The Calgary Flames have had the most entertaining offseason to date, losing two of the best forwards in the NHL before gaining three very impactful players. Though it seems like free agency and trades have slowed down a lot for every team, there are still a couple of things to attend to before the Flames are ready to go into training camp.
The first order of business is to sign skilled young forward Adam Ruzicka. The second, and more importantly I believe, is to figure out which defencemen the team is going to trade before they lose one to waivers for nothing. The Flames may still want to look at upgrading the wing to bring in a top-six forward, so using one or two of their extra defenders to do it would be the play rather than shipping off Milan Lucic. Let’s dive into the details of the remaining moves that need to be made.
Sign Adam Ruzicka, the Flames’ Last Remaining RFA
The Flames have one last signing to get to after Brad Treliving locked in the rest of his restricted free agents and Jonathan Huberdeau in short order. This would be Ruzicka, who is more than ready to take the next step and become a full-time NHLer.
Ruzicka has spent most of the past three seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) developing very nicely. In 2020-21 he got his first taste of NHL action where he recorded an assist in three games. It wasn’t until last season that he really got his shot and played in 28 games after lighting up the AHL with 11 goals and 20 points in 16 games. In those 28 NHL games the young forward got into, he scored five goals and 10 points.
The Flames will likely find common ground on a contract worth about $1 million per season for one or two years. The only place for Ruzicka right now in the lineup would be on the fourth line, as he is a centreman that can also play the wing. That puts him in contention with newly signed Kevin Rooney and veteran Trevor Lewis. Ruzicka would have been much more productive offensively if he had played as many games as the other two and is a good depth piece moving forward for the Flames. For his benefit, he will need to be signed before training camp so that he doesn’t miss any valuable time and lose a spot on the team.
Trade Valimaki or Kylington Before Training Camp
At least one defenceman has to be moved by the Flames soon. The only three who should be absolutely safe are Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, and MacKenzie Weegar. Other than those players, Treliving should be open to the possibility of moving any other defenceman before next season.
The most likely of the group of 10 defencemen on one-way contracts are Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington. Valimaki has struggled to stay in the NHL these past couple of seasons and time is running out for him. At best, he will be the Flames’ seventh defenceman and that’s not ideal for him.
As for Kylington, he was signed to a two-year, $5 million deal this offseason after a breakout campaign in 2021-22. With how deep the defensive group is, it is likely he won’t even see top-four minutes consistently this season. With the talent he possesses, the Flames could use him as a chip to upgrade at forward. I don’t believe his trade value will be higher than it is right now, considering the stellar season he had and the more limited time he will get this coming season.
Nicolas Meloche seems like the perfect seventh defenceman for the Flames this season and the team should want to hold onto Connor Mackey after turning him into the defender he is today. Maybe there will be a spot on the team within the next year for him, but the bottom line is that it’s a waste to lose or let some of the younger defencemen stew in the minors this season instead of moving them for assets.
Keep Milan Lucic
I just wrote about the decision the Flames have to either keep or trade Lucic before the final year of his deal. Considering the Flames have gone this deep into his contract and found a place for him in the lineup, it’s no use to lose an asset to get rid of him now. He fits right into his role as a bottom-six checker and is a player Darryl Sutter likes to have at his disposal.
Lucic will be needed for the playoffs with the hard game he plays. Though he may not be the fastest on his feet, he is in a fourth-line role and is out there to be physical and play tough around the net. Every team needs at least one player like this, it’s just not the most ideal situation that he makes $5.25 million. Keeping Lucic shows the commitment to him and the possibility that he will sign back for much cheaper on his next deal.
In keeping Lucic, the lineup isn’t going to see any drastic improvements. The team is already very good from top to bottom, and trading the extra defenders will open up a bit of space if the Flames do intend on bolstering the wing a bit more in the future.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.