Coming into the 2016-17 season, Brad Treliving was also entering the final year of his first deal as the Calgary Flames’ general manager. In the first year, his team made the playoffs (albeit more thanks to a season-long stretch of incredible luck than anything else). In his second year, they did not.
Not that his third year was a make or break year for him or anything, but it turned out okay when all was said and done.
From 2015-16’s end to the draft
Most of the time, we aren’t focused on what the general manager is doing. He assembles the team, and then we watch the team, and we analyze the team, and most things are about what’s happening on the ice.
When the team’s season ends, though, and there’s no more play to watch or analyze, all eyes turn to what’s going on off the ice. The offseason is really the general manager’s time to shine, and between needing a new head coach and having the sixth overall pick, Treliving had a fair bit to do once his team was eliminated.
Moves he made included:
- April 29: Signing Czech free agent and former Montreal draft pick Daniel Pribyl to a two-year deal.
- May 5: Firing Bob Hartley, as well as assistant coach Jacques Cloutier.
- June 10: Returning to the Czech league, this time to pick up free agent goaltender David Rittich.
- June 17: Hiring Glen Gulutzan to replace Hartley as head coach.
- June 24: Drafting Matthew Tkachuk with the sixth overall pick.
- Almost immediately after, he swapped the 25th overall pick and a conditional 2018 third to the St. Louis Blues for Brian Elliott.
- June 25: Drafting another nine players. The Flames selected Tyler Parsons, Dillon Dube, Adam Fox, Linus Lindstrom, Mitchell Mattson, Eetu Tuulola, Matthew Phillips, and Stepan Falkovsky over rounds two through seven.
Treliving had a modest start to his offseason. The biggest move he made was firing the Flames’ coach of the past four seasons and gambling on Glen Gulutzan to take over and improve his club. So far, it looks like that’s paid off, but there’s still much to be seen.
His second biggest move was to fix the Flames’ goaltending. Free of all NHL goalie contracts, he had a clean slate to work with and quickly turned to the cost-effective netminder who had held excellent numbers over the past half decade in Elliott. It was a cheap pick up, both in payroll and in terms of acquisition cost – especially when you consider the asking price for Ben Bishop was the sixth overall pick. (Speaking of, selecting Tkachuk was a no brainer for Treliving as soon as he fell to the Flames, but it can’t go understated how good of a June 24 Treliving had.)
Everything else was pretty minor, but had the potential for big payoff. Pribyl unforunately spent his first season in North America hurt, but Rittich surpassed expectations, to the point where he’s complicated the Flames’ goaltending prospect pool by not just pushing Jon Gillies, but establishing himself as a quality option on his own. As for the rest of the draft, Treliving picked up one of the top minor goalies in Parsons, one of the top rookie college defencemen ever in Fox, and made a slew of other good selections, including some potential late round steals.
The big moves look to have paid off for the most part, or at the very least, weren’t damaging in the long term. The smaller moves look to perhaps have bigger payoffs down the line.
Free agents and re-signings
The draft over, Treliving’s next duties were to take care of his team’s restricted free agents – the Flames had 13 of them – and focus on addressing his roster’s weakness, particularly via free agency.
- June 27: Nine RFAs – Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold, Joe Colborne, Turner Elson, Josh Jooris, Joni Ortio, Drew Shore, and Bryce Van Brabant – weren’t qualified, and released to the wilds of free agency.
- Four RFAs – Johnny Gaudreau, Freddie Hamilton, Sean Monahan, and Tyler Wotherspoon – were qualified.
- The Flames’ 2012 second round selection, Patrick Sieloff, was traded for Alex Chiasson.
- June 29: Mason Raymond’s contract was bought out. He had one year left on his deal worth $3.15 million.
- July 1: Troy Brouwer and Chad Johnson were signed as free agents.
- July 5: Linden Vey was signed as a free agent.
- July 6: Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard were hired as assistant coaches.
- Aug. 15: Wotherspoon was re-signed.
- Aug. 16: The Flames declined to sign 2013 seventh round pick John Gilmour, letting him go.
- Aug. 19: Monahan was re-signed.
- Sept. 23: Hamilton was re-signed.
- Oct. 10: Gaudreau was re-signed.
- Brandon Bollig was waived.
- Oct. 11: Nicklas Grossmann and Kris Versteeg were signed as free agents.
A number of players left the Flames organization, and none of them were really missed. Agostino had an astounding AHL season, scoring 83 points in 65 games, but Arnold dropped out of hockey all together. Elson played 13 games for a different AHL team, Gilmour played the full season in the AHL, and Van Brabant split time between the AHL and ECHL. Shore played 50 games in Switzerland (and apparently 14 games for the Canucks at some point?), while Ortio spent the season in Sweden. Colborne and Jooris scored 20 points between them.
Monahan’s seven-year, $6.375 million AAV deal was done in timely fashion, while Gaudreau’s six-year, $6.75 million contract came down to the wire, causing a lot of angst and a totally missed training camp. It also looks to be a bargain of a cap hit considering Gaudreau’s point-per-game potential, though. Hamilton was signed for cheap and earned his way into the 13th forward role, while Wotherspoon failed to crack the NHL lineup and spent his season being one of Stockton’s top defencemen. Vey joined him as an extremely effective AHLer.
Trading Sieloff for Chiasson gave the Flames an immediate upgrade in the sense that Sieloff is not particularly likely to ever be an NHLer, while Chiasson is, at worst, a good depth player. Raymond’s days in the NHL unceremoniously ended, but at least the Flames didn’t have to worry about fitting him in the lineup anywhere.
No, that struggle is now in Brouwer’s name, as Treliving made perhaps the worst blunder of his GM career to date in signing an aging forward with red flags as far as the eye could see to a four-year, $4.5 million AAV deal: a deal that’s going to cause even more problems down the line if it can’t be made to go away somehow.
But at least the one-year, $1.7 million deal for Johnson was good, as was Versteeg’s last minute $950k contract. There was some skepticism around the Cameron hire, but the Flames’ special teams did improve under him and Jerrard, so like with Gulutzan, the book is still out. Meanwhile, the Grossmann contract proved to be bad, but the Flames finally took a major step forward in sending Bollig to the AHL, effectively ending his time in Calgary. For the first time in a long time, the Flames had a lineup filled with guys who could all actually play a regular shift.
The 2016-17 season
Treliving didn’t have too much to do as the season started, letting the year play out and only making minor moves when necessary.
- Oct. 15: Tom McCollum was signed as a free agent, for expansion draft purposes.
- Nov. 12: Grossmann was released from his contract.
- Feb. 16: Matt Bartkowski was signed as a free agent, for expansion draft purposes.
- Feb. 20: Michael Stone was acquired for a 2017 third round pick, as well as a conditional 2018 fifth rounder, pending Stone’s potential re-signing in Calgary.
- March 1: Curtis Lazar and Mike Kostka were acquired for a 2017 second round pick and Jyrki Jokipakka.
- March 19: Ryan Lomberg and Parsons were signed to entry-level contracts.
- March 24: Dube was signed to an entry-level contract.
- March 25: NCAA free agent defenceman Josh Healey was signed to an entry-level contract.
- May 1: Treliving re-signed with the Flames, reportedly picking up more autonomy for himself in the process.
The season was a mixed bag. Treliving set his team up to be free of any expansion draft drama or struggles relatively early on, taking one thing off his plate. Grossmann, who played three NHL games, headed off to play in Sweden, and Treliving locked up a couple of Flames prospects.
The trade deadline was the big one, and the time during the season a general manager tends to leave his mark. The logic in Treliving’s moves was sound – the defence needs upgrading so here’s Stone; Lazar should be able to do more than he’s shown and fits in with the team’s age group – but left the Flames with just one pick in the top 100 of this year’s draft. Not just that, but it removed the flexibility those picks could have offered. The price for the rights to Scott Darling was a third round pick; the Flames gave it up on a mediocre defenceman who didn’t really do much to actually improve the backend. A second round pick should have more flexible value; instead, Treliving decided to gamble it on a young player who really hasn’t shown much throughout his hockey playing career, but was mishandled by Ottawa and is apparently a nice kid. The Flames decided they were going to be buyers to an extent, half-assed it, and lost in the first round of the playoffs: a very mediocre sequence overall.
The good and the bad
Treliving didn’t have a perfect year, but he didn’t have a bad one, either. He locked up his team’s top two offensive players to reasonable to great deals, and did a great job bolstering his prospect pool, as well as his NHL club’s depth.
On the other hand, he signed Brouwer, a deal that looked bad at the time, and is probably going to get worse as it continues – after an already incredibly poor first season. That’s a major low point that can’t be overlooked, even as most other moves appear to be on their way to panning out.
Replacing Hartley with Gulutzan was an upgrade, and the Flames had a good draft and did a good job replenishing their NHL goaltenders, getting a decent tandem for a relatively low price and risk-free term. On the other hand, he depleted his draft picks for moves that either didn’t actually do anything or are going to take some time – and a lot of hoping – to actually work out.
So how was Treliving’s season? The highs aren’t as apparent as the lows, but it was a solid, drama-free year that still has the team set up well for the future, and that alone is worth Treliving’s extension.