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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.