Andersson proving to be a bona fide workhorse for Flames
It’s a list that is just three names long: Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, and Cale Makar.
Those are the skaters you can find around the National Hockey League who have played more minutes than Calgary Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson so far this season.
Despite a flurry of off-season moves impacting marquee players, expectations in Calgary were still high this year – if not because of the pedigree of head coach Darryl Sutter, then because of a blueline that grades as one of the best in the league.
Calgary may not have the elite first pairing you can find in a market like Colorado, but the depth the team carries at the position is second to none. It’s rife with quality skaters and high-end puck movers on all three pairs.
One of the things I was curious about with Calgary’s blueline was if a player would standout, so to speak, at a reasonably talent-rich position. Fighting for ice time on a deep unit like this is quite the challenge and generally requires significant outperformance and a lot of trust from the head coach. In the case of Andersson, that’s precisely what he has done, earning the trust of Sutter and anchoring the first pair with Noah Hanifin.
Andersson has had the benefit of playing with quality names in the past. His original partner was Mark Giordano, and he transitioned to a pairing with Hanifin a season ago. But it’s Andersson’s play that appears to be standing out to his head coach – look at his career usage, and look how much it’s exploded to the upside under Sutter’s tenure:
Considering Andersson’s draft pedigree and his early-career performance, it was a likely outcome that Andersson would mold himself into a top-four option. But it’s important to distinguish between a top-four defender and a bona fide workhorse, which is what Andersson has become under Sutter. Playing 25 minutes a night is a tall order you only ask of Norris Trophy-calibre defenders, or quality defenders playing on otherwise battered bluelines. That’s not the case in Calgary.
Andersson is also building an impressive track record of year-over-year performance, the type of performance you want to continuously bet on. Consider Anderson’s net-goal differentials over the years and the type of margins Calgary carries with him on the ice:
That’s two seasons of sustained advantage play for Calgary with Andersson on the ice. It’s true that Andersson had the benefit of playing with some of Calgary’s best forwards in years past, which will always lift goal differentials. This season, his most common forwards include Tyler Toffoli and Nazem Kadri – quality attackers, but not cut from the same cloth as the Jonathan Huberdeaus of the world.
Andersson may also carry one of the NHL’s best contracts if the outperformance is real and Sutter is going to continue to utilize him in this fashion. Andersson, just 26, is signed on a $4.5-million dollar cap hit through the 2025-26 season, and only carries a low-impact no-trade clause on the final two years of his deal.
To that end, he’s the perfect player for Calgary right now. If the team continues to work inside of a competitive window for the next few seasons, Andersson’s heavy minutes and low relative cap hit allow the team to get aggressive spending elsewhere to improve the roster.
If the team at any point has to consider moving Andersson via trade over the next few seasons, he is the type of player who can return a bunch of assets. It’s a perfect combination of a digestible cap hit and quality production at a position coveted by most teams, and even in the cap-compressed environment we are in right now, even the league’s biggest spenders can get creative with bringing in his contract.
That said, I don’t think we will be seeing an Andersson trade anytime soon. He’s too important to this organization and this coaching staff right now, and is one of the reasons they are in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Data via Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference