The Calgary Flames had a busy weekend. First extending MacKenzie Weegar to an eight-year contract, then doubling down on extensions and announcing a two-year contract for head coach Darryl Sutter. They then followed it up with well, easily their biggest risk of the pre-season by placing three players on waivers for the purpose of roster flexibility, in hopes of assigning them to the Calgary Wranglers.
While Dennis Gilbert heading to the AHL was not unexpected, the placement of Juuso Valimaki and Radim Zohorna are far more fascinating.
Zohorna’s short stint
UPDATE: Despite our prediction, Zohorna was not claimed and remains on the Flames’ roster.
Starting with Zohorna, all signs were pointing towards him making the Flames’ opening night roster. First off, he fit a positional need for the Flames on the wing where Sonny Milano was not quite living up to expectations. Secondly, with the release of Milano and Cody Eakin from their PTOs. it looked to open the door for an NHL spot.
It’s clear that Darryl Sutter did not see a logical fit for the player and made the quick decision to keep him off the NHL roster.
What is key to note here from our previous post on Zohorna is the following:
The way waivers work in the NHL is that once a player is claimed, they cannot be sent down to the AHL without being placed on waivers again and fully clearing. If a team who claims a player chooses to place that player on waivers again, the original team he was claimed from can select him and immediately assign him to the AHL.
So, what is stopping the Pittsburgh Penguins from reclaiming Zohorna? Essentially nothing, and it would be shocking to see him on the Flames roster come tomorrow at 12PM MT.
UPDATE: Valimaki was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes on 10/9/2022
In more shocking news—yet seemingly inevitable—the Flames put 2017 first-round pick Juuso Valimaki on waivers. While the team was able to skirt around this issue the last few seasons, the exposure of Valimaki hurts more this time around.
In the final year of a deal that pays him $1.55M a season, Valimaki was expected to take a big role in the lineup this season. Unfortunately, with the abundance of NHL defensemen and the re-emergence of Michael Stone as an unstoppable force on the blueline, Valimaki could never keep up.
Injuries have done Valimaki in the last few seasons, but although healthy now he has never been able to earn the trust of the coaching staff or find a considerable slot in the lineup. With Oliver Kylington out of the lineup for an unexpected amount of time, this was Valimaki’s time to shine. It did not turn out that way.
The saving grace for the Flames is simply the state of Valimaki in terms of his game and contract. If a team were to claim him, he would have to remain on the NHL roster. Not many teams have space for a $1.55M contract at this point in the season, or may not want to give that space to Valimaki. A team such as the Arizona Coyotes or Chicago Blackhawks may take a chance on the young defender, but they also have their own prospects to worry about.
If Valimaki were to clear, and then somehow get placed on waivers again, the Flames could pull the same move as Pittsburgh and reclaim him to re-assign him.
Although it would be great to see Valimaki eventually turn a corner, his time with the Flames may finally be over.
The Flames’ wayward waives
In all, the waiver moves were done out of necessity at this point. With the preseason over for the Flames, these waiver placements are among their final moves in preparation for their season opener against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in the Colorado Avalanche.
Everything is coming together as the Flames are setting up for Game 1. Once the dust settles for all teams, we’ll see how the organizational depth chart looks, as well as seeing which players have the best shot at being a call-up down the line.
Up next: the 2022–23 regular season.