Like Jiri Hudler, Michael Frolik is a proud native of the Czech Republic.
And, like Hudler, Frolik is a left-shooting right-winger.
But, unlike Hudler, you likely won’t see Frolik shoeless and entertaining a crowd on stage at the National Hockey League awards.
“I saw that,” chuckled the former Winnipeg Jet on his new teammate’s appearance at the MGM Grand after winning the Lady Byng Award — with no shoes on — a week ago. “Jiri can be a pretty funny guy so I could see something (like that) happening. I’m not really (like that). In the room, I’m a pretty quiet guy. I know he likes to make jokes but I’m more of a quiet guy.”
Which is OK with the Calgary Flames. They’re hoping most of the noise Frolik makes is on the ice, especially after signing the 27-year-old to a five-year pact worth $4.75-million per season during Wednesday’s NHL free-agent frenzy — one of the biggest deals of the day.
It was a decision Frolik pondered too.
His two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets were productive ones, scoring 42 points during each campaign. But after testing the free-agent waters, then meeting with Calgary brass at the NHL draft in Sunrise, Fla., and then a chat with his fellow countryman Hudler, he decided on the Flames.
“Things happen fast,” Frolik said over the phone on Wednesday. “But I think I chose the right one. I’m really excited and looking forward to it.”
And there’s no ill will toward Winnipeg. This, he said, was simply a smart business decision.
“It was a great two years (there) and they’re a great organization,” Frolik said. “I had a very good relationship with the coach there and I was happy there. But it’s all business. I choose Calgary. And I’m very proud now that I did that and very excited.”
For Frolik — who has 512 NHL games, 95 goals, 140 assists and 235 points during seasons with the Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Jets — Wednesday’s contract represented a healthy raise. Following the expiration of his three-year, $7-million deal at the end of the 2013-14 season, the Jets re-upped him for one year and $3.3-million, and he finished sixth in Jets scoring.
“It’s going to be new for me,” Frolik said. “My start is really important so I want to focus on that. It’s not easy when you come somewhere new. I think the goal is to play my game and work hard. I don’t want to put any numbers or anything. When the team is winning and everything is clicking, that’s the most important thing. I want to do everything to help the team win the games and be part of that.”
At the end of the five-year deal offered by Calgary, he would be 32 years old.
Frolik, who’ll move to Calgary with his girlfriend Deanna Kobzin and their seven-month-old girl, Ella, joins a crop of right wingers that also include Hudler, David Jones and Joe Colborne.
But he indicated he is versatile.
“In the past few years, I felt the most confident on the right side,” said the former 10th overall pick from the 2006 NHL draft. “But, before that, I played on the left side. In Winnipeg, I played a couple games at centre, too.
“I think they can use me a little bit everywhere.”
However, Calgary’s selling power was easy.
Not only did Frolik like what he saw last year from the club’s second-round playoff run and young core group, Hudler gave the Flames a ringing endorsement.
“He just said great things about Calgary,” said Frolik, who lives in Prague but hails from Kladno, about three hours from Hudler’s hometown in Olomouc. “Obviously, I know what kind of player (Hudler) is . . . a very smart player. He’s on the right side, too, but I don’t know if we’re going to play on the same line — probably not. It’s going to be exciting to have him on the same team.”