In his season-ending presser, Brad Treliving acknowledged the blueline as a weakness for the Calgary Flames. It appears he's already taken the first step towards correcting that, as the club has signed Czech defenceman Jakub Nakladal to a one-year, two-way deal. Nakladal was rumoured to be choosing between the Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Who is Jakub Nakladal?
Nakladal is a 27-year-old right-shooting defenceman who has previously played in his home Czech Republic, the KHL, and was just this past season an alternate captain for TPS Turku in the SM-liiga. Most recently, he played for the fourth-place Czechs in the 2015 IIHF World Championships, putting up five assists over 10 games: the most out of all Czech defenders.
Points don't necessarily always come Nakladal's way, though. Over 2014-15, he scored just three goals and had 15 total points over 50 games for TPS. Over 117 games in the KHL, he scored just two goals, and had 20 points total.
The 6'2, 205 lb. defenceman definitely has size, though. Judging by his 63 penalty minutes in 2014-15, he probably isn't afraid to use it. Though if he can bring defensive smarts with his big body, then the Flames may have just acquired someone hidden in the rough.
Where does Nakladal fit in on the Flames?
In all likelihood, Nakladal will be a depth defenceman. He's never been a high scorer, so even with Bob Hartley's greenlight system for his defenders, Nakladal probably won't be putting up many points, and the Flames shouldn't be relying on him to.
Still, the Flames have had blueline depth issues for some time now, and any step they can make towards rectifying that is a step in the right direction. Nakladal's one-year deal on a team swimming in cap space is a no-risk move with potential for low-medium reward. At 27, he isn't too old to surprise, but if all he can do is provide stability and possession to the bottom pairing, then it's an excellent move.
With Deryk Engelland signed for another two seasons, it isn't likely he's going anywhere. The Flames' other bottom pairing defencemen, though - primarily Raphael Diaz and David Schlemko - are upcoming unrestricted free agents, and it's no guarantee they return (or if the Flames even want them to). Ladislav Smid, meanwhile, hasn't played since January, and his status is uncertain.
Rookie defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon needs to earn his spot, and Nakladal brings that much more competition for him to do so.
The Flames' top four still consists of Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman, and Kris Russell. Nakladal won't improve that, but the Flames are almost certainly not yet done upgrading their blueline.
They have, however, given themselves even more options with which to hopefully build on a surprising 2014-15 campaign, and continue pushing forward into 2015-16. This is just one small step, but hopefully Nakladal is one that pays off.