As we continue to get through summer, and inch closer to training camps, many players are still without contracts for the 2021-22 season. Given that it is now September, it is safe to say that these individuals’ futures as NHL players are in serious jeopardy, as plenty of teams have their rosters in place and will not be making any changes.
One team that could still entertain a few changes is the Calgary Flames. Many were and are still hoping for a big change to the roster, though the chances of that appear slim to none at this point. With that being said, there are still some minor tweaks they could make, as they could use another defenceman, or perhaps entertain the idea of adding a fourth line forward to the mix, likely one that plays either the right wing or center ice position.
The luxury that general manager Brad Treliving has here is that the remaining players on the market are desperate at this time, meaning he doesn’t have to give them contracts to bring them in. Instead, he could choose to sign one, or multiple, to professional tryout offers (PTOs) and watch them closely in camp to see if they are deserving of a contract. This happened last year with a player still on their active roster in Brett Ritchie, who was originally brought in on a PTO but signed a one-year deal shortly later, and was then given a one-year extension this summer. If the Flames do decide to sign any players to PTOs ahead of this year’s training camp, here are 3 they should consider.
One player remaining on the free agent market who the Flames are very familiar with is Michael Stone. The 31-year-old blueliner was brought into camp last season on a PTO and like Ritchie made the most of it, signing a one-year deal shortly after. He has played in Calgary since he was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes in 2016-17, and while he has never been a difference maker, he has performed reasonably well in a tough role that often sees him in and out of the lineup.
In 21 games with the Flames last season, Stone scored two goals and four points while logging a minus-1. Though it took him some time to make his season debut in 2020-21, he was used quite regularly down the stretch of the season, and appeared to have the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter.
As of now, the Flames have six NHL defencemen under contract in Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington, as well as a depth option in Andy Welinski.
Despite being healthy throughout the 2020-21 season, Kylington appeared in just eight games, as he failed to impress Sutter and the rest of the coaching staff. Because of this, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Flames add another defenceman to the mix as insurance, and Stone would make plenty of sense given the familiarity between him and the organization.
There are few players in the NHL who have seen their value plummet as quickly as Sami Vatanen’s. The now 30-year-old was once viewed as one of games bright upcoming stars from the back end, but injuries have derailed what was once a very promising career.
In 2020-21, Vatanen started the year with the New Jersey Devils, whom he scored two goals and six points in 30 games with. He was placed on waivers ahead of the trade deadline and got scooped up by the Dallas Stars. In just nine games with the Stars he was held off the scoresheet.
One of the biggest issues with Vatanen at this point in his career is his foot speed, however his talent level is still evident to anyone who watches him play. While he hasn’t produced offensively in recent years, he was great on the power play during his years with the Anaheim Ducks and could be of use to the Flames in that role given the loss of Mark Giordano. It may be worth giving him a look in camp to see what he can still bring to the table offensively.
Another familiar face the Flames should consider bringing to camp on a PTO is Alex Chiasson. The 30-year-old spent the 2016-17 season in Calgary, scoring 12 goals and 24 points. He would bring winning experience to the locker room as he was a part of the Washington Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup Championship, and has also been able to improve his offensive game in recent years with the Edmonton Oilers.
In 45 games with the Oilers in 2020-21, Chiasson scored nine goals and 16 points. He had a career year in 2018-19 in which he scored 22 goals and 38 points, albeit those numbers came while spending plenty of time playing on a line with Connor McDavid. Still, he provided some valuable secondary scoring in Edmonton during his three seasons with the team and is good around the net on the power play, an asset that is valuable to any NHL team.
As of now, Ritchie is penciled in to be the Flames fourth line right winger. While he was able to impress the coaching staff last season, he remains a fringe NHLer, and is a guy who could find himself in and out of the lineup in 2021-22. If that is the case, having Chiasson as the guy to replace him in certain games makes sense, given that Ritchie plays a more physical game while Chiasson provides more offensively.
Regardless of what this fan base’s perspective is on the three players above, there is no harm in signing them to PTOs. At the very least, it will put other players under contract on notice and get them to perform to their best abilities, which will help the teams success in 2021-22.
There are several other names still on the free agent market who may be of interest too. Players like Jason Demers, Travis Zajac, Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan Donato, or even perhaps goaltender Devan Dubnyk could be players brought in to provide some extra competition in camp. With training camps set to begin in just over two weeks time, it will be interesting to see if Treliving makes any finishing touches to this roster.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.