Why Juuso Valimaki could play in the AHL next season (but probably won’t)

The Calgary Flames officially unveiled the two newest members of their National Hockey League roster on Monday afternoon, with Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith getting new numbers and holding court with local media. However, Flames general manager Brad Treliving dropped an interesting bit of knowledge about another new member of the Flames organization – via Kristen Odland’s fantastic Twitter feed.

This might cause a bit of confusion, so allow us to explain.

Under the terms of the NHL’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League, players drafted from one of the CHL’s member leagues – the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – aren’t able to join the American Hockey League until they’re 20. The idea is that the junior leagues get to keep their stars. So when Valimaki was drafted from a WHL team, the presumption was that he’d be in Tri-City for at least another year.

But there are two ways that players join CHL teams: they sign directly or they’re loaned. Valimaki joined Tri-City through the 2015 Import Draft, being selected from Ilves (his Finnish junior team). The presumption was that he was signed directly, but Treliving’s comments suggest that Valimaki was actually loaned to Tri-City by Ilves – he wouldn’t be able to play in the AHL otherwise. If a player is CHL property when they’re drafted they’re subject to the NHL/CHL agreement, but if they’re on loan they’re not.

It’s a minor detail, and really all it determines is who gets the development bonus from the Flames when Valimaki eventually signs his entry-level deal. If it sounds familiar, it’s because something similar happened with Dallas Stars pick Julius Honka after his draft year; it was determined that he was loaned by his Finnish parent team to the Swift Current Broncos, so the Stars took advantage of the loophole and moved Honka to the AHL.

That said, don’t expect Valimaki to jump to the AHL next year. He was Tri-City’s second-best defender last year, and Parker Wotherspoon is going pro so the expectation will be the entire Americans’ offense from the backend will go through Valimaki. He’s going to be a centerpiece of the team and he’ll have the opportunity to further develop his defensive game – and he’ll need to be confident in his defensive game if he’s going to be able to be a good pro. (Plus, Treliving’s apparent preference is for him to stay in junior.)

  • Jobu

    We have a top 4 D for the next 3 years. And another 4 quality D prospects (Andersson, Kulak, Kylington, Fox) to file into the lineup over that same time frame. Unless he blows your socks off at camp, play him in the W for another year, and the A for another 2.

  • ALowry

    AGreed. We have e luxury or having plenty of great prospects in front of him. Should be fun to see how well he does for the Americans this year. Can’t wait to see him at dev/training camp