Flames add 'Sutter-type' forward Blake Coleman to fill middle-six gap

The Hockey Central panel go over all the moves made by Canadian teams in the opening hours of NHL free agency.

The last time Blake Coleman was acquired by a team, he was considered the “final piece” needed to complete Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup puzzle.

Two championships later, the 29-year-old forward is coming to Calgary with slightly less fanfare.

A whole lot more money, though.

The two-time 20-goal scorer will be paid $29.4 million over the next six years ($4.9 million AAV) – a hefty price to bring work ethic, leadership and a championship pedigree to a team looking to add all three.

Tabbed to play middle-six minutes on either wing, Coleman will be tasked to provide energy while exemplifying the physical and defensive-first mentality the new coach demands.

The lefty kills penalties, forechecks with vigour, can play all three forward positions and was a fixture on the ice the final five minutes of any Lightning lead.

On the third line in Tampa, his 14 goals in 55 games had the man who scored the Cup-clincher against Dallas a year earlier on pace for another 20-goal season.

“In big moments Blake is a guy who is trusted by his coaches,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, breaking the silence on an otherwise quiet off-season.

“He’s a big minute-eater, plays against top lines and is able to produce offence. I think he’s a very versatile player. That line that he played on (in Tampa) – you can number it how you want – but they had the second-most ice time. They got the heavy matchup, they produced offensively and he’s a top penalty killer in the league, so we’ll find plenty of ice for him.

“Blake was a highly-sought-after player. He plays in the trenches, but I think his skill is very understated.”

He could star in a third-line role on the left side of Mikael Backlund and Dillon Dube, but there’s a better chance he’ll play on the right side of the second unit with Sean Monahan and Andrew Mangiapane. Lots of options for a team that still needs to sign another couple forwards and a few more defencemen.

“I think I have a role that can slot up and down lineups, kind of the versatility is part of the attraction to my game,” said Coleman, a native of Plano, Texas, who netted New Jersey a first rounder and prospect Nolan Foote at the trade deadline two years ago.

“I think I've had some success on all four lines in my career. I've played with really high-end skill. I've played with gritty forechecking lines. I've been all over the map. Just a reliable two-way game. Certainly, the ability to chip in offensively, but I think my pedigree and my bread and butter has been the 200-foot-game and being able to play against the top lines."

Coleman is an extremely sturdy, five-foot-11, 207-pound force who fits the mould of tenacious, relentless forwards Sutter relishes.

His signing was one of many on a busy day of free agency for the Flames, which included several other Sutter-type additions.

Hulking defenceman Nikita Zadorov was acquired for a third rounder from Chicago Wednesday, while Trevor Lewis was reunited with Sutter by signing a one-year deal worth $800,000.

“It does stick with a theme - these are all players that we think will fit into a system Darryl likes to play,” said Treliving.

“You always work closely with your coach at looking at ways to improve your roster. All are responsible players.”

Lewis won two Stanley Cups with Sutter in Los Angeles and already has the trust of a coach who will lean on the 34-year-old to kill penalties and anchor the fourth line.

“Me and Darryl were together for a long time in LA and we won together, so I feel like we’ve got that bond for life,” said Lewis, who scored five goals with Winnipeg last year.

“I kind of grew up in the NHL playing for Darryl and that’s how I learned how to play. I think I fit in well with his system and I’m just excited to be a part of the group.”

Coleman spoke to several players who’d played for Sutter and said the disciplined coach was part of the attraction to Calgary.

“He just seems like my kind of coach,” said Coleman, who met Johnny Gaudreau while playing for the U.S. at a recent World Championships.

“I've played for coaches that demand hard, earnest games. I think I play that. I think I play a pretty honest style and I bring my best to the rink every day.”

The Flames also sent a third rounder to Boston for Czech goalie Dan Vladar, who Treliving has tabbed as the team’s backup for Jacob Markstrom.

“We’ve been tracking him for some time and we think Danny is ready to take that step,” said Treliving of the 23-year-old third rounder who posted solid AHL numbers for several years before a solid showing in the Czech Republic last year was followed by his first five NHL appearances.

“He’s been a top goalie in the AHL. He’s a big man at 6-foot-5. Athletic and had some time in Boston.”

Zadorov is a left-shot defender who is capable of bringing his snarl on either side.

“Zadorov is not coming in to replace Mark Giordano – there was no one on the market who could (do that),” said Treliving.

“He’s a big body who moves very well, can defend space, rangey, moves the puck and has a physical element to him. We still have some work to do to fill out the blue line. It’s going to be by committee and we think Z can pick up some of those minutes.”

The first text Zadorov received upon landing with the Flames was from Milan Lucic, who was kicked out of his very first game as a Flame for sucker punching Zadorov in an effort to spark his new team.

"I'm glad I don't have to take sucker punches from him anymore,” laughed the personable, six-foot-six, 235-pound shut-down blue liner.

“Now we can punch other guys together."

The Flames, whose only previous addition came several days earlier with the signing of versatile depth winger Tyler Pitlick, capped Wednesday by signing defencemen Nick Desimone and Kevin Gravel, as well as goalie Adam Werner to two-way deals at league minimum.

Treliving said there was no update on talks to extend Johnny Gaudreau’s contract past next season, which is pertinent as his modified no-trade clause kicked in Wednesday, limiting the number of teams he could be traded to to five.

Derek Ryan's time as a Flame came to an end Wednesday when he signed a two-year deal with the Oilers for $1.25 million annually.

“I think we certainly improved significantly in some areas – there’s still some work to be done,” said Treliving, who still has almost $13 million in cap space.

“The work doesn’t end today. Adding some of the pieces we did today will help us in certain areas. As changes happen it does open up opportunities for other players. We’ve got lots of flexibility right now. We still have some of our own players to sign but we have options. That’s not by coincidence. We’ve got lots of summer left to add players via free agency or through the trade market.

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