Tracking the former Flames on opening rosters around the league
Photo credit:Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
By Mike Gould1 year ago
Training camps are over. The rosters are in. The games have begun.
The NHL opened its 2021–22 season with a double-header on Tuesday evening. First, the Pittsburgh Penguins trounced the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 6-2 score; after that, the Seattle Kraken opened their inaugural season with a 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Both games featured former members of the Calgary Flames on one or both sides. In the earlier game, the Penguins’ former Flame scored the game-winning goal.
In all, three ex-Flames suited up on Tuesday. Plenty more managed to crack opening lineups around the league. Here’s a brief guide to every former Calgary Flame who made their respective teams out of training camp this season.
Teams with no ex-Flames
While 14 teams can claim to have at least one former Flame on their 2021–22 roster, the other 17 cannot. Here are those teams, listed in alphabetical order:
Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights Winnipeg Jets
- Derek Forbort: The bruising defenceman signed a three-year deal annually worth $3 million with Boston at the start of free agency. Forbort spent 17 total games with the Flames at the end of the 2019–20 season but left the team after their first-round playoff loss to Dallas, signing a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets. The 29-year-old rearguard is particularly effective while killing penalties.
- Curtis Lazar: After struggling to make an impact over parts of three seasons in Calgary, Lazar, 26, has finally found a niche in the NHL as a bottom-six energy forward who can help out on both sides of the puck. He became a Bruin at the 2021 trade deadline as part of the deal that freed Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres.
- Blake Comeau: Hope springs eternal — and so does Blake Comeau, who is entering his 16th NHL season after re-signing with the Stars in June. The 35-year-old winger spent parts of two seasons with Calgary way back in 2011–12 and 2012–13 and was traded by the Flames in the same week as when Jarome Iginla headed to Pittsburgh. Comeau didn’t look long for the NHL when he left Calgary — he only scored 7 points in 33 games with the Flames that season — but he subsequently found new life as a bottom-sixer with the Penguins, Avalanche, and Stars.
- Derek Ryan: Miss him yet? Ryan, 34, was a great two-way player in Calgary during his three seasons with the club and was instrumental in helping the Flames win 50 games in 2018–19, playing centre on a tremendously effective bottom-six line with Andrew Mangiapane and Garnet Hathaway. The former University of Alberta Golden Bear signed a two-year deal with the Oilers on July 28.
- Mike Smith: Another alumnus of that 2018–19 Flames team, Smith’s legacy in Calgary is much more complicated than Ryan’s. The 39-year-old goaltender had stretches of excellent play with the Flames and was in net when the team finally ended its 13-year curse of futility at the Honda Center in Anaheim. That said — when Smith struggled, he was baaaaad. We’ve seen a similar story unfold during Smith’s two seasons in Edmonton. This off-season, the Oilers re-signed Smith (who, remember, is 39 years old) to a two-year deal to remain the team’s starter.
- Kris Russell: He’s still in Edmonton! Russell was a Flame long, long ago (or, at least, it feels like it), spending parts of three seasons with the club between 2013–14 and 2015–16. While never really an analytical darling, Russell played a heart-and-soul game and, with Calgary in 2014–15, set an NHL record for most blocked shots in a season. He signed with the Oilers as a free agent in 2016 and has remained with the team ever since.
- Sam Bennett: Ever heard of this guy? The Flames traded Bennett to Florida at the 2021 trade deadline and he immediately made his former team look silly for getting rid of him, finishing the season with 15 points in 10 games before putting up five points in five post-season contests. Was it crazy luck, or is Bennett just now crazy good? He never looked like much more than a bottom-six forward with the Flames — both in terms of analytics and counting stats — but he also never got much of a chance to play with somebody like Jonathan Huberdeau.
- Ryan Lomberg: Guess who scored the Panthers’ first playoff overtime goal in 25 years? Yeah, you bet it was Ryan Lomberg, who made the jump to the NHL as a regular with Florida in 2020–21. When the Flames assigned Jaromir Jagr to Kladno in 2018, they recalled Lomberg to fill his spot. Tell your friends that one, and then show them the clip of this legendary goal:
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- Cam Talbot: The Wild raised some eyebrows when they protected 34-year-old Talbot over young upstart Kaapo Kahkonen in the Seattle expansion draft … then, the Kraken decided to take defenceman Carson Soucy. Crisis averted for Minnesota, which will need as much help as it can get on the back-end after the loss of Ryan Suter in the summer. Talbot and Kahkonen could form an impressive tandem for the Wild in 2021–22. The Flames could certainly use another season of the quality goaltending Talbot gave them in 2019–20.
- Paul Byron: Everyone knows the story about the Flames and Byron by now. To this day, nobody is quite sure why Calgary waived Byron to keep Brandon Bollig and three goaltenders on its NHL roster … but, alas, here we are. Byron, now 32, is entering his seventh season with Montreal after helping the team make the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. The Canadiens won 13 games in last year’s playoffs … and Byron helped kick things off by scoring the first game-winner of that run.
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- David Rittich: The writing was on the wall for Rittich after the Flames inked Jacob Markström to a six-year deal in the 2020 UFA signing period. Rittich still managed to get into 15 games for Calgary — primarily during Markström’s injury — but ended up being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2021 deadline. Now, Rittich is in Nashville and will be tasked with pushing Juuse Saros to be better in practice and game situations. If he plays it right, Rittich’s one-year deal with the Predators could be the precursor to a bigger contract down the line.
New Jersey Devils
- Dougie Hamilton: Now 28, Hamilton will be skating like a deer in the Prudential Center after signing a seven-year deal carrying a $9 million AAV with the Devils in free agency. He spent the previous three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes after being acquired from the Flames in 2018. Hamilton has developed into one of the NHL’s top defencemen at both ends of the ice and should be a fan favourite on a fun, emerging Devils team.
- Dominik Simon: After scoring the game-winning goal for Pittsburgh against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Simon officially has more goals in the 2021–22 season than he had points in his entire tenure with the Flames. Suffice it to say, Simon was a pretty big disappointment in his single season in Calgary earlier this year. Sidney Crosby’s former linemate re-joined the Penguins on a one-year deal shortly after free agency opened; he’ll be looking to rediscover the middle-six upside he displayed when he scored 28 points with Pittsburgh in 2018–19.
- Mark Giordano: It’ll be weird to watch an entire season of Giordano wearing just one “C” on his chest, but here we are. The 38-year-old Pitbull doppelgänger was recently named the first captain of the Seattle Kraken, a well-deserved honour for one of the best players of the 2010s. Giordano spent parts of 15 seasons in Calgary and left the club as the only player to win the Norris Trophy as a Flame. He’ll be missed in the locker room and on the ice.
St. Louis Blues
- James Neal: The Edmonton Oilers decided to buy out the final two years of James Neal’s contract this off-season. As a UFA, Neal had to settle for a tryout with the Blues but ultimately signed a one-year deal in St. Louis after scoring four goals in five pre-season games. Neal was a massive disappointment — to say the least — in his only season with the Flames, scoring just seven goals in 63 games and being made a healthy scratch in the team’s final playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche. Calgary traded Neal to Edmonton in 2019, receiving Milan Lucic and a 2021 third-round pick in return.
Tampa Bay Lightning
- Brian Elliott: The last time the Bolts signed a former Flame to be their backup goaltender, they proceeded to win two Stanley Cups with him on the roster. On July 28, the Lightning signed Brian Elliott to a cheap one-year deal to replace the departing Curtis McElhinney as the insurance behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. Elliott played with the Flames in 2016–17, posting a respectable .910 save percentage in the regular season but falling apart completely in the playoffs. He spent the last four seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Toronto Maple Leafs
- TJ Brodie: It will be extremely weird to watch a Flames team without Brodie and Giordano. It was strange enough to witness just Brodie in a different uniform last year; as a UFA in 2020, he signed a four-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs after spending the previous 10 seasons in Calgary. The Giordano-Brodie pairing was one of the league’s best for much of the 2010s, being temporarily separated during Glen Gulutzan’s tenure as Flames coach before being reunited in the 2018–19 season.
- Garnet Hathaway: It was a minor miracle that Hathaway ever played NHL games for the Flames after topping out as a six-goal scorer in college with Brown University. Then, Hathaway somehow turned into an effective two-way forward in the NHL and became part of the most effective line for an 107-point team during the stretch run of a regular season. Then, Hathaway managed to snag a four-year deal with the Washington Capitals as a UFA. The 29-year-old winger has continued his solid play during his time in D.C., combining speed with tenacity at both ends of the ice.
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