The Calgary Flames made one of the lower profile moves of the first day of free agency, acquiring defenseman Kris Russell from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a fifth round draft pick. It’s a puzzling move, as they could have had him for nothing off of waivers, but it could pan out to be beneficial for them nonetheless.
Russell was a player who had simply become expendable in St. Louis, after they acquired multiple defenseman over the last year, including former Flame Jay Bouwmeester. He’s not the type of guy who’s going to be a huge asset beyond the bottom pairing, perhaps as the fourth d-man, but he’ll prove useful for this club.
With St. Louis last season, Russell didn’t see much of any time on special teams, but played over 16 minutes per game in the 33 games in which he did appear for the Blues. He’ll contribute some on offense, as we’ve seen him put up at least 20 points from the blue line multiple times. So there’s an upside there.
Russell isn’t big, by any means, but he’ll play bigger than his size. He’s not afraid to take on forwards that are bigger than him, whether it’s down in the corners, or in the front of the net around the crease. He’s a shot blocker as well, blocking almost 360 shots in the past five seasons.
The Flames are an organization that isn’t going anywhere fast. So Russell will see a much larger opportunity to succeed than he would have in St. Louis, where they’re pretty deep along the blue line. While they did surrender a pick to get him, this is a solid addition by the Flames to their blue line.