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Juuso Valimaki’s return could dictate Calgary’s deadline approach

Juuso Valimaki’s imminent return to active duty comes at an interesting time for the Flames. As of this publish date, the trade deadline is exactly five weeks away and multiple reports suggest Calgary is interested in adding a left-shot defender. It’s not overstating it to suggest how Valimaki fares upon his return will determine the type of defenceman the Flames end up targeting.

IN THE IMMEDIACY

I’m anticipating an AHL assignment for Valimaki to coincide with Calgary’s forthcoming eight-day break, which makes sense. Valimaki has missed 27 games with a high ankle sprain sustained Nov. 23 against the Vegas Golden Knights. When he’s cleared to return, the rookie defenceman will have missed roughly two months of action, if not more. Getting Valimaki a few games in Stockton before bringing him back into an NHL lineup gives him a fighting chance to win a spot back.

The Heat play a pair of games while the Flames are on their break (Jan. 25 and 26) and two more right as they come off it (Feb. 1 and 2). If you mix in a few practices with four tune-up games, that’s probably a decent enough stint for Valimaki before returning to Calgary’s lineup. Remember, Valimaki doesn’t have to clear waivers at any point this season, so the Flames can move him freely between the AHL and NHL.

BEST CASE

If Valimaki quickly returns to the level he was at through the first two months of the season, it probably negates Calgary’s need to add a top six defenceman. With Valimaki and Oliver Kylington as left-shot options on the third pair, the Flames could instead focus on a lower impact acquisition, which would theoretically cost less.

Player GP CF% HDCF% OZS%
Juuso Valimaki 22 50.0 47.6 64.1
Oliver Kylington 25 49.7 50.0 62.7

Even in this best case scenario, though, I still think it makes sense for Calgary to think about acquiring another left-shooting defenceman. Valimaki and Kylington are both rookies and have seen mostly sheltered minutes. If either, or both, prove to be in over their head come the playoffs, having another viable depth option would be a huge asset for the Flames.

Let’s also not forget how much of an attrition battle the NHL postseason truly is. Teams suffer injuries, and usually multiple injuries, while on deep playoff runs. Both Washington and Vegas used seven defensemen en route to the Stanley Cup Final last season, while Pittsburgh used eight both years they went all the way. Reliable depth is crucial to go where the Flames want to this spring.

ON THE OTHER HAND…

Let’s say things don’t go according to plan for Valimaki. After all, missing a third of a season and being asked to come back from a serious injury isn’t the easiest thing to do for any player, let alone a 20-year-old in his first NHL season. If Calgary doesn’t feel comfortable with Valimaki in their top six heading down the stretch, it stands to reason they’d be looking for a more impactful player ahead of the deadline.

Trying to determine who fits that bill is a guessing game, at best. Depending on which reports you believe, any one of Jake Muzzin, Alex Edler, Jay Bouwmeester, or Niklas Kronwall could be available, among others. Prices are going to be understandably higher for guys like that, though, which begs the question: how much is too much to pay?

I’d be on board with the Flames giving up reasonable future assets to acquire a bona fide NHL defenceman if the need was there. Knowing the team’s cap situation for next season, however, a rental makes the most sense. As such, I’d suggest a first round pick is probably too high a price, but something from the second round and beyond wouldn’t be crazy.

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
2019 X X NYI X CAR
2020 X X X X X X X
2021 X X X X X X X

A second round pick would obviously have to come from a future draft, but Calgary has their full compliment of picks beyond 2019, so the option does exist.

As for Valimaki’s fate in the event of a significant acquisition, there’s no harm in putting him in the American League for the remainder of the season. He’d still be available come the playoffs when roster limits cease to exist, and by that time Valimaki would have a good chunk of games under his belt in the minors.

The Flames are in a good spot here. Valimaki could theoretically be back in their lineup for early February, which would give the team a few weeks of evaluation time. In the end, Valimaki has the opportunity to make this decision for Calgary, because I truly believe his play will dictate how the team approaches the trade deadline, at least on the blueline.



  • Off the wall

    If you can pick up Muzzin for a future 2nd, that would be ideal.
    A tough, gritty defence man would definitely help out our team come playoffs.

    Just my 2cents..

    • Dr. Gonzo

      Stone SHOULDNT play unless there are multiple injuries. Before his blood clot issues he was to slow of foot, slow of hockey IQ, terrible at a first pass out of the zone, and well, just bad. He is a defenceman of the past. He would have been ideal in the 2003 era.

  • Guest

    The prospect cupboard is bare and almost any depth defenceman at best is a marginal upgrade and at worst is lower than Prout. We are nine deep already with Stone and JV. We need to start preparing the next wave of youth.

    • supra steve

      But…if you think you can contend for the Cup this spring, and you feel you need to add, you pay the piper and move a pick or two for the insurance you feel you need.

      The bare prospect cupboard has a lot to do with all the very good to great young players that are currently with the Flames.

    • cjc

      It depends on who the add is and what is going back the other way – think all options should be explored, and Prout (ATOI: 11:08) and Stone (potentially injured long term) do not cut it.

      A low second round pick has ~25% chance of turning into an NHL regular (https://www.tsn.ca/statistically-speaking-nhl-draft-pick-value-1.786131). A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, as they say. That second rounder probably won’t work out. IF a capable depth defenseman can be had for a second rounder, I am okay with that. It may not even cost that much; it only cost a 3rd to pry Michael Stone out of Arizona at the deadline 2 years ago.

      That said, I also question the assumption that Valimaki/Kylington won’t be okay in the playoffs.

      • super6646

        Remember when we traded for lazar and used that same excuse? Yeah, formington looks good, and lazar is a career ahler now. Plenty of good players in the 2nd round. Since 2015, we’ve got andersson, kylington, dube, and parsons in the 2nd round, so I’d bet on keeping that 2nd rounder instead of trading it for a third pairing guy for 20 games.

      • cjc

        Eh, Prout has played 3 games since Christmas. One was Buffalo (agree he wasn’t bad, but wasn’t noticeable either, wasn’t even credited with a hit). The other was the blowout vs. Arizona (almost 18 minutes, but it’s hard not to look good against Arizona) and just over 8 minutes against Detroit (where he was a +1). He played less than four minutes in two games before Christmas. He has drawn in for 9 games total this season.

        Jensen is interesting. He is averaging over 20 minutes a night, has okay numbers given how bad Detroit has been. You wouldn’t trade for him then have him be the 7D though, and it would mean a righty-righty pairing assuming he pushes Kylington or Valimaki out of the lineup.

  • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

    Oliver Kylington gets better and better every game. I hope he continues to elevate his game and makes this all irrelevant. This is the first year of a 5-6 year competitive window with this core, I don’t think I would spend a first rounder at this point on bringing a big name defenceman back like Muzzin, since we’re really going to need some cheap entry level youth in a couple of seasons when we become more cap crunched.

    On a related note, Juuso Valimaki has battled minor to substantial injuries four years in a row now having followed his game closely in the WHL. For that reason I think he would be best served in the AHL or slowly reintroduced to the NHL.

  • freethe flames

    Start looking around at the UFA depth guys. We are talking about adding a guy who is an extra defenceman. Depth. While Muzzin would be great the cost will be high. I suspect it’s more likely going to be a guy like Folin out of Philly; check out the UFA D and see what will be cheap. Where was Kempney on the depth chart when the playoffs began? If and I mean if Stone is cleared to play he is a depth defender as long as guys are healthy. For those complaining about his quickness let’s remember that playoff hockey is often heavy hockey and that he can add. But I am more concerned about his health than his hockey.

  • TKO

    Rumor mill connecting Mats Zuccarello to interest in Calgary – ya he is over half a point per game, byt does the team really want to add another undersized (5’8″) player to help in the playoffs?

  • everton fc

    If/when Stone gets cleared to play, he’ll need a stint in Stockton, I would think – maybe more so than Valimaki. I wonder if he’d be good bait for the Sens, to get Mark to sign there?

    Alas… Stone isn’t skating w/the team, is he?

  • MDG1600

    The question for me is Stone. If Stone will be available for the playoffs then depth on D of Prout, Stone and Valimaaki/Kylington should be adequate. Also, don’t forget that Hogstrom was supposed to be a depth guy and he has been hurt all year and just started playing last week. I think it will be more valuable to add another forward who can play a physical game in the bottom 6. That said I don’t want to see anything other than a late round pick (or Gillies) being traded away.

  • Chucky

    It would be a good idea to let things develop and not trade away the future. The likelihood of making a playoff run that ends up with a Stanley in Calgary is pretty slim. The whole forward group is improving not slipping and the defensive core is young. This team will continue to improve for three or four more years leave it alone this year.

    • Skylardog

      Disagree. There has not been a better chance of the Cup ending up in Calgary for almost 3 decades. Byng’s contract will put any future chance at risk. It is not this year or bust, but injuries and cap make a cup more likely this year than any of the next 5. Just an older Gio, makes next year a lessor chance.

      • Albertabeef

        We have just as much chance as any of the other 16 teams that make the playoffs. Anything is possible once you make the playoffs. Did we not learn this back in 03-04?

      • Jourflamesfan

        I agree @Skylardog
        If the flames trade their 1rst rounder I just hope it’s for someone who can stay next year and be a decent contributor to our team.
        I dont think we should mess with the chemistry but in 2004 the flames added Chris Simon and Marcus Nilson at the TDL and both guys were huge contributors to our stanly cup run.
        I’m thinking along the lines of Justin Williams type player…
        This is the year…I feel it’s there for the taking.
        Just gotta be smart and lucky in what we do now…

      • withachance

        Disagree Skylar. How many years has it felt that the Lightning should have been prime cup winners? The Caps were toiling for years, adding rental after rental to their President’s trophy squads. Vancouver loaded up for their cup years and was crap until they got their three young players.

        In my opinion, just because we’ve finally had a great year doesn’t make contending suddenly a cup favorite. It’s amazing that the team is doing well, but Im jut excited to see how far this core can go as is, and BT can tinker next year for a legit run. The Pens, Kings, Chicago all had to lose before establishing a dynasty. Im all for getting some depth rentals but theres just no clear big acquisitions and the management shouldnt throw away big future assets rashly. Just my two cents.

        • Getpucksdeep

          Agree. This is a marathon not a sprint. I hope we stay top 5 over the next 5 years. We’ll get our shot and It may happen this year, but this club is young and the core is pretty much set for the next few years.

        • Albertabeef

          How much experience do you want before you feel you should have before you take the playoffs seriously? Sid won in his third Playoffs and this will be Johnny and Mony’s third playoff, so why not? They learned how to win and loose the first round already. That is just those two, not including any other team mates with previous experience like Frolik and Neal. Theo Fleury only had 34 regular season games under his belt when he won with us in 89. Anything is possible when you make the playoffs.

    • freethe flames

      Here is what I would like to see happen after the allstar break and prior to the TDL. Valimaki sent down asap for a conditioning stint. Mangiapane(who I still think will be fine) sent down and repalced by Rychel and give Rychel a 5 game audition on the 4th line LW and unless he is lights out send him back down and bring someone else back up prior to the TDL and the limited roster moves prior to the play offs. I think most of us are fine with what Quine is, we know where Mangiapane is in his development, the same can be said for Dube but I would like to see some of the other depth forwards.

      • SeanCharles

        We have 11 forwards that contribute in some way to the team and its success on any given night and we plug a 12th guy in there rotating guys in hoping for a fit.

        I just think adding one more forward would go a long way towards solidifying our starting lineup more so than any other moves. I feel comfortable with 8 of our dmen and our goalie situation is working with Smith as the backup.

      • Heeeeere’s Johnny

        I’m actually with you on Rychel. He has the make up to be Ferland-like in the playoffs. Some size and grit with some ability to contribute. If we bring him up for a few games and tell him to show his playoff game it might be interesting!

  • Searsy

    Edler is the guy I have my eye on, but Vancouver just won’t go away. If they fall out of the race and become sellers, then Edler becomes the ideal target. There’s no way he garners a first round pick as he would be a pure rental. The question is whether it’s a third rounder this year or our 2020 second rounder.

    Remember that Treliving and Benning have made a few deals in the past and have a great working relationship.

  • Zalapski

    I’d say keep Kylington up and playing as long as he’s doing what he’s doing and send Valimaki down to beat on the AHL for a bit and see if he finds another gear at the pro level. It’s a win-win situation. Prout doesn’t have to play right now, Killer scored a beauty last game and has been WAY better defensively than he was advertised(albeit in sheltered minutes) and Valimaki is your first recall.

  • ville de champignons

    Agree with ‘Guest’ . A quality, heavier, aggressive D man is probably not a realistic signing. Save salary and cap room this year. 9 deep now, lets just go to playoff war with what we’ve got and see how other teams play us. Hopefully go to at least third round, get a good picture of what we really need, and make a serious run next year.

  • Justthateasy

    Prout will step up if he has to. We need a tough customer like that. Don’t worry about winning the darn Cup this year. If it happens it happens. It’s a long long haul over many years and we need to build experience.
    No more draft pick giveaways. Go with what you’ve got. This dressing room is fine the way it is. My take.

    • HOCKEY83

      It won’t be years and years. they have until gaudreau’s contract is up…if they don’t want to pay him what he wants they may trade him the season before it’s up. This group could be short lived.

  • canadian1967

    Oilers signed Koskinen for 3 x 4.5M.
    Why does Edmonton even exist. The NHL should treat Peter Chiarelli the same as they would an incompetent player agent and decertify him immediately!
    1/2 a good season and Chiapet gives out that kind of money? It’s official; The Oilers Franchise needs to be rescinded right Forkin now!
    Brad Treliving meet David Rittich, may the best man win.
    Fu Chiarelli! Idiot.

      • canadian1967

        Dude… you and I got a problem. You need to take that back.
        I’ve been commenting on this site with the same name for 7 years.
        I think I have made my opinion on Edmonton quite clear over that time.
        If you would like to discuss further, then that can be arranged.

        • canadian1967

          By the way, in today’s world I’m not allowed to respond to your disgusting comment in the manner I want to, so I had to be very restrained in my reply so as not to be an online bully to you.
          But, them’s fighting words you said right there.

    • Jobu

      Koskinen camp had the Oilers hands tied. No half-decent starting goaltender on the FA market would EVER sign for that low a price tag. There are no goalies ready to start in the system, and there are no assets to trade to acquire one.

      Therefore, Koskinen for 3 years clearly equals the sign of another 3 year rebuild…of the last rebuild…of the rebuild before that. Someone needs to get paid big bucks to be a loser for 3 years.

      And since this is Chia’s last few months as GM, hes going out with a bang, ruining the FA market for the rest of us.

      Jobu also say FU Chiarelli!

      The only good part about this is Oiler fans (on our sister site) are just as mad if not moreso.

  • Jourflamesfan

    It’s nice to come here to read FLAMES news.
    Every page I open up. TSN, SPORTSNET, GOOGLE NEWS and sadly even CALGARYPUCK is constantly Oilers news.
    I’m tired of hearing about them!
    Every breath they take WE have hear about it. Enough!
    For the first time in decades the flames are leading the west and are second in the league yet I dont see half as much content or discussions (other than flames sites)
    Thank you FN for all your stories & contributions. I appreciate it ??

  • TheWheeze

    On another topic, I can’t figure out why so many on FN want Frolik traded. Guy’s a warrior. Does everything asked of him. Yet so many want to keep Gillies.