Flames News & Rumors: Virtanen, Sutter, Huberdeau & More

In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, there have been whispers that general manager Brad Treliving may look to invite Jake Virtanen to training camp on a professional tryout offer (PTO). In other news, Darryl Sutter spoke with the media recently about what went wrong during last year’s second-round playoff series versus the Edmonton Oilers. Meanwhile, his new star forward Jonathan Huberdeau explained why he chose to sign a long-term extension as quickly as he did. And, speaking of PTOs, the Flames signed two players to them in Cody Eakin and Michael Stone.

Flames Interested in Virtanen

As per a report last week from Bob Stauffer, the Flames have expressed interest in Virtanen, who at this time remains an unrestricted free agent. They are reportedly one of several teams who have been rumored to be in on the 26-year-old, with another having previously been the Oilers.

Jake Virtanen Canucks
Jake Virtanen, Vancouver Canucks, Nov. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“I believe that Calgary is another team, and that’s where Virtanen played with the Calgary Hitmen,” Stauffer said. “It could be a Battle of Alberta situation. I know that there [are] some people [who] don’t want Jake Virtanen in the mix here and there [are] others that think Jake Virtanen at a $750,000 price point on a PTO coming in to earn a contract might be worth the investment.”

Virtanen last played in the NHL in 2020-21 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks before having his contract bought out that summer. While his inconsistent play played a big part in the buyout, he also had an ongoing legal issue at the time as he was accused of an alleged sexual assault. He has since been found not guilty, resulting in the reported interest from a number of clubs.

Sutter Speaks on Oilers Series

The entire province of Alberta was abuzz this spring after the Flames and Oilers both advanced in their first-round series, setting up a playoff matchup between the two for the first time in three decades. While both were highly respected teams, most favored the Flames due to their depth and goaltending. Despite that, the Oilers were not only victorious, but did so in a rather convincing fashion, knocking off their provincial rival in just five games. After months of reflection, Sutter spoke with the media about what went wrong.

Related: 4 Flames Who Could Replicate Success in 2022-23

“We didn’t match up that well,” he told reporters. “Once Chris Tanev got hurt, I think our young pair, Noah (Hanifin) and Rasmus (Andersson), that was a lot to take on. Shilly (Oliver Kylington) and Z (Nikita Zadorov) both played with a separated shoulder and broken ribs, Tanny was out…You’re down to the short strokes, and that’s what happens in the playoffs, the further you go.

“The top of your lineup has got to be really healthy – and that’s how good teams win. It wasn’t ‘what went wrong?’ at all. I mean, that’s playoff hockey.”

While the Flames were certainly banged up, the same could be said about the Oilers and, in particular, Leon Draisaitl who, despite a high ankle sprain, racked up an outstanding 15 points in just five games, a feat Sutter gave him props for. Nonetheless, it is clear that the reigning Jack Adams Award winner believes his team would have had a better fate had health been on their side. The good news is that we may very well get to see another Battle of Alberta series in next year’s playoffs, where the two can duke it out once again.

Huberdeau Explains Why He Signed Extension

After the blockbuster trade that saw the Flames send Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt and a 2025 first-round pick, it became evident that Treliving needed to get some extensions worked out in order for the trade to be considered a win. While Weegar remains without one, Huberdeau was inked to a massive eight-year, $84 million deal less than two weeks later. The 29-year-old explained on the 32 Thoughts podcast what made him choose to sign a deal as quickly as he did.

“Brad came to Montreal, and we had a really good talk,” Huberdeau explained. “We didn’t talk contract; it was more to get to know each other. I like his philosophy about where the team is going. I’m coming with a team that we can win right now. So, I like that. And that’s why I wanted to commit to this team and know where I’m going to be for the next [nine] years.”

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While the Flames picked up a ton of talent this offseason, including the free agent acquisition of Nazem Kadri, the player who has intrigued this fanbase the most is Huberdeau. He proved for years with the Panthers how elite of a talent he is offensively and is coming off of a career-high 115-point season. He will definitely be a treat to watch moving forward for Flames fans.

Flames Sign Eakin & Stone to PTOs

Roughly a week ago, the Flames signed Eakin to a PTO and did the same with Stone shortly afterward. These moves are ones that will increase competition in training camp, but could also provide the club with depth for the 2022-23 season if either, or perhaps both, are able to earn deals.

Eakin, 31, spent the past two seasons as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, where he was relied upon as both a penalty killer and faceoff specialist. In 69 games this past season, he registered four goals and 12 points. While his offense won’t wow anybody, he has been able to carve out a 701-game career and would provide the Flames with a great veteran presence.

Stone, 32, has proven to be a reliable depth source for the Flames for a number of years now. He was brought into camp on a PTO last season as well and performed well enough to earn himself a one-year deal. He hasn’t played much at all over the past three seasons, but could prove useful in a depth role once again in 2022-23 should he secure a contract.

Looking Ahead for the Flames

With training camp right around the corner, Flames fans will have plenty to tune into in the coming weeks. One storyline in particular to watch unfold involves Jakob Pelletier, as he appears to have a great shot to earn a spot on the opening night roster. It will also be worth monitoring how both Eakin and Stone perform as they look to earn themselves deals.