Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

In upgrading the roster, Brad Treliving failed to hedge his bets

In cards, as in life, sometimes it’s smart to make a big gamble and sometimes it’s smart to hedge your bets.

Since becoming the general manager of the Calgary Flames in the spring of 2014, Brad Treliving has made a few big swings in the trade market. At the 2015 NHL Draft, he made a savvy move by flipping three draft picks (including the Flames’ first rounder that year) to Boston for Dougie Hamilton. At the 2017 NHL Draft, he made a similar move that may come back to haunt the Flames because he failed to hedge his bets.

It’s a bit of a myth that general managers don’t trade first round picks. If you look at the actual draft orders from the last few years, you’ll find that first rounders are swapped quite often – primarily at the draft themselves, or often in the run up to the trade deadline prior to the draft. The big reason why first rounders are usually not moved until soon before the event is because their value is more of a known quantity at that point.

Case in point: when the Flames traded for Hamilton, they knew they were swapping the 15th overall pick and could evaluate the risk and rewards of the move. The further a trade is from the draft, or the more season remains to be played when a pick is moved, the greater the likelihood that a traded first round selection will carry with it some kind of “protection”:

  • The Islanders retained the right to defer the first rounder they sent the Sabres for Thomas Vanek from 2014 to 2015 if the 2014 pick was in the top 10.
  • On several occasions, a pick is deferred to a future draft in the event a team misses the playoffs – guaranteeing the recipient a good pick, but allowing the trading team some protection.
  • The Jets retained the right to defer the first rounder they sent the Blues for Paul Stastny from 2018 to 2019 if the 2018 pick was somehow in top three.

As a general rule, most first rounders are lottery (or playoff) protected if they’re not traded around the trade deadline prior to that year’s draft because of the potential for volatility in the pick’s value. But when the Flames traded for Travis Hamonic at the 2017 NHL Draft, they didn’t protect their 2018 first round selection in any way.

The exceptions over the past few years are pretty easy to spot, because they’ve usually involved teams loading up – usually in-season – for a hopeful Stanley Cup run and reasoning to themselves that, “Hey, it’s worth it if we have a legitimate shot at the Cup.”

  • Feb. 28, 2014: The Blues traded their 2015 first round pick, Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, William Carrier and a conditional pick that ended up being a 2016 third round pick to Buffalo for Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and a pair of conditional picks that weren’t exercised. (“If we get Ryan Miller, we’ll have good enough goaltending to win a Stanley Cup!”)
  • Mar. 5, 2014: The Rangers traded their 2015 first round pick, Ryan Callahan, a 2014 conditional first round pick and a conditional 2015 seventh round pick to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis and a conditional 2015 second round pick. (“If we get Martin St. Louis, we’ll have enough scoring to win a Stanley Cup!“)
  • Jan. 2, 2015: The Penguins traded their 2015 first round pick and Rob Klinkhammer to Edmonton for David Perron. (“If we get David Perron, we’ll have enough scoring to win the Stanley Cup!”)
  • Jun. 30, 2015: The Sharks traded their 2016 first round pick and the rights to Sean Kuraly to Boston for Martin Jones. (“If we get Martin Jones, we’ll have good enough goaltending to win the Stanley Cup! … And we’ll have him for awhile, too!“)

All four of these big swings could have proven foolish, but they were moves made by teams with a lot of recent success that were trying to push themselves over the top by upgrading a key position. If they had missed the playoffs in the season leading up to the draft they would’ve looked foolish, but it’s hard to argue against giving their teams a chance to make a push.

It’s a bit harder to justify trading a non-lottery protected first round pick to upgrade a team that barely made the playoffs in a wild card position and was swept in four games.

  • snotss

    versteeg was playing average hockey before he was hurt..he is not the answer to making the playoffs….he is over blown..i don’t get how he got all the hype but it is not deserved

    • FL?MES

      Say it’s snotss so?

      Yes, we know that Versteeg is not the answer be it 5v5 or on the PP. However, I think it is safe to say that he should be an upgrade over Hathaway on the 3rd line.

      Also, Versteeg was one of our best players in last years 4-game playoff run. If we make the playoffs and he happens to be the type of guy who turns his play up a notch in the post season I am more than good with that.

      Good to see versteeg back.

  • loudogYYC

    When I read the title I kinda thought this was a Treliving hit job. Thankfully it’s not cuz he’s way better than what we’ve had here in past years.

    What Pike says makes sense, but really I can’t blame Treliving for deciding to ‘go for it’ fresh off a new contract. Yes it sucks that Hamonic cost more to acquire than Hamilton but at the same time the Flames have to cash in now while they have a top 3 LW, top 10 goal scoring C and the f*ckin 3M line tearing the league apart. On top of this they have a one of the finest 1st D pairings and promising complimentary pieces that most NHL coaches would turn into a contender.

    Treliving has proven to learn from his mistakes. At the deadline last season, Steinberg from SN960 said he heard that Flames were pushing hard to get rid of Bouma. It didn’t happen so bought him out. This summer, after we signed Jagr, Rick Dhaliwal from SN650 in Vancouver who is a credible source said he heard rumblings that the Flames were trying to get rid of Brouwer which unfortunately didn’t work out in time; it’ll probably happen at the draft or shortly after. I’m fully confident BT knows GG isn’t the right coach and will make the necessary adjustments to fix this in the summer.

    To all of you who’ve been following this team closely, remember the Darryl Sutter desperation band aid trades and signings and then the Jay Feaster-John Weisbrod combo that declined a Tatar + Nyquist + 2nd rounder for Bouwmeester trade and almost lost us Monahan and never owned up to it. Treliving is the best thing Flames management has had in a long time.

      • Kevin R

        We offer sheeted Oreilly on Colorado that would have costed our 1st & 2nd & I think our 3rd round picks at the draft without doing the homework that Oreilly would have had to clear waivers before he could have joined our team. Obviously, he would have been plucked by the 30th place team (I think Columbus at the time) & Colorado would have kept our picks which would have been Monahan. So no Orielly & no Monahan. Thank the Lord the dummy GM in Colorado matched our offer or the fragment of NHL history would have been significantly changed.

        Totally agree with you Louddog!

        • loudogYYC

          Yeah it would’ve been a disaster. The NHL flat out said their official position was that had Greg Sherman not matched Calgary’s offer sheet, O’Reilly would’ve had to pass through waivers before joining the Flames. Once the Avs matched and dust settled, Feaster came out from hiding and said he didn’t agree with the assessment and that he and his team were confident they were right. Feaster is the kind of guy you want at your poker table, not GM’ing your favourite team.

  • Theo4HoF

    I feel like making the playoffs in 2015 when we were supposed to be rebuilding, is gonna bite this team in the ass for many years to come. Could of got a great haul for Gio after a norris caliber season. Then gave Backlund way to much term. Just wait in 3 years or so when our youth should be closer to their prime, Backlund and Gio contracts are gonna be cankerous.