(Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports)
When Brad Treliving took the job as general manager of the Calgary Flames in the spring of 2014, the organization began an unabashed “accumulation phase.” More specifically, they tried to get younger and faster and attempted to do so by trading expiring contracts for prospects and draft picks.
In the run-up to the 2017 National Hockey League trade deadline, Treliving made a couple transactions that seemed to move in the opposite direction. The club added Michael Stone from Arizona last week for a 2017 third round selection and acquired Curtis Lazar on deadline day from Ottawa in exchange for a 2017 second round pick.
Speaking with the media following the trade deadline, Treliving indicated that the moves aren’t reflective of a change in organizational approach.
“Our record has shown since I’ve been here that we’ve accumulated a lot
of picks,” noted Treliving. “We gave up a pick today for a 22-year-old kid with a bright
future in the NHL. I don’t look at it as not accumulating assets. Every
once in a while you have to take a chance and put a pick in play here.”
Based on the standings on March 1, the Flames’ picks in the first four rounds would end up roughly at 17th, 48th, 79th and 110th overall. After their first round pick, the Flames now won’t hit the draft podium until the fourth round. Treliving defended the two swaps involving draft picks.
“This was a long-term play,” said Treliving. “People have talked about the
depth of this draft. I think there’s players in every draft. We felt we
had to make the move with Michael Stone to shore up our defense, to give
ourselves a chance this year. Michael is a young player, he’ll be
unrestricted at the end of the year and we’ll see where that goes. But
in both cases, obviously in Curtis’ case you control his rights for a
number of years, Michael you have the opportunity to see where things
go. I didn’t look at either one of those as pure rentals.”
Since Treliving arrived, the Flames have made six second round selections over three NHL Drafts: Mason McDonald and Hunter Smith in 2014, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson in 2015, and Dillon Dube and Tyler Parsons in 2016. They’ve also leveraged second round picks to acquire Brian Elliott and (partially) Dougie Hamilton. This sets the bar pretty high for Lazar’s performance, but also speaks to how highly they value him and his potential.
In the past, Treliving has explained how highly he values draft picks. Heck, in past years he’s basically rubbed his hands together and proclaimed that he loves having picks – he came from a scouting background and seems to value having multiple kicks at the can in each draft. That approach seems to have born fruit from the 2015 and 2016 Drafts, as our prospect updates from Christian Tiberi regularly showcase players from those drafts.
On the other hand, the draft can be a crap-shoot, which was one of the defenses used when the Flames acquired Hamilton for three selections in the 2015 Draft. Regardless of how good a team’s scouting and development staff is, it still would take years before a 2015 draftee would become an NHLer of any repute. Hamilton stepped in and was good right away. While the Flames gave up the probable 48th overall pick (in what’s reputed to be a weak draft), they arguably have acquired more of a known quantity in Lazar that can immediately help them.
The difficulty with the Mystery Box vs. Boat analogy is that Lazar isn’t quite a boat yet, so appealing to the notion that they could have some nebulous player at 48th overall or Lazar is almost a fallacy because Lazar isn’t really anything yet at the NHL level. He has some boat-like qualities and when you extrapolate his performance as a junior player in the Western Hockey League, it’s possible to conclude that he could one day develop into a boat. But the problem is that he’s already had some challenges at the pro level and while he’s definitely closer to becoming a boat (or a full-time NHLer) than anybody the Flames would probably take at 48th overall, he’s also used up almost four full seasons of his runway to become one.
The deadline moves are calculated gambles, but the team’s recent successes in the draft – and in leveraging second and third round selections to upgrade parts of their team – sets a high bar for Lazar to clear in order for the deal to be a success.
“We looked at where we could fall, where that pick could fit, and some
of the names that our guys have been looking at for the last year or two
for this draft and compare them to the player we got back today. We felt it was the right move to make the deal,” said Treliving.