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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames’ European signings have been very boom or bust

The Calgary Flames have added three Europeans to their organization so far this off-season, and may potentially add more before the regular season begins. During general manager Brad Treliving’s tenure they have frequently added European free agents, but the on-ice results for these signings have varied wildly.

David Wolf

After five full seasons in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga (or DEL), Wolf was signed by the Flames in May 2014. For a team still working through a rebuild, it made sense to have a stout, physical player who had a history of goal-scoring around in a supporting role. While Wolf’s scoring translated to the American Hockey League – he had 20 goals with Adirondack – his mobility was less than ideal. He got into just three NHL contests in the 2014-15 season.

He was qualified as a pending restricted free agent but couldn’t reach an agreement with the Flames on a new deal and so he returned back to Germany. Wolf’s signing was announced after Treliving became GM, but probably was more of a Brian Burke move.

Jakub Nakladal

A veteran right shot blueliner signed in May 2015 after spending time in SM-Liiga, KHL and Czech Extraliga, Nakladal was a decent low-risk bet. He split the 2015-16 season between Stockton and the Flames, where Dennis Wideman’s hefty suspension opened the door and allowed him to get 27 NHL games under his belt.

But the Flames had oodles of youngsters in their system and so the 31-year-old Nakladal instead signed with Carolina as a free agent. He played just three games for the Hurricanes before, rather than being sent to the AHL, he and the team agreed on a contract termination so he could go play in the KHL instead.

Daniel Pribyl

Pribyl signed with the Flames in April 2016 as a young winger with several promising Czech Extraliga seasons under his belt. But he played just 33 games with Stockton over his two year entry level deal, as a series of knee injuries derailed his pro career. He went back to the Czech Republic after the 2017-18 season, but he still hasn’t played a game in two seasons due to said injuries.

David Rittich

Discovered by Flames pro scout Derek MacKinnon on an unrelated scouting trip to the Czech Extraliga – he was scouting Pribyl and was impressed with the opposing goaltender – Rittich was signed in June 2016 as a veteran foil for the organization’s budding young goaltenders. Instead, Rittich out-played those youngsters and found himself in the NHL instead.

Three seasons into his North American career, Rittich is the presumptive top goaltender for the Flames.

Marcus Hogstrom

Signed in June 2018 as minor league depth, Hogstrom was functionally another Pribyl. He struggled with injuries during his stint with Stockton and played just 12 games. He’s already headed back home to play with his old Swedish league team next season.

Yasin Ehliz

Ehliz’s stint with the Flames organization was even shorter than Hogstrom’s. He signed in June 2018. He had an okay training camp and was sent to the AHL. He played just four games, after which he and the Flames came to an agreement on a contract termination so he could return to Germany.

Sum it up

Rittich has played 67 NHL games so far and remains Flames property – he’s a pending RFA. The other five Europeans combined for just 30 NHL games and none are currently under contract to the Flames (or even employed as hockey players in North America). With Alexander Yelesin, Carl-Johan Lerby and Artyom Zagidulin joining the organization, the Flames certainly hope that at least one of them fares closer to Rittich’s results than to the other five recent European imports.

  • MDG1600

    I like bringing in as many prospects as they can to compete for jobs. Lack of draft choices the last few years has hurt and signing european FA’s seems like a pretty reasonable approach to adding the prospects they didn’t get in the draft. IMHO I still think depth is a problem for the Flames when you consider that:
    A) For all intents and purposes Calgary had absolutely zero injuries to a key player last year so the depth wasn’t really tested.
    B) In the playoffs Peters really lacked options to change the look/character of the team by going to a more physical line up. The list of players in the organization who are both fast and physical is pretty short.
    C) People who think we have great depth in organization need to explain why Stockton keeps missing the playoffs

  • Fat Tony

    I’ll remain optimistic about the recent European signings for now. I honestly thought Gillies was going to be in the position that Rittich is in now so, who knows.

  • Garry T

    There are hundreds of guys not drafted every year from N A hockey. Surely
    With some effort, we should be able to bring in some “ missed star capability “. Look at other nhl teams such as Vancouver and Tampa who are rebuilding their AHL teams through finding NA free agents and the waiver wire. Every team tries to sneak good players through during and at the end of camps.

    • Getpucksdeep

      That may be a bit premature. He only took the job a couple of years ago. He got the job when he told scouting that Andersson just needed some workout discipline and recommended him…I think thats how that went. He’s pretty recent in the role.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        The Loob appointment was pure patronage that reeks of the worst excesses of the Trudeau governments–both father and son. Wouldn’t be surprised to know that Tre is a bag man for the federal LIbs.

        • Baalzamon

          You realize you’re basing your opinion of Loob’s scouting ability on literally nothing, right? Even Marcus Hogstrom was signed before the Flames hired Loob.

          Here are the European FAs signed by the Flames under Loob: Zagidulin, Yelesin, Lerby. That’s it. Three names, all signed within the last few weeks, and none of them has played a single game in the organization.