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How newcomer Kevin Bahl can really help the Calgary Flames 

Calgary Flames defenceman Kevin Bahl
Photo credit:Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Sam Nestler
29 days ago
Kevin Bahl was not just a meaningless addition to the deal that sent Jacob Markstrom to the New Jersey Devils. In fact, Bahl may be the most important piece for the Calgary Flames.
When a player is traded, there is usually a pretty good tell about their abilities, success and how they were perceived. It comes from the fans.
Hockey fans can be harsh. That has become even more true with the advancement and mass usage of social media. So sometimes, you need to take their opinions with a grain of salt. But that is not the case when these opinions are positive. 
So when Devils fans flood to X (formerly Twitter) to show their excitement for finally upgrading their goaltending but also to share their disappointment that a big, young defenceman was part of the deal the other way, it means something. 
Bahl is a huge defenceman. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, the 23-year-old is a physical force on the ice. And he plays to that size very well. Bahl is not going to add a ton of offence. He has only 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 148 career games. And that came with a Devils team that loves to run and gun and involve their defence often in the rush. 
But what he will do is defend. And defend hard. 
After dipping his toes into the NHL with 24 games in two years, Bahl established himself as a real option in NJ in 2022-23. In 42 games, he was plus-4 with 38 blocked shots, 64 hits, eight takeaways and 35 penalty minutes. The next season, he turned himself into a full-time NHLer. 
In 2023-24, Bahl recorded a career-high 11 points (one goal, 10 assists), 82 penalty minutes (including an excellent scrap against Barclay Goodrow during the line brawl at the start of a game against the New York Rangers), 103 blocked shots, 151 hits and 19 takeaways. 
That is a massive jump in some pretty important and telling statistics. Going from 38 blocks to 103, 64 hits to 151, that’s important progress for a big guy who clearly learned to use his body better while getting nearly 3.5 more minutes of ice time per game in his first full season. 
“Last year was my first real full (NHL) season, I think I made some big strides,” Bahl told CalgaryFlames.com. “I was put on the ice a lot against other teams’ top lines, gained a lot of experience there. Defensively, I think I can bring a lot to the table and just excel with some more opportunity. I’m excited, it’s going to be a huge year for me.”
But even more impressive is the fact that he finished plus-1 overall. Sure, that doesn’t sound like much. But when you realize that the Devils were not a good team that finished minus-19, it is really something. 
Bahl played all 82 games last season, one of only five Devils to do so. Of the 14 players who dressed for more than 60 games, Bahl was one of just two to finish with a plus rating. Luke Hughes was minus-25, for comparison. 
Sure, he has some developing to do. But for a Flames team looking to perhaps speed up their rebuild, Bahl should be the perfect fit.

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