Flames deal Kris Russell to Stars

The Calgary Flames have traded pending unrestricted free-agent defenceman Kris Russell ahead of Monday’s deadline to the Dallas Stars. The 28-year-old native of Carolina, Alta., has 15 points in 51 contests this season.

Pending UFA a standout shot-blocker, puck-moving D-man

The Flames have traded defenceman Kris Russell to Dallas. The 28-year-old native of Carolina, Alta., who set career bests last season in assists (30), points (34) and plus-minus (plus-18), has 15 points in 51 contests this season and is averaging close to 23 minutes a game. Russell is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Kris Russell is taking his shot-blocking and puck-moving expertise from Calgary to Texas.

The Flames, who are out of playoff position, have traded the pending unrestricted free-agent defenceman ahead of Monday's deadline to the Dallas Stars. In return, Calgary receives defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka, centre Brett Pollock and a 2016 conditional second-round draft pick.

As for the condition of the pick, it's believed that if Dallas reaches the conference finals and Russell plays 50 per cent of the games in Rounds 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it'll be a first-rounder.

"Kris is ultra-competitive and a solid two-way defenceman," said Stars general manager Jim Nill. "He will bring a steadying presence to our blue-line and we feel he will help us improve in several areas."

The agreement reached about an hour before the trade deadline Monday is an effort by the Stars to improve a defence that has been spotty as Dallas lost its grip on the Western Conference lead the past two months.

The 28-year-old Russell, a native of Carolina, Alta., set career bests last season in assists (30), points (34) and plus-minus (plus-18), has 15 points in 51 contests this season and is averaging close to 23 minutes a game.

Subject to trade rumours for weeks, Russell has been hampered by a lower-body injury and hasn't played since Feb. 12. But his salary cap hit of $2.6 million US was viewed as a valuable asset on the trade market.

Russell has been a prolific shot-blocker the past three seasons for the Flames, with 174 in 51 games this season after a career-high 283 in 2014-15.

He joined the Flames with little fanfare in July 2013 in a deal with St. Louis. Playing in his home province, Russell saw his career blossom under head coach Bob Hartley.

A key part of Calgary's rebuild, Russell emerged as its go-to guy on defence last season when Mark Giordano suffered a torn biceps.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving probably wouldn't have dealt Russell if he didn't have to sign standout young forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau this summer.

On defence, the Flames have over $17 million committed long-term to the trio of players viewed as the big three in captain Giordano and emerging stars T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton. Meanwhile, with one more season on their existing deals and owed over $11 million in 2016-17 are blue-liners Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland.

Russell is expected to sign for upwards of $5.5 million US annually after July 1. He joins a Dallas Stars team that is one point back of Chicago for the lead in the Central Division.

Jokipakka, 24, who is in his sophomore season with the Stars. The six-foot-three, 215-pounder has two goals and four assists in 40 games this season.

Pollock, the Stars second-round pick in 2014. Pollock, is in his fourth season with the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings.

Flames grab Backstrom

The Minnesota Wild have traded goalie Niklas Backstrom and a sixth-round draft pick to the Calgary Flames for right wing David Jones.

The deal was done Monday at the NHL trade deadline.

The 31-year-old Jones had nine goals and six assists in 59 games for the Flames this season, ranking second on the team with 115 hits. He has 102 goals and 86 assists in 446 NHL games.

The 38-year-old Backstrom has not played at all this season, stuck behind Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper. He hasn't been in the Wild net since Jan. 13, 2015, the day before they acquired Dubnyk.

The Wild were unable to deal him or buy out his contract last summer because of lingering midsection injuries that dampened his past four seasons.

With files from The Canadian Press


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