The 3-Way Blockbuster That Almost Was

For about a 90 minute stretch on Friday afternoon right before the first pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, Flames twitter was losing its collective mind.

With hype of a potential trade up to third overall and right into the promised land of Jesse Puljujarvi, Flames GM Brad Treliving and Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen were having long, involved discussions every 10 minutes (or at least, it felt like that). It surely had to be about the pick.

It was.

“We were looking at possible scenarios to move down,” Kekalainen confirmed post-draft.

About half an hour after it was first reported that the Flames and Blue Jacket GMs were talking on the floor of the First Niagara Center, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli joined Treliving and Kekalainen in discussions.

A three team deal? Treliving confirmed exactly that on Sportsnet 960 after the first round, saying he had discussions “involving picks” and there was a “three team deal” in the works but “nothing was close.”

Trelving is known to downplay a lot of things and shares very little with the media, which appears to be the case here because Peter Chiarelli seemed to disagree with Treliving’s assessment of the state of the deal.

“We were about 75% of the way to a deal,” said Chiarelli when asked about the fourth overall pick. Chiarelli also said he only had one real possibility to deal that pick, and given the intensity and quantity of huddles between the three GMs right up until the picks were made, that was the deal. Even outsiders agreed.

“I was pretty certain something would get done with the third and fourth overall picks,” Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden said on TSN 1040 in a post-draft interview.

So, our dreams were not just dreams. They were very much a reality; it just came down to asking price, and maybe a bit of a big mouth from Kekalainen.

Jason Gregor of OilersNation and many other places was also on TSN 1040, and said the Oilers were set on trading down – presumably to six – until they got wind that Columbus was interested in Dubois at three. The original plan for Edmonton had been to take Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergachev at fourth overall (or wherever they were drafting), but Chiarelli still preferred Puljujarvi to any rearguard.

At some point during the discussions, it was revealed to Chiarelli that Columbus would not trade down past four because Vancouver was dead-set on Dubois, and Columbus was not willing to risk the third guy on their board. Realizing that Columbus would take Dubois at three if it came down to it, the game had changed.

Chiarelli was now trading away Jesse Puljujarvi.

Like any smart negotiator would do, he upped his ante. Probably by a significant margin. Since the Flames were highly unlikely to include Dougie Hamilton – the right-handed top pairing defenceman Edmonton craves – in any deal, and Edmonton loved the big Finn to begin with, the three, four, six swap was dead in the water.

Chiarelli and Kekalainen had another few discussions after Treliving recused himself, but at that point all hope was lost.

Hardly a huge tragedy, as all three teams walked away from this quite happy, but an extremely interesting wrinkle to what is always a day packed with storylines, nonetheless. In the end, the Blue Jackets got their guy at three, Edmonton lucked into another exceptional talent and the Calgary Flames got the next best thing to Puljujarvi in the scrappy and skilled Matthew Tkachuk.

The days and hours leading up to 2016 NHL Draft seem to have been filled with a ton of hot air – which I suppose is par for the course this time of year – but there was one rumour that was more than that. For the second straight year Brad Treliving almost pulled off another blockbuster, franchise-altering trade.

It didn’t quite work out in the end, but the Flames still came out aces, and it gave us a heck of an entertaining, adrenaline-filled ride.

So what do you think the three-way deal looked like before Edmonton got wind of Columbus’ preference at third overall? The Flames made the Elliott deal immediately after, so perhaps the 35th overall selection was involved? Sound off in the comments!

  • beloch

    I’m actually happy that this trade didn’t work out.

    As I said before the draft, I like Tkachuk’s stats more than Puljujarvi’s. Puljujarvi did indeed have a couple of very impressive tournaments, but his regular season stats are nowhere nearly as good. His NHLE is 13.3! That’s ridiculously low for a top ten pick, even if you double the (admittedly suspicious) NHLE conversion factor for the SM Liiga. Tkachuk did play on a dominant line with fantastic linemates, but we have a huge regular season sample of his play, and it’s excellent. His regular season NHLE is 49.3, which is fantastic.

    After seeing beast-mode Ferland in the 2015 playoffs and, last season, the much more mediocre regular season version, I think Flames fans should have some appreciation of what higher stakes can bring out in a player. Whether or not Puljujarvi can sustain his tournament level of play over the 82-game grind of a regular NHL season is a big, and very important question. Tkachuk, on the other hand, is a regular season monster.

    In short, if I were Treliving and I’d managed to trade for the third overall pick, I may very well have gone with Tkachuk anyways. The fact that he slipped to sixth and could be had without trading up is nothing but pure, unadulterated awesome.

    • Nedd

      I find it highly doubtful that Treliving would have tried moving up to the 3rd pick to take Tkachuk. The Flames were destined to have Tkachuk available because Dubois and Juolevi were being taken by Edm and Vcr regardless.

      Basically what you’re saying is that you disagree with his opinion as well as every other scout, GM and rating agency on their assessment of Puljijarvi. The strong consesnus has been the top three had a sizeable gap from the rest of the draft but somehow you’ve formed an opinion that Tkachuk is the better choice. Ok, that’s believable….

      • Yeah him and the Columbus GM didn’t think Pujijarvi was the far and away better pic. I am sure there are others. He gave his reasons which seem logical to me. The NHL is filled with stars not picked in the top 5 and more or those picked in the top 5 that are decent but unspectacular NHLers.

        Time will tell.

      • Avalain

        The NHLE doesn’t really care about the age of the competition. If playing against men in SMLiiga made it that much harder to score compared to the CHL then the NHLE would be adjusted accordingly.

        • Nedd

          Your comment is illogical. Ofcourse its more difficult to play against men as a 17 year old. But as you point out, the NHLE calculation does not compensate for this because its used as a gauge for all players from that league, not just for assessing draft eligible players.

        • MillHoodsHockey4Life

          Fully aware that the equivalents aren’t age dependent, but when you factor in an 18 yr old playing in one of the better leagues and holding his own and dominating the tournaments he played in against his peers, his NHLE would be a little misleading- at least in my mind.

          As for Tkachuk being a regular season monster, he’s still shorter, lighter and slower than Puljujarvi. But who cares about stuff like that anyway?

          • Baalzamon

            As for Tkachuk being a regular season monster, he’s still shorter, lighter and slower than Puljujarvi. But who cares about stuff like that anyway?

            Monahan is shorter, lighter, and slower than Colborne.

          • piscera.infada

            I’m with you on the technicalities of a Tkachuk vs. Puljujarvi argument. I was also pretty vocal before the draft against moving up to select Tkachuk–there are red flags in my mind. That said, I’m still going to stand and support the pick, because it made sense at #6 with really no one else on the board.

            Now, in regards to Puljujarvi, I do think people are correct to question his lofty ranking. It seems like the vast majority of people that swoon over him as a prospect do it either because of 1) a very good showing at a short tournament against players of his age group (not “against men”), and/or b) he sounds tantalizing in principle–big, good skater, “mature two-way game”. None of those things are enough to alleviate concerns like the ones @beloch brought up. Those are very reasonable concerns–as was your response to them. I’m also very hesitant about this belief that Puljujarvi (as well as Tkachuk) is “NHL ready”–I would personally say get him to the AHL and at least get him adapted to the North American game (the kid can hardly speak English yet). His results to date don’t inspire a ton of confidence, that he is in fact, an NHL player.

            For the record, if given the choice between the two? I choose Puljujarvi at this point. That said, barring unforeseen negative circumstances, I bet the two players actually produce at a fairly similar rate, and make very similar contributions to their respective teams moving forward. I just don’t see the huge gulf in talent between Puljujarvi, Dubois, and Tkachuk that many others do, or that there is between the aforementioned three and Laine and Matthews.

          • MillHoodsHockey4Life

            Won’t argue anything you’ve said- and while I’m at it, I never said Tkachuk is a bad pick(he was the obvious pick at 6 barring position preference), just that JP was the “correct” pick at 4.

            JP can play in the AHL while Tkachuk has to go back to OHL if they’re deemed not ready. Oilers drafting a D does them no good for this year as there were none NHL ready today- teams might be kicking themselves in a few years but that happens every draft.

            Tkachuk is most likely the player the Flames need in 2-3 years, I’m just not sold he makes the team this year.

          • usetobewise

            Tkachuk will not make the team this year and that’s alright. I don’t believe that was ever the plan for him either. Anyone who is discounting Puljujärvi as a prospect just because the Oilers got him is really naive. He could easily end up being the best player taken in this years draft. BT himself was salivating over the possibility of trading up and selecting him. With that said, I would suggest there’s a real chance even he doesn’t play a full season in the NHL.

      • jakethesnail

        Does not Edmonton need a top 2 D-man? Still no word…going after PK Subban was smoke and mirrors just like the previous oiler GMs….go for the stars and tell your fans that you tried hard. Going after Lucic (a forward NOT a D-man) is another joke!

      • Stan

        Lmao. SOOOOOO many hilarious things wrong with this post:

        1) Dubois is not a centre, he played a bit of the season at that position but the vast majority of his junior has been played at wing. He has even said that he prefers to play the wing.

        2) Really? Edmonton wanted and needed another winger? Pretty sure they want and need top 4 Dmen…

        3) The oilers won again? lmao, come back and talk when they’ve won something…. ANYTHING other then draft/lottery luck. Oilers have been in the basement for a decade and you have the audacity to say they won “again”. Typical oilers fan smfh

          • jakethesnail

            ..and Tkachuk was an absolute win for the Flames…let us celebrate excellent first round picks, even if they both fell into our surprised hands.

            I think that PJ is a good nickname for Pulj, considering how Chia butchered his name announcing the pick. J as a hard J as in John!

  • Kevin R

    I would have much rather had Pulji & we still could have had Elliott.
    I would say Edmonton was the biggest winner because they basically got another lottery win gifted to them. When it comes to Draft Lottery luck the Oilers have without a doubt a dynasty that I doubt will ever be eclipsed again by an NHL franchise. Calgary, thanks in part to Canucks came in 2nd haven Tkachuk fall to them (not too shabby of a consolation prize) & Columbus, well they left lots of a value on the table for the privilege to watch Dubois develop in junior for a year or so. They could have probably gotten Backlund & dumped a contract (Hartnell) to drop to 6 & then drafted Keller Or Brown or Tkachuk in all likelihood.

    Oh well, Flames have another high end forward to add to our 3 existing young core pieces. It’s all good.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Tkachuky cheese has grown on me a lot since being drafted, although Puljujarvi does seem to have the more elite skillset. It would’ve been pretty cool to see the Flames pulling off a significant trade and snatching up the third ranked guy in the draft, but I’m not unhappy about how things turned out.

  • Fat Tony

    I’m glad it didn’t pan out.. I like what we did.

    The two biggest needs were addressed with getting a big skilled winger and a clear starting goalie, with only giving up a second rounder (and a conditional third rounder in 2018)

    Slow clap for BT

  • BurningSensation

    Very interesting!

    My (uneducated) guess;

    – Cgy uses extra 2nd rnd picks/prospects to move from 6->3 with Columbus, say; #6, #35, a 3rd rnd pick, and Wotherspoon

    – Columbus then moves from 4->6 by gifting the Oilers Savard (a RHD they desperately need), or by re-gifting some of the booty gained from Cg, say; #6, Savard, and Cgy’s 2nd for #4.

  • CofRed4Life

    Never reveal your hand kekalainen. That lowers your bargaining power… oh well, it would have been nice to get the Finn, but I’m very happy with the way the draft unfolded.

  • Danomitee

    Puljujarvi would have been a pretty good pickup, but I’m pretty happy we somehow managed Tkachuck.

    Another trade would have been made for a goalie, but essentially we got Tkachuck and Elliott for what it would have costed to get Puljujarvi… Good no trade.

    • TurkeyLips

      He might not pan out to be a 30/30 player. Maybe 20/20. To be passed on by the Finnish GM means he was not consensus top three. Even though hes a winger, if he was good enough theyd have taken him over Dubois. Kekalainen probably has the most insider info on Pulj of any gm in the league.