Come the morning of June 26, I thought I was going to have a relaxing day. Look after the dogs, watch out for any rumours, maybe take a nap before going to McMahon and watching the Stamps home opener. My plan there was to follow the draft on my phone, say, “Huh, neat,” when the Flames made their 15th overall selection, and go back to concentrating on football.
That didn’t happen. The part about watching out for rumours ended up taking over.
That wasn’t all, though. There are usually a couple of names you have your eye on that fall out of the first round, and you cross your fingers that they’ll be there when it’s your team’s turn in the second. And that’s exactly what ended up happening to Calgary.
It was a whirlwind 24 hours that resulted in a sharp upswing in the Flames’ fortunes, and it’s still hard to believe it actually happened.
Still doesn’t feel real.
I don’t think the magnitude of this can be properly stated. Without giving up a single tangible asset, the Flames acquired a 22-year-old franchise right-handed defenceman.
If you’re sceptical about any of that, just throw the word “potential” in there and the statement remains true.
Defence was an area the Flames needed to address. While Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie form an outstanding top pairing, if Calgary wanted to improve, they couldn’t rely on lucking into Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell repeating their performances. The top four needed an upgrade, ideally as soon as possible.
Fortunately, there was an easy way to go about it: free agency. Legitimate top four defencemen in their late 20s like Cody Franson and Andrej Sekera would be available on the open market, and the Flames had the cap space to bring them on board. They were established, and young enough to still be productive a few years down the line.
Free agency is still a possibility, but over the course of just a few minutes on a Friday afternoon, it quickly became an inferior method of achieving this goal.
Over the course of two minutes, we went from, “Hearing the Flames are top contenders to get Dougie Hamilton,” to, “trade call right now. Dougie Hamilton is a Flame.”
While Brad Treliving had been in contact with the Boston Bruins regarding the restricted free agent since the Flames’ season ended, this came completely out of left field to the rest of us. It wasn’t really an option that had been widely considered.
And then, it happened: the Flames had just fixed both their short and long-term defence issues in a single move. They had the new top four defenceman they so desperately needed, and it was a guy seven years younger than the best free agent targets, able to contribute at a high level for a long time. Who’s going to replace Mark Giordano as he inevitably declines? Dougie Hamilton, that’s who.
It took something like 20 minutes after the original trade announcement to find out what the Flames were giving up: picks. Just picks. No Johnny Gaudreau. Not even an Emile Poirier. Just three lottery tickets.
It got even better, though.
Hamilton is great, but he doesn’t address the lack of defensive prospects in the Flames’ system. Tyler Wotherspoon, Kenney Morrison, and Ryan Culkin maybe work out, but when those are your best bets, you’re in bad shape. Hamilton’s youth is wonderful and helps fill a massive need, but he doesn’t really fill the pipeline.
Thanks in part to some unexpected first round choices (thanks, Boston!), a couple of names expected to go Friday night were still around for the taking come Saturday morning. Rasmus Andersson wasn’t one of those names, but his availability at 53rd overall was a welcome sight, and he immediately became the Flames’ top defensive prospect. A near point-per-game right-handed defenceman with decent size and a lethal shot, Andersson checked the necessary boxes, and was a fantastic selection for the Flames’ first of the draft.
When you’re rebuilding, it’s ideal to have a lot of picks. Quality, however, will always trump quantity. The Flames sacrificed quantity for Hamilton, but they didn’t have to sacrifice quality as they waited to take their first Flame.
But they still weren’t done.
Everything happened so quickly.
Hamilton went from not even a thought to a Flame in two minutes. A mere 12 minutes after Andersson improved the prospect ranks, he was joined by a countryman with a significant amount of hype surrounding him.
This is where things go from unbelievable to, well… even more unbelievable? This is still real life, right?
The Flames traded away their 15th overall pick in part to acquire Dougie Hamilton.
The Flames may have been targeting Oliver Kylington at 15th overall before losing said pick.
The Flames drafted Oliver Kylington at 60th overall anyway.
Calgary didn’t just get to have its cake and eat it too; Calgary got to have two incredibly fancy cakes, eat both of them, and not have to share anything with anyone else. And Kylington joined Andersson right at the top of the Flames’ defensive prospects class.
Sam Bennett may have fallen to fourth thanks to his shoulder injury. Kylington fell to 60th thanks to a bad year, injuries, up-and-down movement in Sweden, and some possible attitude issues which shouldn’t be relevant because he’s 18 years old and they’re probably nothing anyway. He won’t be jumping in right away – not that we were expecting even the 15th overall pick to do that – but it doesn’t matter.
Defence was a major area of weakness for the Flames, and over the course of 24 hours, Brad Treliving turned it into a strength.
Calgary won’t have to worry about its top pairing for at least a decade. The defensive cupboards have at long last been restocked to a quality not seen since before TJ Brodie made it and Tim Erixon looked like a viable option. Young defencemen not already in the NHL will be knocking on the door sooner rather than later. If somebody gets hurt, Deryk Engelland won’t have to step into the top four ever again.
And with free agency just around the corner, the Flames may not even be done yet.
Take yourself back to Friday morning. Then take yourself to Saturday afternoon.
This may be getting ahead of oneself, but I’ll take Saturday afternoon over Friday morning every time. At a breakneck pace, the Flames flipped their defensive situation, going from struggling to potentially the class of the entire NHL one day, with rapid fire decisions coming out of seemingly nowhere to do nothing but cause awe, wonderment, and inspiration.
A smart off-season would take care of the Flames’ impending flirtation with regression, and Brad Treliving would appear to be a very smart man.
Thanks for the day, Flames. It was a good one.