With Sean Monahan‘s lackluster 2021–22 season—which we later found out was because of a hip injury leading to him being healthy scratched down the stretch—the Calgary Flames lacked centre depth beyond Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. So, five days before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, the Flames acquired Calle Jarnkrok at 50% retained salary from the Seattle Kraken for a 2022 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, and 2024 seventh-round pick.
This was a steep price to pay for a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), but the Flames desperately needed to add to their centre core, and they were in a bidding war with the likes of the Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings, among others, for Jarnkrok’s services.
There were so many teams interested in Jarnkrok because he is such a fascinating player that is able to play all three forward positions and contribute to special teams. It also helped that Jarnkrok is the older cousin of Lindholm and good friend of Jacob Markstrom, since the three grew up together, and I’m sure they put in a good word for their Swedish counterpart.
Jarnkrok’s contributes to Calgary
Jarnkrok played 14 regular season games with the Flames and all 12 playoff games, putting up eight points in those combined games. In those 14 regular season and 12 playoff games, Jarnkrok only scored one goal as a Flame, which came in the Game 5 against the Edmonton Oilers.
He was an offensive standout by any means, but Jarnkrok played a significant defensive role and seemed to gain the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, as he ranked highly in time on ice (TOI) throughout the playoffs. Jarnkrok got a significant bump in both elimination games—Game 7 against the Stars and Game 5 against the Oilers—when the Flames were at the brink and needed him. It was a high price to pay, but I thought Jarnkrok had a good tenure with the Flames, and was a key in making Calgary a deeper team during their playoff run.
The Flames had interest in re-signing Jarnkrok and moving forward with him in the fold, but they couldn’t meet his demands on term and he signed a four-year, $2.1M average annual value (AAV) deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 15. Jarnkrok seemingly loves getting term on his contract, as he has now signed a six-year, $2M AAV with the Predators and now the previously mentioned deal with Toronto.
With Jarnkrok out of the fold, what could the Flames do to replace the hole left by him? They have added NHL centre depth in Kevin Rooney, but that has been the only forward addition besides Jonathan Huberdeau via trade so far.
One can assume the Flames will make one or two more forward acquisitions before the season starts, as their uncertainty with Monahan’s injury leaving a third line spot or two open. The Flames still have to figure out with their restricted free agents (RFAs) Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington, who have arbitration dates on August 5 and August 10, respectively.
Let’s project that both will come in around $8.5M combined, and RFA Adam Ruzicka will take another $900K. With this projection, the Flames will be left with around $3M in cap space left to sign two forwards and fill out their NHL roster.
The criteria I have for a Jarnkrok replacement is as follows:
- Can play centre and the wing
- Viewed as a good middle-six option around the league
- Defensive-minded player who is viewed as a versatile player
There are several options still available to replace Jarnkrok, based on the criteria I have just outlined. There are defensive forwards like Zach Aston-Reese and Tyler Motte on the free agent market, or Jesper Fast potentially on the trade market that could fit in great with this Flames team, but won’t be included since they don’t play centre.
Replacements for Jarnkrok via Free Agency
I believe there is mutual interest between the Flames and 36-year-old Stastny about a fit this coming season, but Stastny is considering his options and has no shortage of suitors. Stastny went out of his way to praise the Flames and the way they played under head coach Darryl Sutter in an end of the year press conference, and how the Jets could model themselves after them.
A reunion in Colorado seems likely if they can’t re-sign Nazem Kadri, and every contender could use a versatile centre who put up 45 points in 71 games in 2021–22 (0.63 P/GP). The Flames could benefit from bringing in a veteran who has had a very successful career thus far, putting up 800 points in 1,072 regular season games (0.75 P/GP) and 69 points in 103 playoff games (0.67 P/GP).
The 6’0″, 193 lbs forward could slot in on the wing or centre on either the second or third line and give the Flames a bunch of flexibility in the middle of their lineup. Stastny is coming off of a one-year, $3.75M AAV contract with the Jets, and it is likely that he will take another one year contract with his new team as he looks to sign with a contender and chase the Stanley Cup.
Looking at Stastny’s isolated impact below, courtesy of HockeyViz.com, one can see a consistent offensive generation close to the net, coupled with good defensive play that has improved in recent years. The fact that Stastny generated such good defensive numbers on a Winnipeg team that hasn’t been known as a good defensive team in the last few years shows how crucial of a player he still is. The Jets offensive and defensive sides of the ice were both improved when Stastny was on the ice compared to when he wasn’t.
Looking now to the WAR percentile chart from JFreshHockey below, we can see similar results from the previous model we looked at. Stastny grades out as a very good offensive and defensive player at 5v5 and has posted those results when facing the opponents best players.
The one struggle for Stastny at this point in his career is his penalty killing results, but he won’t need to play that role with the immense PK talent already on Calgary’s roster. Stastny can add some net front presence and possession play that the Flames lost when Matthew Tkachuk left and also add some defensive and veteran quality.
If there is one word that comes to mind when you see the name Johan Larsson, it is defence. Johan Larsson excels at the defensive side of the game, and is not afraid to drop the gloves every now and then. He would definitely become a fan favourite pretty quickly due to his playing style, as analytics thinkers love his possessive and defensive game, and other fans love his physicality.
The only concern there would be his injury history, which is probably why he remains unsigned to this date. The only season in Larsson’s career where he has played upwards of 80 games was 2017–18 with the Buffalo Sabres, so you can’t sign Larsson and expect he will play a full season due to the style of game he plays. The 5’11”, 204 lbs forward played 43 games last year in a year that was split between the Arizona Coyotes and the Capitals, where he put up 21 points (0.49 P/GP).
Larsson is a 30-year-old forward who can play either centre or wing, and it also helps that he is Swedish, as you can never have enough Swedes, right? It also helps that Larsson played with Lindholm back in Sweden before the two came overseas, so there’s a connection there already. Larsson has signed several recent one- or two-year deals at an AAV between $1.4–1.55M, and based on the market now, I would guess his new contract would come in similar.
Looking at the isolated impact for Larsson, you can see that he has consistent good defensive impacts throughout his career especially in the last four seasons. Offence isn’t the focal point of Larsson’s game, as he is a pure defensive player, but 2021–22 saw good offensive impacts brought forth by Larsson as well. Arizona’s offence and defence were both significantly improved when Larsson was on the ice compared to when he wasn’t.
Moving onto Larsson’s WAR percentile chart, one thing that sticks out is the 99% EV Defence. Nothing else really stands out, but he is one of the best defensive players in the league, plain and simple. Teams are signing Larsson for strictly the defensive of the ice, so if that is something that the Flames are looking for—a pure defensive player—Larsson is the guy.
Evan Rodrigues is a fascinating gamble, as he came onto the scene last year with the Penguins and got an opportunity to play with really good players on the Penguins while they dealt with injuries. The now 29-year-old set career-highs for goals (19), assists (24), and points (43) in 82 games last season (0.52 P/GP).
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox outlined that the Flames are rumoured to have interest in Rodrigues, along with the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils. You can understand why the Flames would have interest in a player like Rodrigues, as he had a very good season in 2021–22 and caught a lot of eyes. The 5’11”, 184 lbs forward can play right wing or centre, and is also a right shot, which perfectly fits the criteria of Jarnkrok.
A right shot has been coveted by the Flames in recent years and was seemingly solved with the Toffoli acquisition, but only Lindholm, Toffoli, and Lewis are right shots on their NHL roster today. Can Rodrigues keep up the season he just had, or will he regress closer to his career averages if he plays lower down the lineup? That is why signing Rodrigues will be a bit of a gamble, but he is certainly deserving of a deep look given how good his 2021–22 season was.
Looking at his isolated impact, you can see that Rodrigues took a massive jump in both the offensive and defensive zones. Rodrigues has always been an alright defensive player and a very average offensive player, so him taking massive steps last year was great for both the Penguins and the player. When Rodrigues was on the ice last year, the offensive and defensive zones for the Penguins were both much improved compared to when Rodrigues was on the bench.
Moving onto the WAR percentile chart below, you can see that Rodrigues is a very solid offensive and defensive player at 5v5, with a very good penalty differential. Rodrigues sparks offence, and is a very strong possession and rush offence player who is a good volume shooter, but his finishing remains lacklustre. Rodrigues could regress back to his career averages, or even improve his point totals if his finishing numbers go up. It would be a gamble, but given Rodrigues fits a lot of needs that the Flames currently have, I feel it would be a worthy signing to add a versatile piece.
Replacements for Jarnkrok via Trade
Jason Dickinson should not jump off the page to anyone, but is a potential buy-low option. In fact, Vancouver likely would have to attach an asset to move him, since he had a very rough 2021–22 season, and is signed for another two seasons at $2.65M AAV. Vancouver continues to evaluate under new management, and currently have far too many forward options with the additions of Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko.
There will definitely be a forward or two traded out of Vancouver, with J.T. Miller and Conor Garland among those in trade rumours, but Dickinson could find himself on the way out as well. The 27-year-old Dickinson only managed 11 points in 62 games last year but posted solid results in a defensive role with the Dallas Stars in the three prior years.
If Calgary thinks that Dickinson could return to his solid form from years prior, this good be a good opportunity to add Dickinson and likely a pick. Cap space is incredibly crucial in the NHL right now, so maybe a 2023 third-rounder included with Dickinson to replace the one given up by the Flames in the prior Jarnkrok deal?
Looking at the isolated impacts for Dickinson, one can see the good defensive impacts that Dickinson put up prior to joining the Canucks, with average offensive impacts depending on the season. In a Sutter system, I am sure that Dickinson would return to his prior defensive form and not be the player that Vancouver fans did not enjoy in 2021–22. Last season was the one season of Dickinson’s career where he was not above average in the defensive end, and his offensive output was less than ideal.
Moving onto Dickinson’s WAR percentile chart, nothing stands out besides the good 5v5 defence and solid penalty differential. One thing that stands out is his WAR Percentile Rank, which sees Dickinson as an above average player in his two prior years, but near worst player in the league category last season. If you remove his 2021–22 season, these WAR% numbers would look significantly better. As I mentioned previously, Dickinson is a pure defensive forward, similar to Johan Larsson, so those other numbers shouldn’t scare you.
Replacing Jarnkrok’s role is still a priority for the Flames
There are many different paths the Flames could go down to replace Jarnkrok. If the Flames want a versatile veteran, who can contribute in both ends and on the the second power play unit, Stastny is a great fit. Rodrigues is a gamble, but can contribute to play driving and also be a positive defensive player if he can resemble his output last year. If the Flames want pure defensive players, signing Larsson or trading and taking a rebound shot on Dickinson could help them accomplish that feat.