The culling of the Flames’ training camp roster continues, if only bit by bit.
The Flames made nine cuts yesterday, including sending down two blueliners, Ryan Culkin and Oliver Kylington, and releasing two others, Colby Robak and Mikhail Grigoriev, from their professional tryouts.
That left them with 11 defencemen remaining, including someone who wasn’t initially on the radar quite as much, but had some decent preseason showings: Kenney Morrison.
He got an extra day up with the Flames, but now, he’s been assigned to the Stockton Heat.
The Flames have 10 defencemen left at camp:
- #3 Jyrki Jokipakka
- #5 Mark Giordano
- #6 Dennis Wideman
- #7 T.J. Brodie
- #8 Nicklas Grossmann [PTO]
- #15 Ladislav Smid (injured)
- #26 Tyler Wotherspoon
- #27 Dougie Hamilton
- #29 Deryk Engelland
- #61 Brett Kulak
We know six of them are for sure in (barring a trade, injury, or some other kind of catastrophe), and Ladislav Smid counts initially, but soon won’t as he’ll be spending the entire season on the long-term injured reserve.
That means there are one or two spots left to earn on the blueline, depending on whether the Flames want to carry seven or eight defencemen, and they’ll likely be going to any of these three guys: Nicklas Grossmann, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Brett Kulak.
Grossmann, 31, is the only remaining PTO defender at camp. He hasn’t had much success in the NHL as of late, but has apparently done enough this preseason to warrant a longer look in Glen Gulutzan’s eyes – that, or the Flames just want to make use of an extra veteran body for as long as they can.
In all fairness, though, the job should be for Wotherspoon and Kulak. Both players have come up through the Flames’ minor system, and the organization needs to show that spots in the lineup can be earned by more than just forwards. Their skill sets differ slightly, but both look ready enough to take on a spot in an NHL lineup.
And it’s hard to not only see Grossmann outplaying both of them, but even coming much cheaper. Wotherspoon’s cap hit would only be $625,000 on his one-year, “show me” deal (and not only was he one of the very few restricted free agents the Flames decided to retain, but it would be hard for him to show anybody if he continued to get the shaft, as he did under Bob Hartley), while Kulak comes in at just $656,666.
They’re cheap, they’re homegrown, and they’ve already put up better results than some so-called established NHLers. This even encroaches on the rumours surrounding Kris Russell, and as the days pass and Jakub Nakladal remains unsigned, maybe even him, too. If the kids look like they’re ready, then it’s time to give them a shot.
Morrison had a really good run, and his longer stay at camp – even if it was just for a day – hints at hope for a strong season from him. He only scored 13 points in 44 games for the Heat last year as a rookie; then again, that put him fourth in defencemen scoring on the team. This is a contract year for him, so he’s going to need to prove he deserves to be re-signed – and maybe getting that extra day in camp gives him that extra little bit of confidence.