3 Potential Calgary Flames Trading Partners for Juuso Valimaki

The 2022 offseason has been a fantastic yet tumultuous one for the Calgary Flames, as they lost two star forwards in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but were able to bring in two separate ones in Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri. One would assume with all the changes that have gone on this summer that general manager Brad Treliving may finally be done and take some time to relax before the season begins, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Related: Tkachuk Unlikely to Live Up to Expectations with Panthers

The Flames are in a bit of an odd position from a contract standpoint, as they currently have 10 defensemen signed to one-way deals. Treliving himself has said he will likely have to move at least one blueliner while emphasizing bringing back some forward depth in return.

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As far as who he will move remains to be seen, but one would assume that Juuso Valimaki is near the top of that list. The 23-year-old was not too long ago considered to be the organization’s top prospect, but injuries combined with frustrating play have led to him becoming an afterthought at this point. Given that he has just 82 career games in the NHL may mean that he wouldn’t command the forward Treliving is hoping to pick up, though, it would free up an additional $1.55 million to add a potential remaining free agent such as Evan Rodrigues. With that said, here are three potential trading partners for the Finnish blueliner.

Seattle Kraken

While they were able to make some significant improvements up front this offseason, the Seattle Kraken’s blue line still has a way to go before they can be considered a playoff team. At this point, Adam Larsson, at least on paper, is their number one defenseman, which is simply not good enough to compete against the league’s top teams.

Juuso Valimaki, Calgary Flames
Juuso Valimaki, Calgary Flames (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In no way am I suggesting that Valimaki could come in and be the Kraken’s new top defenseman, as he has shown during his time with the Flames that he still needs work just to become an everyday NHLer. That said, he may be a better option than Will Borgen on the third pairing and could be relied upon as a seventh defenseman who is shifted in and out of the lineup.

While things haven’t panned out for Valimaki in Calgary, he still has plenty of potential. For a team like the Kraken, who is not expected to be a playoff team this coming year, there is virtually no harm in acquiring him and seeing if he can turn into the player many expected him to be just a few short years ago. The reward outweighs the risk significantly in this scenario.

Anaheim Ducks

Another team that is not expected to get into the playoffs this upcoming season is the Anaheim Ducks. That said, they are on the up and up with several key young pieces, who have the potential to become star players in the NHL in the coming years.

Given their youth, paired with the fact they are still expected to go through some growing pains in 2022-23, makes them a very reasonable option when it comes to acquiring Valimaki. As mentioned when discussing a fit with the Kraken, he is a player who still has plenty of untapped potential and could develop into a top-four NHL defenseman if put in the right situation. On top of that, it is also fair to suggest he may be better than, or at least, in the same category as current Ducks defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and Simon Benoit.

Bringing him in would be very easy for the Ducks to do, as they have nearly $19 million in cap space at the moment. Yes, they will need some of that money at this time next year to sign young players such as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale to extensions, but Valimaki wouldn’t have any impact on that as he has just one season remaining on his contract. If he comes and impresses, you can try and come up with a new contract. If he struggles, you can cut him loose at the end of the season.

Buffalo Sabres

After years and years of struggles, there finally appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the Buffalo Sabres. It will be tough to get into the playoffs this season in a very good Atlantic Division, but they showed growth last season post the Jack Eichel trade and should continue making strides forward in 2022-23 (from ‘Christian Storms: Sabres have seemingly bright future,’ Times Observer, 07/26/22).

As said, however, playoffs are likely not in the cards for them this season, meaning they too have nothing to lose by bringing in Valimaki and seeing how he fares with the change of scenery. They, like both the Kraken and Ducks, have a rather underwhelming blue line at this time, making it worth their while to give Valimaki a shot.

Juuso Valimaki
Juuso Valimaki after being selected 16th overall in 2017(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Shockingly, the Sabres have even more cap space than the Ducks with roughly $19.6 million at their disposal. That obviously gives them plenty of breathing room and would make bringing in Valimaki a complete non-issue from a money perspective. It may serve him well to be able to develop alongside other young defensemen with potential, as well, led by Owen Power, but also including Jacob Bryson, Henri Jokiharju and Mattias Samuelsson.

Valimaki’s Time in Calgary Likely Finished

While it isn’t a guarantee that Valimaki gets traded, it feels extremely likely. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense for Treliving to trade any of the depth defenders he just signed when free agency began in mid-July, and guys like Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, Mackenzie Weegar and Nikita Zadorov aren’t going anywhere.

With how strong of a blue line Treliving has assembled, Valimaki’s chances of making the Flames’ opening night roster out of training camp feels like a long shot. Stranger things have happened, but as of now, he appears to be the odd man out on the back end.