CALGARY, AB -- Geographically speaking, Calgary Flames defenceman Kris Russell is as close to home as he’s been in his hockey career.
And the Caroline, AB product made the commitment to stay for another two years.
The Flames announced a two-year extension worth $2.6 million per season for Russell as the team was breaking for the Olympic schedule nearly two weeks ago. Needless to say, he’s happy to be back.
“It’s obviously a great opportunity to play here another two years,” Russell told CalgaryFlames.com. “I’ve enjoyed playing here. I think it’s a good group of core guys that can be a competitive team with some great young guys coming up. It’s a team I want to be a part of.”
Calgary acquired Russell’s rights from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a fifth round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft last July and promptly signed the 26-year-old to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
He’s been everything and more that’s been asked of him since.
In 44 games, he’s managed four goals and 20 points and sits 10th overall in the National Hockey League with 123 hits.
“This guy is really showing us some big things for us,” coach Bob Hartley said. “Small-sized defenseman plays so smart. So skilled with the puck. Great on the power play. Great defensively. Works hard. He really fits what we were looking here to get.”
The partnership fits Russell well, too.
“I think any player, you want to build good minutes and show you can compete in any situation,” he said. “I was given the chance here and I’m glad to get the opportunity to play here another two years. Hopefully I can continue progressing.”
Russell would’ve been an attractive option on the free agent market this summer.
Only five defencemen slated for free agency had more points heading into the Olympic break than Russell, who was the youngest of the bunch before the Feb. 8th signing. Only two have averaged more ice time this year.
Yet he was more than willing to forgo hitting the open market in favour of another pair of seasons as a member of the Flames.
“I think if anything, it’s the on-ice and the team,” he said. “I wanted to be here. I like being here. It’s a good group of guys. I get along well with the coaching staff and management and the ownership here is great. It was something I really wanted to be a part of.
Russell also admitted staying close to home certainly helped the situation.
“It helps,” he started, “when you’re close to home and get to have your family and friends watch you and days off, you can get away and get back and see them.
“It kind of worked out both ways.”
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