The options to deploy Flames newcomer Calle Jarnkrok are endless

Mar 17 2022, 4:29 pm

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving got his man in a swap of picks to bring Calle Jarnkrok north.Ā 

Now Flames coach Darryl Sutter has to figure out what to do with him.Ā 

Because there’s no shortage of options.

“I’ve always considered him kind of a fixer defensively,” Treliving said after grabbing Jarnkrok, who happens to be Elias Lindholm’s cousin. “You can put him with any line and he fixes it. He plays the game the right way.Ā 

“You hear about [the] two-position player…I think he’s a three-position player. He’s comfortable in all three. He’s played centre growing up for the most part, lot of wing at the pro level. Touches both sides of specialty teams. He can go up and down the lineup.Ā 

“We think we got better today. He’s a real good player. We love how competitive he is, how versatile he is, and I think he’s going to fit with us real good.”

Jarnkrok, in all likelihood, debuts with the team on Friday.Ā 

Where he plays, and with whom, is still to be determined.

Where they left off

In order to make Jarnkrok, who has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 49 games this season, fit from a cap perspective, Calgary optioned waiver-exempt centre Adam Ruzicka to the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League.Ā 

As a result, they slid Dillon Dube back down the middle between Milan Lucic and Brett Ritchie. Each happened to score in the 6-3 win against the New Jersey Devils, too. That probably doesn’t make them immune from popping out of the lineup. Someone has to come out, after all. It’s competition.Ā 

“It’s competition, very clearly,” Sutter said. “He’s a player who can play anywhere in your top nine, it’s competition. Other than one line, we’ve moved guys around all year because nobody’s grabbed onto it enough. It’s more competition. It’s not I’m up and jump over the boards, it’s about performance.”

Here’s how the forward group shook out last night:Ā 

Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane — Sean Monahan — Tyler Toffoli
Blake Coleman — Mikael Backlund — Trevor Lewis
Milan Lucic — Dillon Dube — Brett Ritchie

And certainly Sutter has some designs about where to slot him, who slides down, and who comes out. But he’s not really hinting just yet.

“It’s a good move for our club. Right-hand shot and can play in your top-nine,” Sutter said postgame. “A player that’s had to play in playoff races, which is important for our club.”

The middle man

It took moving a centre to the minors to make room for Jarnkrok, so a natural thought would be to have the 30-year-old start down the middle. As Treliving said, Jarnkrok is a three-position player, and Calgary’s biggest need, at least up front, heading into the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday.Ā 

Jarnkrok isn’t about to usurp Elias Lindholm on the top line. That much is for sure. But what if he slides in between Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli for a second-line look? That move would, in theory, give the Flames as solid a second unit as they’ve had all season.Ā 

It’d also push a struggling Sean Monahan into limited minutes, Dube back to the wing, and potentially move Ritchie out of the lineup.

“It’s great,” Lucic said. “I think Jarnkrok is obviously a good two-way player, just adds more depth to our lineup, another right-hand shot, which is something that we don’t have a lot of.”

Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane — Calle Jarnkrok — Tyler Toffoli
Blake Coleman — Mikael Backlund — Trevor Lewis
Milan Lucic –Sean Monahan — Dillon Dube

On your right

If Sutter is content with what he’s seen out of the trio of Mangiapane, Monahan, and Toffoli (he probably isn’t), there’s an option to keep them intact while still moving Jarnkrok into heavier minutes and form an impressive shutdown line in the process — by sliding the right-shot forward on the right side with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman.Ā 

“It makes our lineup a lot deeper, so it only helps us and it’s really exciting. The investment shows us what we put in is paying off, so it’s nice to add a really good player,” Dube said.

The issue is that Sutter might really like what he sees out of the trio with Lewis already, and that’d be more than a valid thought. The group together has drawn the team’s toughest assignments on most nights, whether that’s going head-to-head with the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, or attempting to slow Nathan MacKinnon.Ā 

Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane — Sean Monahan — Tyler Toffoli
Blake Coleman — Mikael Backlund — Calle Jarnkrok
Milan Lucic — Dillon Dube — Trevor Lewis

To the left, to the left

This might be the least interesting, most ill-fitting option of the three. Jarnkrok can indeed play his off wing. It doesn’t mean he has to. He isn’t sliding in for Johnny Gaudreau on the top line — that much is certain.Ā 

But what about trying him with Monahan and Toffoli, and optioning Mangiapane back with Coleman and Backlund. It could free up Monahan and Toffoli — junior teammates with the Ottawa 67s — to be a little more offensive, leaving Jarnkrok with the “fixer” duties. It’d also give the reunited trio a bit more offensive punch on the second line.

The note here is now you’re playing two left-shot players on one set of wings, and two right-shot wingers on the next. It’s not pleasing to the eye when laying it out in text, but if it gets the job done it gets the job done.Ā 

Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk
Blake Coleman — Mikael Backlund — Andrew Mangiapane
Calle Jarnkrok — Sean Monahan — Tyler Toffoli
Milan Lucic — Dillon Dube — Trevor Lewis

But what if…

Hypothetically, say Sutter wanted to reward that fourth line for their exploits on Wednesday, which included Ritchie’s first point of the season in his 30th game, and Lucic halting a 22-game goalless drought along with Dube picking up just his second multi-point effort of the season.

That would leave Monahan, and his $6.375 million contract with an additional season remaining and a modified 10-team no-trade clause, as a healthy scratch. He’s scored only eight goals in 60 games this season, and is far from the defensive specialist a playoff team might want to anchor a fourth line come playoffs.Ā 

Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane — Calle Jarnkrok — Tyler Toffoli
Blake Coleman — Mikael Backlund — Trevor Lewis
Milan Lucic — Dillon Dube — Brett Ritchie

Regardless of where he slots, though, Jarnkrok will be a boost to Calgary’s forward core.Ā 

“He’s really competitive. Ultra-competitive,” Treliving said. “He’s on pucks. I’ve always loved his competitiveness. He’s a real competitive guy. And he’s got a big brain, thinks it real well. It’s important when you can get versatile. He can play both wings. He can play center.Ā 

“I felt that was an area we wanted to continue to have some depth in.”

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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