Moments after the clock tolled, signalling the end of the 2021 trading season, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving didn’t mince words when discussing the departure of two of his club’s players.
It sucks. It sucks when you move players out.”
While the situation the Flames find themselves in – unloading assets rather than loading up for a playoff run – is less than idea, what didn’t suck was the return that Treliving and his hockey operations group managed to get for cashing out on a pair of assets.
The club parted ways with pending unrestricted free agent backup goalie David Rittich, who Treliving indicated to Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie wouldn’t be able to be brought back for 2021-22, and forward Sam Bennett, a fourth liner who had requested a trade earlier in the season. (They also traded a 2022 sixth round pick to Florida as part of the Bennett swap.)
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The return for these players was Toronto’s 2022 third round pick, Florida’s 2022 second round pick and 19-year-old Swedish forward Emil Heineman. A skilled two-way forward, Heineman was the 43rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Speaking to the media via Zoom on Monday afternoon, Bennett reflected on what didn’t work in Calgary.
I don’t know exactly the reason. I think I definitely got moved around a lot. Seemed like I got more opportunity in the playoffs and I excelled in that. For whatever reason it just didn’t click. That happens sometimes.
Rittich and Bennett were arguably the club’s two most appealing available assets during the deadline process. The third, pending UFA centre Derek Ryan, was not moved. His $3.125 million price tag, even if the Flames were willing and able to retain a good chunk of it, probably factored into teams declining to make such a swap.
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The club made two corresponding moves on Monday, recalling goaltender Artyom Zagidulin and centre Adam Ruzicka from the AHL’s Stockton Heat to take spots on the taxi squad. Two NHL roster spots were vacated by Rittich and Bennett; presumably Domingue takes over for Rittich as Jacob Markstrom’s backup, while it’s unclear which forward from the taxi squad takes Bennett’s spot – as of Sunday, the taxi squad forwards were Zac Rinaldo, Buddy Robinson and Dominik Simon.
After the moves, the Flames have seven pending UFAs on their roster – Domingue, Michael Stone, Nikita Nesterov, Brett Ritchie, Josh Leivo, Joakim Nordstrom and Ryan – as well as two RFAs in Juuso Valimaki and Dillon Dube.
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The Flames now have four selections in the first three rounds of the 2021 NHL Draft – one first, one second and two thirds – and five selections in the first three rounds of the 2022 NHL Draft – one first, two seconds and two thirds. As the team seeks to right the ship and return to the happy side of the playoff cut line in the near future, that draft capital will come in handy in terms of providing flexibility to make trades. (The last time the Flames had that many picks, in 2015, they left the NHL Draft with Dougie Hamilton.)