Flames That Got Away: 3 Successful Draft Picks That Refused to Sign in Calgary

The NHL entry draft has always been a complete and utter crapshoot. We’ve seen multiple number one overall picks become big-time busts, while seventh-rounders can sometimes become all-stars. The Calgary Flames have a history of big hits and frustrating misses when it comes to building their team through the draft, and they’ve learned the hard way that a high first-round pick is no guarantee of receiving a franchise player. Calgary’s seven-year Sam Bennett experiment/recent trade is proof of that. But what happens when a team selects a coveted prospect they really want to sign, but the attraction isn’t mutual? The sting of rejection becomes even worse if that once-drafted player becomes an NHL star.

Flames’ 2016 Draft Pick Adam Fox Is Quickly Becoming the NHL’s Best Young Defenceman

I know there are a lot of Flames fans who would have loved to see the native of Jericho, New York, with a flaming C emblazoned across his chest, but shortly after being drafted 66th overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft, there were rumours about Fox’s hesitancy to sign with Calgary. After watching their prized prospect play a couple of seasons of outstanding hockey for Harvard University, the Flames failed to come to terms with the undersized defenceman.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Adam Fox, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ultimately, the team traded his rights to the Carolina Hurricanes as part of a big multiplayer deal on June 23, 2018. The Hurricanes got defenceman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland and the rights to Adam Fox in exchange for Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm. Seeing that Lindholm and Hanifin both had outstanding seasons, I think the Flames made out pretty well in this deal.

Flames fans shouldn’t feel too badly about Fox turning up his nose, as he didn’t just jilt one team – he jilted two! He also refused to sign a contract with the ‘Canes, fuelling widespread speculation that the New York Rangers were his desired NHL destination. It turns out that theory was bang on, as Carolina traded Fox to the Rangers on April 30, 2019 – so now the 23-year-old has not one but two angry fan bases who will boo him whenever he plays in their town.

However, there are also some darn good reasons for the Flames’ faithful to truly lament the team’s inability to sign the dynamic playmaker. In his first season as a pro, Fox made an immediate impact – tying for second among rookie defencemen in goals while finishing third in assists and points. And he’s only getting better. In his second full season with the Rangers, the young D-man is averaging over 24 minutes a night, had 47 points in 55 games, never seemed to make those big defensive gaffes, and won the 2021 Norris Trophy. Compare that to how Flames head coach Darryl Sutter describes his stable of young defenders, and yeah… I guess Fox would have been a very welcome addition to Calgary’s blue line.

Flames’ 1999 Draft Pick Craig Anderson Is Third in Career Shutouts by an American-Born Goaltender

The Flames picked goaltender Craig Anderson 77th overall in the third round of the 1999 NHL entry draft, but for whatever reason, the native of Park Ridge, Illinois, chose not to sign a contract with Calgary. Instead, Anderson returned to play two more seasons with the Guelph Storm of the OHL before re-entering the draft in 2001, where he was ultimately taken by the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round, 73rd overall.

Craig Anderson Buffalo Sabres
Craig Anderson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A veteran of 19 NHL seasons, the dependable netminder bounced around between the Blackhawks, the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche before finding the right fit with the Ottawa Senators in 2011. Anderson would spend the next decade as the Sens’ go-to guy between the pipes, becoming a fan favourite in the process. The 39-year-old currently holds multiple Senators franchise records, including most games played, highest save percentage, and most wins. He also stacks up very well against some of the best U.S.-born goalies to ever play the game. Anderson is third in career shutouts by an American with 42, sixth in career wins with 290 and sixth in career games played with 651.

After leaving Ottawa at the end of 2019-20, the crafty goaltender signed a league-minimum contract with the Washington Capitals and started two times for the MassMutual East Division contender in 2020-21. Flames fans who suffered through the never-ending carousel of goalies after Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013 would have likely appreciated the kind of stability Anderson provided the Sens in his decade-long tenure with the club. Could he have been the answer to Calgary’s multi-year woes between the pipes? I guess we will never know.

Flames’ 2000 Draft Pick Jarret Stoll Is a 2-Time Stanley Cup Winner with the Los Angeles Kings

The Flames thought they had found a solid prospect for their forward group when they selected Jarret Stoll 46th overall in the 2000 NHL entry draft. However, the team was unable to come to terms with the native of Melville, Saskatchewan and arranged a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who thought they completed the deal before the trade deadline but later found out their fax to the league office didn’t make it in time. Stoll ended up playing a couple more seasons with the WHL Kootenay Ice before re-entering the 2002 NHL draft, where he was selected by the Edmonton Oilers 36th overall. Stoll displayed a career-best scoring touch during the 2005-06 season, potting 22 goals and adding 46 assists to help propel the Oilers to a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Jarret Stoll Tomas Vokoun
Jarret Stoll (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

The centerman would skate two more seasons with Edmonton before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings before the start of the 2009-10 campaign, where he would provide decent offensive production, defensive responsibility and veteran leadership over his seven years with the club. The obvious highlight of Stoll’s time with the Kings would have to be winning two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 under current Flames’ bench boss Darryl Sutter. The gritty center will also be remembered for his OT winner in the Kings’ first-round series with the Vancouver Canucks that kickstarted the team’s epic run to their first-ever Stanley Cup.

After becoming a free agent in 2015, Stoll signed with the Rangers but was placed on waivers midway through the season, eventually getting picked up by the Minnesota Wild. After playing 14 NHL seasons with four different teams, Stoll finished his career with 872 games played and three trips to the Stanley Cup Final. While he never became a true star player in the NHL, Flames fans may wonder if he could have provided some much-needed postseason enthusiasm and physicality to a team that has had a whole lot of trouble getting out of the first round of the playoffs. Like the other players on this list who chose not to sign with Calgary after being drafted… I guess we will never know.