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Ranking Brad Treliving’s free agent signings

During his tenure as Calgary Flames general manager, Brad Treliving has done a lot of tweaking to his team’s roster. One tool he’s used to add to the club is free agency. Ignoring the low-risk signings of players on entry-level deals, he’s lured 17 unrestricted free agents to town with contracts of varying lengths and dollar figures.

Here are the 17 Treliving UFA signings, ranked from worst to best based on team need, risk, cost, and how much would have to go right to justify the signing.

17. Mason Raymond

Three years and $3.15 million annually for a guy coming off one good season (with the Leafs) after two flat seasons with the Canucks (following a big back injury in the playoffs). It was too expensive, too long and he was buried in the minors and bought out before it was all done. The Flames are still on the hook for his buyout cap hit next season.

16. Devin Setoguchi

Not quite as long or as expensive as Raymond, but Setoguchi was uninspiring on a one-year, $750,000 one-way deal. He was a frequent healthy scratch before getting buried in the AHL.

15. Corey Potter

His contract was a cheap ($700,000) two-way deal and so he could’ve been buried. Instead, he hung around on the NHL roster for awhile and blocked younger players from a roster spot.

14. Nicklas Grossmann

The contract itself, while unnecessary, was largely painless: $575,000 on a one-way, and it allowed the Flames to maximize their long-term injured reserve (LTIR) cap relief. But his presence on the roster led Glen Gulutzan to actually use him, which was just a disaster.

13. Sena Acolatse

A useful AHL player who was on the farm all year on a $700,000, two-way deal.

12. Tom McCollum

A useful AHL player who was on the farm all year on a $612,500, two-way deal. The deal wasn’t so much “bad” as much as it was unnecessary; the Flames already had plenty of goalies in the system and he was only signed to meet expansion draft exposure requirements.

11. Brad Thiessen

A useful AHL player who was on the farm almost all year on a $550,000, two-way deal.

10. Linden Vey

A pretty low-risk signing, Vey had a $700,000, two-way deal and spent a bit of time on the NHL roster. He’s probably not a full-time NHLer these days, but he was decent in limited duty and a strong role player in the AHL.

9. Troy Brouwer

It’s hard to place Brouwer any higher than this. At four years and $4.5 million per season, his deal is too long and too hefty for a guy that’s basically a complementary player and beginning to see his production decline. Every signing from here on up on the list are all definitely NHLers, but Brouwer’s deal isn’t good.

8. Deryk Engelland

In the same vein as the Brouwer signing, Engelland’s deal was announced via a Bob McKenzie tweet when he had to clarify “No, it’s $2.917 million per year, not total.” Three years at $2.917 million per year is hefty for a depth defenseman, but like with Brouwer the Flames overpaid for attributes they liked.

7. Raphael Diaz

Signed after a strong training camp try-out, Diaz was useful for the Flames as a depth defender on a $700,000, one-way deal. If he sucked, he would’ve been easy to bury in the minors.

6. Jonas Hiller

Hiller was expensive ($4.5 million) and inconsistent over his two years in Calgary, but he also came to town with a good reputation and stole several games while he was here. The investment was worth it.

5. Matt Bartkowski

Signed for expansion draft exposure requirements, Bartkowski’s two year, $612,500 two-way deal is economical and easy to bury in the minors. He also proved to be a perfectly acceptable replacement-level NHL defenseman and was an upgrade over the Dennis Widemans and Jyrki Jokipakkas of the world.

4. Derek Grant

It’s a bit of a shame that the Flames were so log-jammed at center when he was here, because Grant was really useful as a bottom six option. On a one-year, $700,000 two-way deal he was a very good AHLer and pushed for NHL time during his stay with the Flames. He was a very good find.

3. Chad Johnson

Coming into Calgary with a reputation as being a really good backup, Johnson had a fairly affordable $1.7 million deal for one season. He was never bad, he was usually pretty good, and his November turned around their entire season. A very good investment.

2. Michael Frolik

Frolik had a reputation for being one of the better two-way players in the league. While his $4.3 million price tag (for four years) was a bit hefty, and probably can’t be justified by just his offensive contributions alone, Frolik has become a big part of what makes the Flames tick over his tenure. The high end of this list is filled with “bargains,” but Frolik is proof that you get what you pay for.

1. Kris Versteeg

Think about all the attributes that the Flames were touting about Brouwer when he signed: a leader, good in the room, veteran experience, Stanley Cups, and so on. Versteeg brought all of that and was a force in a lot of the games he played in, and did so for a fifth of the price tag ($950,000 for one year).

  • L.Kolkind

    You need to assign grades to each of these which I thought was a flaw with the trade rankings as well. This can then be tallied up and give a better representation as to how well each of the moves Trelving made adds up as a whole. For example

    Deryk Engelland – F He wasn’t as horrible this year, but he was still not good enough for the NHL and whoever played with Engelland had their possession stats crater. This was a massive overpay for a depth defencemen.

    Frolik A He provides fantastic value, pairs amazingly with Backlund and is easily Calgary’s best RW.

    If you go through and assign a grade to each of the moves he made like so, once you add them all up, you may end up very underwhelmed with how poorly the moves he has made have turned out.

  • Parallex

    You have the Brouwer and Engellend deals way to high. Way way to high. Considering the dollars, term, performance and opportunity cost they should probably be 16 & 15.

    • McRib

      Imagine if we had someone like Schlemko playing in Engellands role all of these years for his cap hit. People give Engelland just way too much credit because of a hometown bias (being a “nice guy and all”), as their are better defenders available for basically nothing every year.

  • McRib

    BT has definitely done better on trades than on FA signings. Outside of Frolik and Versteeg the rest have been underwhelming to brutal. I would have Frolik over Versteeg on this list, as Versteeg at this point has only had a one year impact.

  • KenBone18

    It seems that in general Tre likes to go after free agents rather than pursuing team improvement via trades. The problem is he always overpays (like all GMs do in free agency). The counter example that immediately comes to mind is Chiarelli for Edmonton – he made two big trades that immediately changed the face of the oilers and no longer made them the laughing stock of the pacific. Specifically he traded for Talbot and then for Larrson.

    I think if Tre really wants to fix this team he needs to make some trades; free agents aren’t getting it done.

    With that being said Versteeg was a good pick up and I hope we resign him, but please don’t give him more than 3mill a year.

    • Lets Get Something Clear

      This is a bad analysis. Firstly, Treliving has made a number of notable trades in an effort (sometimes more successful than others) to improve the team. The most obvious are the Hamilton and Elliott deals. Secondly, most of Treliving’s other trades have been to accumulate draft picks most of which he has used to take players. So while he has made some free-agent signings, they haven’t been especially splashy (only two players were signed as UFAs for over $4 million, one of them was a hit and the other a miss). He has primarily built through the draft either by using picks or packaging them for players.

      • KenBone18

        If you compare the deals I think Larsson helps a team more than Hamilton would help a team. I think it’s also fair to say that Talbot is a superior goalie to Elliot. Tre’s notable trades haven’t worked.

        Also, what have the draft picks netted us so far? Is there a Tre draft / develop prospect that we are reaping the rewards for at present?

        • Sobueno

          Hard to make the argument that Larsson has more impact than Hamilton – we’ve got a 20 point vs 50 point comparison this last season. Both top pairing guys. Even if Larsson had somewhat better possession stats (not sure their numbers this last year), that extra 30 points from Hamilton is significant. Also, I’d argue the Oil gave up significantly more for Larsson than Calgary did for Hamilton.

          Also, a bit early to declare no return on Treliving’s picks. Tkachuk was a Treliving pick up and that kid is looking like a beauty. Even though he was always projected to go high it was still a bit of a gamble given his line mates in junior and the question of whether he was a passenger on that line. There’s also a pretty decent crop of promising prospects including Andersson and Kylinton (both of whom could be coming up soon), Mangiapane, Parsons, Dube, Fox, etc. I’d have to look up who was the result of picks he got from trades, but overall I’d say his drafting has looked decent. We’ll have a better idea in a few years exactly how successful he’s been.

          • Skylardog

            Judging BT for drafts using Tkachuk as a success is a “really that was BT that did that?” I could have drafted him at that position of the draft, the NHL and every analyst tells you who is next on the list when it comes to the first round. But the farm does not appear to have any top 6 forwards or top 4 defensemen in the hopper. We are all hoping someone from the farm can just make the roster. No diamonds in the rough picked up after round one by BT.

        • flamesburn89

          Larsson is pretty much a defensive defenceman. Useful player, but I’d much rather have an offensive guy like Hamilton that makes mistakes from time to time but can truly make a difference than a straight up defender like Larsson.

  • Baalzamon

    [Vey was] a strong role player in the AHL

    Actually he was a primary scorer. He had a higher scoring rate than Jankowski and was BY FAR the Heat leader in assists (he had 40; no one else even cracked 30).

  • Baalzamon

    Brouwer is way, way too high. He should be 30th / 17.

    Sidebar, but I never understood the stance that Frolik is overpaid. If anything the Flames got him on a bargain deal. Even if you’re only figuring offensive contributions, 43 pts / year (three of the last four seasons) is second line numbers. 4.3 million is a second line salary. How is that overpaying?

  • cjc

    The only signings worth talking about are Raymond, Brouwer, Engelland, Hiller, Johnson, Frolik and Versteeg. Raymond and Brouwer were both busts. Engelland was never worth the money, but at least he didn’t look out of place on the third pairing, and gave us a few highlight reel goals to enjoy. He’s a push. Hiller was only signed for two seasons. His first was fantastic but the wheels fell off in the second – a push at worst. Johnson was a solid backup/1b this year. Win. Frolik and Versteeg are clear wins. The rest were too cheap/short term to matter much. Overall Treliving is batting a little better than .500 on his UFA signings.

  • Newbietwo

    Tre came in as a raw GM.. for that the first two years ok get it.. but then came Brouwer which now makes his ability to sign UFAs flawed and he needs to better develop that skill set..

  • C Watson

    My opinion is only dip into the free agent market for cheap and short term. Most free agents are on the downside of their careers and cost too much. Even Frolik should realistically have been in the 3.5M range. Versteeg and Johnson were hits because of their one year deals. Retain them only on another cheap one year deal. All of the others on this list were basically busts. What any one of them brought to the table could easily have been matched by a young guy on an ELC.

  • Nick24

    I would of thought Nakladal would of been on the list, maybe even Rittich, too. Both of those players had provided more value than a good number of players listed.