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The celebrations were muted.
By the time Dominik Simon’s contract with the Calgary Flames was finalized and announced Thursday, it was coming up on 9 p.m. in the Czech Republic.
“I had a practice today, and I have another one in the morning,” Simon said from his off-season home in Prague. “Tomorrow, I might have some champagne or something with my buddies. We’ll see how that goes. But gotta take it easy.”
Even if there were no toasts Thursday, Simon was bubbling with excitement after scribbling his signature on a one-year pact with the Flames. The 26-year-old forward will earn the NHL’s minimum wage — a salary-cap hit of US$700,000 — in a depth role at the Saddledome.
Simon has spent the past five winters with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, notching seven goals and 22 points in 64 twirls in 2019-20 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery during the pandemic pause. He didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Penguins as an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent.
“To be completely honest, I’ve been excited since the first second I found out Calgary was interested in me,” Simon said. “There’s a little bit of nervousness at first with all the change, but right away it turned to being excited about going to a new team and a new opportunity and in Canada, too. I’ve always liked Canada, so I’m very pumped about going there.”
One of the perks, of course, of starting his career in Pittsburgh is Simon was able to study a superstar. In fact, he occasionally skated on Sidney Crosby’s wing.
“First of all, I think I was extremely lucky to be his teammate and to play with him,” Simon said of Crosby. “He’s an amazing player, and I hope I learned something and I think I learned something from him. You just learn when you see him on the ice and when you play with him, it’s obviously even more.
“He doesn’t have too many weaknesses so in all areas of the game, you can take away some stuff from him — how to be strong on the puck, how to be a really good player, how to be a really good teammate and be very competitive.”
Now, Simon will hope to put those learnings to good use at the Saddledome.
After a couple of big-ticket additions — star puck-stopper Jacob Markstrom and shutdown defenceman Chris Tanev, both former Vancouver Canucks — on the first day of free agency, Flames general manager Brad Treliving has mostly been shopping for low-cost contributors. Simon, at the minimum salary, fits that description.
The Flames like his speed and skill, his determination to win loose pucks, his ability to make plays in traffic and his versatility to play throughout the lineup.
The left-hander has totalled 19 goals and 68 points in 185 career contests at the NHL level, but figures he can provide more pop than he’s shown in the past.
“I’m a player who likes to be on the puck, who likes to play with the puck and make either scoring opportunities or shoot the puck,” Simon said. “I’m trying to a play a very responsible defensive game, and trying to make offence from good defence.
“I definitely feel good that I can produce. It just feels really good right now. I can’t be more excited to get to Calgary.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020