Cam Tucker

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Flames sign d-man Kulak to one-year, two-way deal

This post is part of Flames Day at PHT…

Talk about perfect timing.

The Calgary Flames made some news Monday — on Flames Day at PHT — by signing restricted free agent and depth defenseman Brett Kulak to a one-year, two-way contract. Per the club, the annual average value is $650,000 at the NHL level.

Selected by the Flames in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, Kulak has split time between the big club and Calgary’s minor league affiliates over the last three seasons.

Kulak appeared in 21 games for the Flames last season. He’s still searching for his first NHL goal.

The Flames still have two restricted free agents — Sam Bennett and Tyler Wotherspoon — left to get under contract.

Danis Zaripov eligible to play in NHL after receiving two-year IIHF ban for doping

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Russian forward Danis Zaripov, who received a two-year suspension from the IIHF for testing positive for WADA-banned substances last season in the KHL, is now eligible to sign in the National Hockey League.

The NHL made the announcement Monday afternoon. Zaripov, who is 36 years old, was suspended in July “from the participation in all competitions or activities authorized and organized by IIHF and IIHF Member National Associations.”

He has appealed the suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with the NHL stating that appeal is still pending.

Zaripov has spent his entire professional career in Russia, including the last four years with Magnitogorsk Metallurg.

From the NHL:

Following due consideration of all of the available evidence (including Mr. Zaripov’s own appearance and testimony — which, as discussed below, the IIHF Disciplinary Board did not have the benefit of), it has been determined that Mr. Zaripov is hereby deemed eligible to sign and play professional hockey in the NHL, effective immediately, and without imposition of any NHL-imposed suspension or penalty.

In determining that Mr. Zaripov is immediately eligible for play in the NHL, several important factors were relied on. First, and perhaps most importantly, it should be noted that because of the differences between the NHL’s Prohibited Substances List and the WADA Code, the Player’s initial test result likely would not have triggered a suspension under the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement because, among other things, pseudoephedrine (the presence of which was below WADA’s applicable threshold in any event) is not on the League’s Prohibited Substances List.

Zaripov is an accomplished goal scorer and point producer in the KHL. Despite growing older, he has scored 20 or more goals in three of his last four seasons with Magnitogorsk.

It will be interesting to see how much interest he garners in the NHL, with Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reporting over the weekend that the Rangers and Golden Knights are expected to pursue the winger.

Flames – Oilers rivalry is worth getting excited about again

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This post is a part of Flames day at PHT…

For about a recent 10-year period, the rivalry between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers — known as the Battle of Alberta — had really just become about the past.

It was about old memories, a trip back in time to when both clubs were battling it out, particularly during the 1980s and into the early 1990s, for hockey supremacy in that Canadian province. That’s because, over this more recent stretch, the Flames and Oilers had been mired in mediocrity in the Western Conference.

From 2006 to 2016, the Flames had made the playoffs five times, advancing to the second round only once and the team’s success that season under Bob Hartley was in no way going to be sustainable long-term. The Oilers, well, they made the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 and then endured 10 straight seasons out of the playoffs. For both franchises, that is a far cry from their glory days and fiercest battles against each other.

Technically, the rivalry still existed during this 10-year downturn. But it was never really worth getting too excited about. At one point, there was hope from Oilers executive Kevin Lowe that perhaps the outspoken Brian Burke would help rekindle the rivalry when he joined the Flames a few years ago.

It appears, however, that has all changed.

Both teams not only made the playoffs last season, which is a positive sign, but have rosters that should allow them to build on those steps forward when the upcoming season gets underway.

After management changes, coaching changes and getting the No. 1 overall selection in four out of six years — Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov are no longer with Edmonton — the Oilers appear like they are turning a corner following the second year of the Connor McDavid Era and with the play of Cam Talbot in goal last season.

The Flames? Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau anchor their offensive attack, with Matthew Tkachuk set for his sophomore season after an impressive rookie campaign as a teenager. The Flames have also done a nice job of building a strong group of defensemen, particularly their top four, with the summer addition of Travis Hamonic to join Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton.

Does Calgary now have the best defense in the NHL? That’s up for debate, but it’s still a solid blue line, with their top four under contract for at least another three years. (Giordano has five years remaining on his deal and Hamilton has another four years.)

Acquiring Mike Smith to take over the starting duties in net (he’s under some pressure) and adding Eddie Lack as a capable No. 2 are also moves that indicate the Flames feel they are, within this cycle of the organization, ready to compete for the West.

Not only should both clubs remain competitive over the next few years, but the star power they both contain helps grow the rivalry, as well.

McDavid is, well, McDavid.

For the Flames, Johnny Hockey isn’t the biggest player on the ice but with his slick hands and ability to evade larger defenders, he’s shown capable of producing at a point-per-game pace over a long season and doing so with some flair for the fans. Monahan, only 22 years old, was recently listed as one of the top 20 centers in the NHL, and has scored at least 20 goals or more in each of his four seasons.

The Flames and Oilers won’t have to wait long to renew the rivalry. With star players involved, steps taken in the right direction by both franchises last season and higher expectations in 2017-18, they will face each other on Oct. 4 in Edmonton to kick off the new season.

This next chapter in the Battle of Alberta shouldn’t have to rely on nostalgia.

It’s Calgary Flames day at PHT

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The Calgary Flames made it back to the playoffs in the spring, but were swiftly swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round.

General manager Brad Treliving then went to work, making numerous changes to the roster, most notably in goal.

The Flames moved on from the duo of Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott after one season and acquired Mike Smith prior to the expansion draft trade freeze. They also picked up Eddie Lack from Carolina at the end of June.

The move to acquire Smith would suggest the Flames believe they’ve entered a window to win right now, with what should be a strong top-four unit on the blue line and a nucleus of skilled and still youthful forwards, including 2016 first-round pick Matthew Tkachuk, who made the roster at age 18 and had an immediate impact.

On defense, Treliving added Travis Hamonic from the Islanders, giving the Flames a top-four defensive unit of T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and Hamonic. The Nashville Predators may still be the envy of the league with their top-four on ‘D’ but the Flames appear to have a formidable group of their own heading into the upcoming season.

Calgary also re-signed defenseman Michael Stone, who they picked up in a deal with Arizona before last season’s trade deadline.

With only a few days left until September, Treliving still needs to get restricted free agents Sam Bennett, Brett Kulak and Tyler Wotherspoon under contract.

Today at PHT, we’ll discuss the key storylines facing the Flames with training camp approaching.

Report: KHL d-man Chris Lee to attend Kings camp on PTO — at age 36

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It appears Chris Lee, at the age of 36, will get a shot to crack an NHL roster for the upcoming season.

According to John Hoven of MayorsManor.com on Sunday, Lee will join the L.A. Kings at training camp on a professional tryout.

He spent the last four years in the KHL playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Defying his age, Lee enjoyed an impressive 2016-17 campaign with 14 goals and 65 points in 60 games. Those numbers easily stand out for any defenseman, but particularly in this case because Lee is closer to 40 years of age then 30.

Lee has built up an interesting career as a journeyman defenseman, playing in the ECHL before moving up to the AHL, playing for five different teams in that league, and still managing to be productive. He has never played an NHL game, however, and in 2010 he left North America to continue his career in Europe.

This spring, he was the only non-NHL player on Canada’s roster at the World Championships. He posted two assists in seven games. It wasn’t long after the tournament that news broke he was leaving the KHL to look for opportunities in the NHL.

He will turn 37 on Oct. 3. It would be quite a story if he made his NHL regular season debut a few days later.