The Calgary Flames have been collecting right-shooting players over the last several months. With the revelation that a highly-touted collegiate defender will be going to free agency, they may be targeting another.
The Flames have recently signed wingers Austin Carrol and Garnet Hathaway, and defenders Kenney Morrison and Jakub Nakladal. Now, there have been reports that another right-handed defender will soon be hitting the free agent market.
Appears #Isles will not be signing D Robbie Russo, 2011 4th rd pick. 2nd team NCAA All-American at Notre Dame this season. Will become FA.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 1, 2015
Russo will hit the free agent market fully on August 15, though it is entirely possible that some team – maybe Calgary – could toss a draft pick at the New York Islanders in order to get a deal done sooner, much like they did with Florida when they acquired Corban Knight. The Islanders would probably love to get something for Russo rather than lose him outright, so potentially a third round pick or maybe somebody from Calgary’s crowded forward prospect ranks could get it done.
To be honest, Russo hits the Flames’ targets in a big way. He’s right-handed. He’s just 22 (he’ll be 23 in February), so he’s incredibly young. He amassed 94 points in 142 games for Notre Dame, including scoring over a point-per-game in his senior year, a season after the Fighting Irish got thrown into the insanity that is Hockey East. Internationally, he captained the Team USA squad that won gold at the 2011 Under-18 World Championship.
Calgary most likely has at least some interest in Russo.
In terms of Russo, the question is how long the line is between him and an NHL spot. He’d likely need a year in Stockton to get adjusted to the professional game. Players likely to spend time in Stockton in 2015-16 include Tyler Wotherspoon, Keegan Kanzig, Patrick Sieloff, Kenney Morrison, Jakub Nakladal, Brett Kulak and Ryan Culkin. But it’s also likely that the Flames will utilize the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL more consistently than they used their ECHL club in previous years, as they own the team and can basically do what they want (subject to ECHL roster rules).
But if you’re Russo, do you look at Calgary’s defensive group and think you can’t make the NHL? Outside of Wotherspoon, it’s basically a crap-shoot. If I’m him, I like my chances.