The Calgary Flames have signed their first-round pick from the recent draft, inking Juuso Valimaki to a three-year entry-level contract. The salary and bonus structure has not been released, but you can bet he’ll come in at the maximum $925K with some Schedule A perfomance bonuses.
Valimaki was selected 16th-overall last month after an outstanding season with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. The Finnish defenseman put up 61 points in 60 games, while also suiting up for his country at the World Junior Championships (where he registered two points). The 6’2″ 212-lbs defender may not have the offensive upside that his point totals suggest, but would rank close to any other defender in the draft in terms of two-way consistency. Those who critiqued Timothy Liljegren—who went just after Valimaki to the Toronto Maple Leafs—for his poor decision making skills could never say the same about the newest Flames prospect, as Valimaki is hardly ever caught out of position or turning the puck over.
While he still has some developing to do if he wants to be the two-way rock the Flames are hoping for, they can afford to wait with the group they already have in the NHL. Valimaki can be brought along slowly and eventually replace some of the minutes Mark Giordano will be ready to give up as he heads into his mid-thirties. As Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet points out, Valimaki’s entry-level contract will likely slide until the 2019-20 season unless he’s brought up sooner than that for more than nine games. If he does pan out as an NHL defender, his entry-level deal would end just as Giordano’s current deal is coming off the books.