With Juuso Valimaki suffering an ACL tear during his offseason workouts, and the Flames having just bought out Michael Stone, suddenly the defensive depth on the Flames isn’t looking quite as great as it once was. Valimaki had been projected to slot in as a full-time NHLer this year, likely taking the left side of the third pairing. That spot is now wide open for anyone to take. Oliver Kylington obviously looks to be the favorite, but Brad Treliving mentioned that he would be exploring external opportunities to bring another NHL caliber defender to shore up the depth.
There are limited players available that fit what the Flames would be looking for, as I’ve identified three cases that need to met in finding the right acquisition:
- One Year Deal
- Cheap Contract (<1.75M)
- Primarily around to play a part time role (6th/7th/8th D), especially once Valimaki is back
Here are four trade targets and one UFA that fit the above cases and would improve defensive depth on the team at the NHL level.
Ben Hutton (UFA)
Mark Borowiecki, Ottawa Senators, 1yr/1.2M
Borowiecki is a very interesting candidate in that on most teams he’d probably be fairly easy to acquire, but he’s on Ottawa. Borowiecki is really well liked by the Senators organization which means Eugene Melnyk likes him, and he makes a very palatable $1.2M per year, which means Eugene Melnyk loves him. He’s sort of become the unofficial captain of the Senators, and while he’s still a bottom pairing defenseman on their team, I’m not sure how quickly he’ll be traded.
Borowiecki was 3rd in the NHL among qualified players in Hits/Game with 4.0, and as the Flames look to get tougher, having a guy like him to role out for 30-40 games a year might not be a bad idea. The issue is outside of the willingness to lay the body, he doesn’t add much more and I don’t like the idea of him potentially playing alongside Rasmus Andersson.
Mark Barberio, Colorado Avalanche, 1yr/1.45M
On the flip side, Mark Barberio probably wouldn’t be hard to get out of Colorado at all. The issue is that he’s not too good and only dressed for 12 NHL games last year as a combination of healthy scratches and injuries.
Barberio does fit the 7th defenseman that can squeeze into the lineup for 30ish games a year and be a decent depth option in case of injuries. He has 250 NHL games under his belt between Tampa, Montreal, and Colorado. There’s not much more to say about him, he’s depth and likely cheap depth with Colorado having a bunch of young defensive prospects pushing for NHL minutes next year.
Derek Forbort, Los Angeles Kings, 1yr/2.525M
Forbort is the best player out of the ones in this article and will likely come at the greatest cost to acquire, and L.A. would also probably have to retain to make things work. Then there’s that whole notion of not wanting to trade any good prospects or picks within your division as well.
I think Forbort could fit really well into that 6D role alongside Andersson, but the issue would then become what to do when Valimaki returns from injury. You could send Valimaki back to Stockton if it’s late in the season to give him a full year to recover, but if he’s ready in January, then that will make decisions tougher regarding ice time, especially if Kylington is in the picture as well.
Forbort projects to see a lot of ice time with LA, potentially even being on the top pairing with Drew Doughty, so his value will likely go up as the season progresses and the Kings could probably get more for him near the deadline as a rental.
Robert Hagg, Philadelphia Flyers, 1yr/1.15M
Hagg has fallen out of favour in Philly with other young defensemen pushing their way up the system. He doesn’t make much positive impact in terms of scoring or possession driving. Similar to Borowiecki, he likes to hit but that’s pretty much it.
Since Hagg might already be on the out in Philly, he could be an easy get for the Flames if they wanted him and he would be quite affordable. Once Valimaki comes back, moving Hagg to a 7th or 8th defenseman role wouldn’t be costly either.
Ben Hutton, Unrestricted Free Agent
After going unqualified by the Canucks at the start of the summer, Hutton hit the UFA market and has yet to find a new club. The Flames have a lot of familiarity with Hutton, having faced him numerous times over the last few seasons.
Hutton is a guy who is looking to get his career back on track after a poor showing with the Canucks in 2018-19. It’s because of this that he may be willing to take a one year “prove-it” deal with a better team like the Flames were he’ll be given a role better suited to his skillset. As a result, he could likely come at a very cheap contract to give the Flames a bit more cap flexibility as they continue to navigate their RFA’s. While Hutton certainly has his limitations, both sides choosing to bet on him for one season could end up working out well for both parties.