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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Flames trade Morgan Klimchuk to Toronto for Andrew Nielsen

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.

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.

  • Getpucksdeep

    Good trade but clearly this is more for Stockton than the Flames. We keep taking defensemen from them, 1st Andersson and for now Kjillington for the time being. Stockton needs the help and who knows, 1-2 years maybe we have another good one. Klimchuk could benefit from the change too. Good luck to him as he was a good soldier.

  • Stu Gotz

    His biggest issue is his skating according to Justin Bourne who covers the Marlies……that’s why he was available. Strictly an organizational need to accommodate the absence of Kylington.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      It’s definitely clear no one in Toronto valued him now (outside of Mark Hunter, who knows a thing or two about young players). Nielsen was a stud with Lethbridge his 19 year old season, he’s deserved more opportunity the last couple of years after watching him in the WHL. Nielsen had one of the better 19 year old seasons in recent memory, at the time I thought he could be a Colton Parayko type of mid-round steal. Worse case he’ll be a serviceable AHLer, which is what Klimchuk will always be.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      Honesty if you were to have redrafted them as 19 year olds, no one in the WHL would have talent Klimchuk over Neilsen. Nielsen shot up at 19-20, Klimchuk has never changed at all since 17-18.

    • SickFloBro

      Imagine it’s 2008… If someone offered to trade you Henrik Zetterberg for Oleg Saprykin, would you have said, “No… Zetterberg is a 7th rounder. We drafted Oleg in the 1st”? No. Draft position only indicates a player’s perceived value at the time of the draft.

  • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

    Big fan of Andrew Neilson. He kind of came out of nowhere his draft year as a rookie with Lethbridge and had a really strong last season in the WHL and first season as a pro before Toronto started to give more offensive ice time to the other young defenders the last two seasons.

    It’s funny, all NHL teams seam to want now is undersize soft mobile defenders, but Andrew Neilson would have already gotten a chance in the NHL if this was four or five years ago, too be honest teams would have been clamouring to get him even two or three years ago. I think he has NHL upside and will certainly be an effective AHLer. His skating is better than I think people give him credit for, he has good range even if his foot speed isn’t super fast off the startup, he makes up for it. Like I said, I think we’ve seen an over correction of NHL Teams only wanting undersized defenders and he’s worth a gamble, as someone who may have been looked over as a result. Klimchuk is what he is, a mediocre middle six AHL. He had so much promise his draft year, but he hasn’t developed one iota.

  • freethe flames

    During the preseason the Flames had a number of NHL tweeners in camp that they could have signed but decided not to; I suspect now they wish they had signed at least one of them. Hopefully Val will be back soon and he uses the time lost to injury to view the NHL game more; watching from the press box will not hurt his development.

  • Fat Tony

    I didn’t know what to think of this at first given where these two guys were drafted, but after reading up on Neilson a bit I can’t help but think that this is a good trade for the Flames. He’s younger, big bodied, and can have some offensive upside to his game with room for improvement.
    This leads me to think about a two things. Valimaki is going to be out longer than expected, which is fine because we all want to see what kylington really is don’t we?
    The other thing is that one of our guys in Stockton is taking his place, moving up in the lineup and getting more minutes, Maybe Phillips?
    Nevertheless, I believe this is a good move by BT and it almost feels like Shanahan did us a favor.

    • Cfan in Van

      We weren’t in a great position to have Feaster handle that transition from the Iginla era. Gotta wonder how a more competent GM would have handled that…

    • Fat Tony

      The problem with that is they let Iginla dictate his own trade. Guys like Tory Krug were on the table in the proposed Boston deal and Iggy wanted to play with Sid so Feaster took a worse deal to please him. I get that everyone respected the hell out of him but the deal that should have been made had him going to the bruins.

        • MDG1600

          Nope – I remember it clearly and it was Iggy and his agent that nixed the Boston deal. The whole situation was dictated Iggy’s no trade clause. I don’t know if Feaster was being a tool or if the NTC essentially gave Iggys camp all the power. Regardless, it was a terrible deal for the team and a ridiculously great deal for Iggy to basically make his own trade. It is sad that in the end Calgary got SFA for such a great player who still had a few 30 goal campaigns left in him.

      • CalgaryBornandRaised

        Agreed, there were rumours out there we could have had Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and a draft pick at the time from Detroit, I feel Feaster did Feaster things and really screwed up….

  • buts

    Klimchuk plateaued at 18. It happens and with most forwards you know what you have by 22 -23 years of age. That’s why Czarnik was and is a big risky gamble. Defensemen usually show what they have a little older around 24-25 so this was a great trade.