Calgary Flames trade defenceman Kris Russell to Dallas

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames have traded defenceman Kris Russell to the Dallas Stars.

CALGARY — The Calgary Flames have traded defenceman Kris Russell to the Dallas Stars.

The Flames get defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka, forward Brett Pollock and a conditional 2016 second-round draft pick in the deal.

The 28-year-old Russell, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, has four goals and 11 assists in 51 games this season.

“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.

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, the Caroline native saw his career blossom under coach Bob Hartley.

Russell immediately became a top-four defender and in his two-plus seasons with the Flames, he averaged over 23 minutes in ice time.

He shone in last year’s playoff chase, stepping up after captain Mark Giordano suffered a season-ending injury in February. Instead of fading away as most expected, Russell and partner Dennis Wideman were given more responsibility and their strong play helped Calgary edge the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. They went on to upset the Vancouver Canucks in the first round before being eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks.

In the second year of a two-year, US$5.2-million deal, Russell had become unaffordable for the Flames, who are not in playoff contention this season.

On defence, the Flames have over $17 million committed long-term to the trio of players viewed as the big three in captain Mark 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 joins a Dallas Stars team that is one point back of Chicago for the lead in the Central Division.

Jyrki Jokipakka, 24, who is in his sophomore season with the Stars. The 6-3, 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 WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.

The conditional second-round pick becomes a first-round selection if the Stars reach the Western Conference final and Russell plays 50 per cent of the games in the first two rounds.

The trade comes 48 hours after general manager Brad Treliving shipped Jiri Hudler, another veteran on an expiring contract, to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2018.

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