The Calgary Flames made a minor trade on Tuesday night addressing an organizational need. The club send minor league winger Morgan Klimchuk to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for minor league defenseman Andrew Nielsen.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 28, 2018
The 22-year-old Nielsen is a big-bodied, left-shot defender previously with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He’s in his third pro season and has been a perfectly acceptable depth defender on the farm for the Leafs, able to step in physically or chip in a few goals here or there as a secondary offensive option – he scored 14 AHL goals as a rookie and followed that up with 143 penalty minutes in his next season. A product of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Nielsen was a third round pick by Toronto in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Due to being a late birthday and signed as an 18-year-old, Nielsen’s entry-level deal slid twice so despite being a third-year pro he’s still got the 2019-20 season left on his first contract – his cap hit is just $697,500 this season at the NHL level. He’s waiver exempt for the rest of this season.
The last remaining piece of the Jarome Iginla trade, the 23-year-old Klimchuk just never quite locked onto an NHL job despite being a pretty damn reliable minor leaguer for the Flames. A first round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft – selected with the pick the Flames got from Pittsburgh for Iginla – he rebounded from a pretty rough first pro season to post back-to-back 19-goal campaigns with the Stockton Heat. He made his NHL debut last season against the Boston Bruins.
Why did the Flames make this trade? Well, they have zero healthy extra defensemen on their NHL roster right now (with Juuso Valimaki and Michael Stone out with injuries) and their call-up options on the farm are Matt Taormina, Rinat Valiev, Josh Healey and Dalton Prout (who’s on a conditioning stint). Adding Nielsen gives them more options and makes them deeper on their AHL blueline.
Meanwhile, they give up a two-way winger who was lost in the shuffle with the likes of Andrew Mangiapane, Alan Quine, Kerby Rychel and Tyler Graovac taking the lead offensively for Stockton. Klimchuk probably wasn’t going to become an NHL player, so they flip him for a younger asset in a position of need.