valuable part of the Darryl Sutter system. With the ability to play center or the wing, he could immediately find a spot with this Calgary team, filling out the bottom-six with some extra scoring ability.
In fact, should he fail to find a spot with the Flames in training camp, Ruzicka would be a prime candidate to be snatched off of waivers. Sending him back to the minor leagues would risk him to the rest of the league, meaning at worst he probably becomes the team’s 13th forward to start.
With Cody Eakin and Sonny Milano in camp on professional tryouts, however, that isn’t guaranteed, meaning he’ll have to perform up to standards in the preseason. The Flames will have a different look to their forward group this year without Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, or Sean Monahan, but it’s not like those spots are up for grabs.
For the young Ruzicka, a two-year deal at the league minimum provides some stability and actually represents the best way to get into the lineup. With the Flames right up close to the salary cap ceiling, they usually can’t afford to carry expensive extras. Being the cheapest player on the roster has some advantages, and if Ruzicka can establish himself as a full-time player, a bigger deal awaits in restricted free agency two years from now. Of course, if he fails to do so, he could qualify for Group VI unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024 instead.