Expect Brad Treliving to make moves for the future

The next few months are bound to be an interesting time for Calgary Flames observers and a very challenging time for general manager Brad Treliving. With the club in the third season of its rebuilding project, the team is faced with the challenge of furthering the development of their organization’s young players while having an NHL roster that’s chock full of established NHL bodies without a bunch of upside – and that are clogging up spots that could be used to evaluate emerging AHL bodies.

Take, for example, Jakub Nakladal. The Flames have seven NHL defenders on one-way deals (and who are all making $2.6 million and above), which makes it basically impossible – logistically and cap-wise – to give Nakladal a shot at the NHL despite him being strong in the AHL and worthy of a promotion. When your top AHL performers can’t get a shot at a big-league call-up, it could have an impact on the performance of the whole team – if Morgan Klimchuk sees Derek Grant stuck in the AHL quicksand despite killing it, he might not grow to the same extent as he would in an environment with upward mobility.

The Flames might not make the playoffs this season. They’re definitely not winning a Stanley Cup. Treliving is a smart guy. He’s likely aware of this, and has his eye on the team’s long-term development. Here’s a position-by-position look at what the Flames need to do to fuel their future growth.

GOALIES

The Flames have two goaltenders in the organization under pro contracts for 2016-17: Jon Gillies, who will be coming off a major surgery, and Mason McDonald, who will be 20 and eligible to return to the QMJHL. That’s it. Neither is an option for an NHL job, so expect the Flames to be included in talks for every damn goalie that might become available as they’ll need two NHL bodies (one of them might be Karri Ramo) and probably a veteran AHL goalie to mentor Gillies and McDonald.

The challenge here is that the Flames have Ramo (UFA), Jonas Hiller (UFA), Joni Ortio (RFA) and Kevin Poulin (RFA) becoming free agents on July 1. The club might want to retain Ramo for next season, but I can’t imagine many teams are calling about the other three, which makes it a challenge to explore bringing in players with existing contracts prior to the trade deadline – where the heck do you put them?

Likelihood of any moves: Low

DEFENSE

This is the messy one.

The Flames have six players on one-way deals for next season (Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Deryk Engelland, Dennis Wideman and Ladislav Smid), along with Brett Kulak, Kenney Morrison, Oliver Kylington, Patrick Sieloff, Keegan Kanzig and Ryan Culkin all signed to deals for next year. Rasmus Andersson is also under contract, but like McDonald he could go back to junior for one last season. And beyond the players that have contracts, there’s a possibility that Providence College senior John Gilmour and Boston University sophomore Brandon Hickey could sign deals this spring and go pro full-time next season, which would require places to put them.

Expiring contracts include Kris Russell (UFA), Jakub Nakladal (UFA) and Tyler Wotherspoon (RFA). All could be retained, or all could be jettisoned, as the Flames have (a) depth at this position and (b) very little cap flexibility at this position. If the Flames can somehow, someway move one of Wideman, Smid or Engelland before Feb. 29 to open some cap and roster space up, suddenly they could do interesting things (like go to free agency or trade to find a strong second pairing body). That said, they’ve likely been trying to trade Wideman’s contract since forever with no success, so I wouldn’t count on that.

So do the Flames sell off Russell for picks and prospects? Do they cash out on Wotherspoon given the young depth they have at the AHL level (many of whom have progressed faster than Wotherspoon)? Do they try to flip Nakladal for an asset now if they feel like he won’t re-sign for next season? Or do they make a move at the NHL level to get Nakladal an audition there? There are a lot of different things the Flames can do on the back end.

Likelihood of any moves: High

FORWARDS

This is the expensive one.

The Flames have eight players signed for next year at the NHL level: Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Mason Raymond, Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Brandon Bollig and Micheal Ferland. On the farm, they have Garnet Hathaway, Hunter Smith, Austin Carroll, Morgan Klimchuk and Emile Poirier signed for next season. It seems probable that OHL star Andrew Mangiapane goes pro next season (he’ll need to be signed), while Mark Jankowski is also likely to be in the AHL next season (providing he signs).

And thus, the big issue for the Flames this summer is their massive amount of forward free agents organizationally: UFAs Jiri Hudler and David Jones, and RFAs Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, Markus Granlund, Derek Grant, Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold, Drew Shore, Bryce van Brabant, Turner Elson and Freddie Hamilton. I would expect Treliving to move Heaven and Earth to get Gaudreau and Monahan signed long-term, but I have no read on whether or not the Flames wish to move or retain the rest of these guys. Considering that Mangiapane and Jankowski are on their way in, likely some bodies have to be headed elsewhere in order to open up pro spots for them.

I fully expect the Flames to trade Hudler prior to the trade deadline. Beyond that, the team could be extremely busy flipping other expiring contracts for future assets, or they could stand pat and attempt to retain the majority of them. Neither approach would surprise me. Do the Flames keep Colborne? Do they think Jooris has value? Do they think Granlund is an NHL player? Do they think Agostino is an NHL player given his AHL success? Do they hold onto van Brabant and Elson as AHL role guys (or do they feel like either has more upside than that)?

Likelihood of any moves: High

OH, AND THE DRAFT, TOO

Treliving really values drafting and development and after shipping out his team’s top three picks last summer to acquire Dougie Hamilton, does he want to make it up to his scouting team by acquiring additional draft picks? This summer’s free agency class thins out quickly after the tippity-top guys, making it seem like adding picks heading into the summer could be a huge bargaining chip going forward considering how cash (and cap)-strapped a lot of teams project to be.

(I mean, look at how well it worked for them last summer.)

For what it’s worth, the Flames have 47 active contracts on the books, so they could easily add or subtract from their group.

IT SHOULD BE BUSY

At this point, the Flames are still in a state of flux. They have an identified core group of young studs (and Mark Giordano), but their secondary group is still very much murky and undefined. Based on this fact alone, and considering that the Flames probably won’t become a legitimate threat until they define their secondary group, I very much expect Treliving to be busy in the next several weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

  • JMK

    I’d be inclined to keep Jones just for a good bit less, how high would you go on the price tag before you cut ties?

    I just love having prospects in the system so hoping they get lots of picks this year. I find myself only checking Barrie’s games this season.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    You gotta think Colbourne and Hudler are the first to go along with some fringe AHL guys. You also have to wonder where Granny fits in, as he has had allot of icetime lately to prove himself and so far he has been good, but his game hasn’t elevated to another gear (maybe the Wild come calling to re-unite the brothers?).
    Its too bad that the Nak hasn’t had a few games this year to see if we have a legit number 5 or 6 guy that can grow with the team. Guys like Smid are great to have in the bank for injuries but in todays cap game using a guy like Nak is better asset management.

    The biggest hole is the goaltending as there incumbent “next guy” nor decent stop gap to feel confident about. Mr. Anderson from the Ducks would sure look good in a red uniform!

  • CofRed4Life

    My hope is that they can move one of the defensemen (Russell seems the most likely) and call up Nakladal to see what we have in him. I want him to resign, but only after seeing if he can be that 5/6 defenseman.

    • MattyFranchise

      Pretty much exactly what I was going to say. When the Flames move a d man or two at the deadline Nak should be first call up.

      Kulak the second if they can make room for him

    • KACaribou

      It would be interesting to find out if Hamilton would like Russell moved. I kind of doubt it. And not sure I would like to risk another pairing. These two seem to be working very well together.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Amen Brother!

        Contract status aside the 4 defenseman I want on this team next year includes Russell.

        I know contract status is impossible to ignore and given we have difficult contracts to move on defense its even harder to fathom re-signing Russell but he is a hometown boy who loves playing here and I think is a little underrated by the advanced stats community.

        • Kevin R

          Problem is if unless someone magically takes Smid, Engellend & we eat a bunch of Wideman’s salary, we can’t afford Russell. Simple economics. The economics that also contribute to that is we have Stajan & Raymond eating up over 6.5 mill next year & neither are a regular top 9 forward. One plays mainly 4th line & the other is in & out of the line up as a healthy scratch.
          BT has a lot of contracts to purge & I expect some carry over to next year.

          • KACaribou

            I guess before I make that leap, I would have to know what Russell wants and also the circumstances involved with other teams kicking the tires in Calgary.

            That’s what is so redundant discussing so matter of fact, like anyone here knows the inner workings of the team. We don’t know a thing.

            Better to talk about what we would like to see happen. I like the Russell/Hamilton combo. I hope we keep them together.

            We have an expensive third pairing and 7th. That’s the real issue.

          • RealMcHockeyReturns

            While some recent comments of yours in other articles have been downright silly (the anti-metrics ones which are wrong as most NHL teams use them so they have SOME value), I agree here. I do like Russell and think his shot-blocking is useful and does NOT always mean we are worse or getting killed when he is out there. I like him and for under $4.25M per year on deal of 2-3 years, I would keep him also. But for that to happen, we DO need to save $ by moving some salaries, preferably Smid or Engelland or Wideman to pay him and of course Johnny and Mony.

          • Kevin R

            Well I guess we just talk about unrealistic wants but like any good movie, the one that has the element of potential reality is the best. I don’t mind playing capologist (sp?) but we need to face reality of 2 things. First, everyone has bad contracts & sometimes you can’t move them. 2/We will probably be in the thick of the Divisional playoff chase for 2nd & 3rd. We may not see much trading & there is a pretty good chance there is even less sellers this year. So unless someone get’s silly & coughs up 1st rounders for Hudler & Russell, Tre may be content to keep them for the playoff dash in March/April.

            I can see Tre offering Russell a 3.0-3.5 mill deal, but I see Russell getting higher paid on the open market. Smid/Engellend & Wideman are all signed for next year, it makes resigning Russell pretty bleak. Too bad we didn’t give Russell a 3 year deal instead of 2. Hindsight & better planning is definitely needed going forward as we have young talented players that are going to need to be paid & positions opened up.

          • RealMcHockeyReturns

            Don’t get the logic or math of your comment. If you get rid of Smid and Engelland salaries by trading them (or even retain some salary in trades), then you have MORE money to spend on Russell if that was your plan. But I DO agree seeing Raymond go bye-bye or Stajan in the right trade would be nice, mainly for economic reasons.

        • KACaribou

          If the advanced stats community made as much difference as it thinks, the Flames wouldn’t need pro scouts. And how many do they have again?

          The people that matter love Russell from what I have gathered. No wonder. What stat grades mental toughness and warrior mentality?

  • MattyFranchise

    Im a fan of Backlund, but pair him with one of Russel or Wideman and I think we can fid a deal which brings us back what our GM feels is a good return. ie: bonafide right winger and or a draft pick and blue chip rw prospect. You have to believe with Arnold simmering in the AHL and Granlund for many less dollars learning his craft at center, loos to be closing the gap on Backlund.
    I think Chicago could use Backlund and either Russel or Wideman. Could we get Terravainen, or is Ryan Hartman and Scott Darling more realistic.. Just throwing talk out there very loosely! If Terravainen,i would expect w would be eating some salary somehow too

  • I’d like to see Kulak and Nakcity as the 5-6 pairing next year. That means you gotta move out Russell and Smid.
    I am all for retaining salary or buying out Wideman. I hope Tre entertains this thought. Move out the deadweight.

    You’ve been raising these guys on the farm into your organization let’s reward those guys whove earned it. Stick to the never given always earned mantra. Guys like Smid, Wideman etc haven’t earned it. Time to move on.

    Letting Walk: Wotherspoon, Grant, Van Brabant, (HTP gonna kill me but) Elson, Agostino, and Colborne, HIller, Ramo**
    Trading: Russell

    Resign: Mony, Johnny, Jooris, Hamilton, Shore, Granny and Arnold, Ortio (2 years max)
    ** resign ramo if another option can’t be found via trade/ufas

    I think Arnold still has his say yet if he can stay healthy (he just went down last night with another injury) see him or Shore as guys who can slot in and replace Stajan next year. I think Granny needs to be given a shot on the Wing with either Bennett or someone else down the middle of the ice. He’s crafty and has a good release he just sucks at faceoffs against veteran NHL guys.

    That’s where my head is at with the UFA’s/RFA’s.

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      The first thing that Treliving should do is claim Stefan Elliott. Then waive Smid. That gives you a replacement level player and allows you to move Russell and/or Wideman. Bring up Nakladal as the 7th guy once you trade the them.

      Next is to seriously target a player like Kevin Hayes. He is more than a Colborne, and gives you another Ferland type player for the top 6, this time a RW.
      Forget about players like Drouin who will require too much in a trade, even thought hey have proved nothing in their career. If they took Klimchuk + T-Spoon, I would consider that (not very likely).

      There is no rush to deal with the RFA’s except for Johnny and Monahan. Wait till the end of the season to determine their disposition.

  • I think most of us fully expect Hudler to be gone prior to trade deadline day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they let Colborne &/or Jones walk on July 1st.

    While I don’t disagree with Ryan’s opinion that the secondary group needs to be solidified, I would bet that Trelving’s priorities will be to solve the goaltender situation and shed a couple of contracts on defense. If you look at the numbers, we have way too many one way deals for too much money and I’m sure Brad has been working the phones for some time to try and get that solved. Aside from Wideman, I’m sure he’s love to deal away Engelland and Smid to free up some cap space, not to mention see who from Stockton could come up to take their place.

    The next 5 weeks should prove interesting!

  • CofRed4Life

    The number of trades that Tre will end up making will depend on

    1) finding a willing trade partner (not many hockey trades are made these days) and the number of teams out of the playoffs at the TDL.

    2) how situated the Flames are at the TDL to make a real run at the playoffs. You may not want to trade Jones, Hiller if the Flames are in the thick of things..Flames would need a insurance goalie in case Ramo goes down and Jones played well in the games that counted.

    3) the number of injuries on the team in general…you need experienced backup strength at all positions. How can we forget last year when Gio went down? Some D-men who most posters on FN thought were useless played really well in the stretch run and help secure the Flames a playoff oosition and a first round victory.

    Presdiction: one trade by Treleving for a draft pick!