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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames are entering a crucial three-year period

It’s already been a noteworthy summer for the Calgary Flames, as they’ve transitioned from Glen Gulutzan to Bill Peters as head coach. But that move is just a part of what’s likely destined to be a massively important three-year period for the Flames franchise – one that will probably determine the trajectory of the team and the future of general manager Brad Treliving.

Given the state of the organization when Treliving was hired in April 2014, it’s worth emphasizing how far the club has come in a relatively short period of time – particularly when the Carolinas, Buffalos and Edmontons of the league seem to be in perpetual rebuild. Barring an occasional Troy Brouwer whiff or Brandon Bollig trade, the majority of Treliving’s moves have served to create depth at almost every position – the goaltending position is arguably still a push, though the organization has more viable future options than they had in the past.

According to Elliotte Friedman’s weekly Friday appearance on Sportsnet 960 The Fan, both Treliving and Peters are under contract for three more years, meaning their contracts both expire following the 2020-21 season. Their contracts correspond with “the window” that the club is projected to have; the Flames have all their key assets under contract for the next few seasons and have salary cap flexibility that’s not predicated on any rise in the cap ceiling. That’s not nothing, but now comes the hard part: maximizing that flexibility and making the right moves around the fringes of the roster to elevate the core from the status of “promising” to “actually good.”

The 2018-19 season

Over the next 12 months, Treliving has two big things to deal with and a handful of smaller tasks. The big things are re-signing Matthew Tkachuk – he’s eligible for an extension on July 1 – and figuring out the goaltending situation after the final year of Mike Smith’s current contract.

The smaller tasks involve new deals for Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland, who will both be restricted free agents with arbitration rights following the 2018-19 season. Ferland’s goal-scoring prowess alone will make his arbitration case really challenging for the Flames.

The 2019-20 season

Presuming none of them get traded or bought out in the interim, 2019-20 is the decision point for five pending unrestricted free agents: Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Michael Stone. There are also two challenging external factors that could weigh into decision-making heavily during the season:

  • Either the NHL or the NHLPA can opt out of the final year of the CBA early; the NHL has to opt out by Sept. 1, 2019 while the NHLPA can do so by Sept. 15, 2019 (if the NHL hasn’t already done so).
  • If neither side opts out of the CBA early, then the NHL will progress along with the Seattle expansion process. The Vegas expansion process was announced just before the 2016 NHL Draft, so presumably any 2020 process would be announced around the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver… if the NHL thinks there won’t be a lockout.

An expiring CBA would complicate matters incredibly. So would an expansion process, though in a much different way. A lot of the big things that will dictate 2019-20 are out of Treliving’s control, but he’s gotta nail how they’re handled nonetheless.

The 2020-21 season

Either there’s going to be another lockout in September 2020 or Seattle will begin play in the Pacific Division in October 2020. It’s also the last year under Dougie Hamilton’s current contract. Following the season, only Johnny Gaudreau (who’ll be 27), Sean Monahan (26), Mikael Backlund (32) and Mark Giordano (37) will remain under contract. Giordano’s going to be a bit long in the tooth, but the other three players will probably still be at least half-decent.

If Treliving makes it to the end of his current deal, he’ll be the third-longest tenured GM in franchise history (after Cliff Fletcher and Darryl Sutter). But in order to do so, he’s going to have to create and maintain some organizational momentum. In the 13 seasons of the salary cap era, the Flames have six seasons in the playoffs and just one series win. The bare minimum qualification for success has to be three playoff appearances and at least a couple series wins.

It’s going to be a very, very important three seasons for the coach, the general manager, and the entire team.

      • Cheeky

        BT has a hard road ahead, first he needs to let his ufas go (that’s everyone including the slimest thought of resigning Stajan to be the 13th forward, someone younger and cheaper can do that). Second he needs to stay off the phones on July 1, go take a walk somewhere remote. Yes I’d love a Tavaras but realistically it won’t happen and it would push us to the cap and beyond next couple years (unless BT can create miracles and get rid of Brouwer and Stone for draft picks). Next he needs to rid this organization of Jordan Sigalet. Many on here are saying we need a new goalie complaining about our current, past and future goalies, well there is a reason. Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy in their prime would faulter under his tutorich, there is no coincidence that promising goalies have faultered once here. Then he needs to address our RW issue with a hockey trade (Brodie for Nylander anyone?). Last he needs to hope Peters can get this group back on track and provide results that rhyme with Fin…

  • meat1

    Tre can’t afford any more Brouwer-like mistakes. Salary cap management is SO important moving forward for us with these good young players now entering big payday years. That’s why I think we need to take advantage of our young prospect depth and let them be impactful during their elc’s…trades moving forward must be of older, higher priced players…not the Valimaki’s or Fox’s.

  • The Doctor

    Makes sense. This is what the post-Iggy, post-Bouwmeester trade rebuild was supposed to culminate in. A lot of us eagerly and patiently waited. Which is why this past season was such an incredible disappointment. Personally i thin the focus should be on youth, speed and skill, not on keeping boat anchor plugs like Brouwer, Stajan, Stewart, and Bartkowski around so we fans can scream at the sky. But hey, just my 2 cents.

    • kirby

      The bullets? He’s been firing off bullets to improve this team and they were all blanks. How many 1st, 2nd, 3rd rd picks have we given up? For what? A “shut down” defenseman who shut down NOBODY and offered nothing offensively? Couldn’t lead a zone break out to save our lives? A 4th liner / healthy scratch? A borderline #6/7 defenseman? An aging way past his prime inconsistent old declining goalie? We even gave up a pick for freakin Eddie Lack for crying out loud. What is this? We have drained our assets to all in on a team that wasn’t ready by loading up on useless cast offs who will soon be cast out of here as well.

      What “bullets” do we have other than hoping and begging and pleading for Tavares to come save us? lol

      • buts

        Hamilton, Bennett, Backlund, Fox, Kylington, Frolik, possibly Ferland if he has concussion issues, Gillies, Brodie, a lot of players that have underperformed. With the leader being Brouwer who you couldn’t give away. It doesn’t have to be a draft pick Einstein.

        • kirby

          What’s your point by rattling off those names? Trade value?

          Bennett’s return will not be greater than what he offers or could still develop into. To sell a 21 year old top 5 pick for pennies on the dollar expecting to get a better return than we invested is foolish and ultimately pointless.

          Fox is staying in college another year and has proven nothing, what kind of difference making return does that yield?

          Hamilton is a young RHD who hasn’t hit his prime yet, you don’t just give those guys away for the sake of doing it.

          Frolik is a strong 2 way versatile player on an affordable deal with term, had a bad year but banking on him to bounce back is a better bet than anything he’d bring back in a trade right now coming off such a poor season when his value is at an all time low.

          Ferland? What is a team gonna give up for a winger with concussion issues who disappeared down the stretch? Again, value is as low as can be right now to other teams, and his return would not reflect that of a 20 goal scorer making only 1.8 mil.

          Backlund is a valuable piece if we expect to add and build depth that is required for an actual contending team.

          Same goes for Brodie as Frolik, his value is at an all time low right now coming off a poor season, banking on him to re-find his form in a new system is probably a safer bet than anything we’d get by selling him for pennies on the dollar right now.

          And Gillies? What did he show to make any team want to give up anything significant for him?

          Asking teams to give us valuable assets for underperformers is your solution?

          This is exactly my point. Our player assets have minimal value right now, and a large chunk of the draft picks (which also serve as currency in case you were unaware) we COULD have used to improve right now has already been wasted on the likes of Curtis Lazar (damn near useless), Michael Stone (contributed very little and is on his way out), Mike Smith (old, declining, not reliable), Eddie Lack (lol) and Hamonic (MASSIVE disappointment this season on every area of the ice).

          Rattle off all the names you want. Sarcastically insult me all you want. Doesn’t change the facts of the situation we’ve managed ourselves into.

    • kirby

      Anyone we try to trade right now will not be returning value. We’d be selling for pennies on the dollar. I honestly don’t see what instant quick fixes are realistic other than the long shot of luring Mr T.

  • kirby

    “and figuring out the goaltending situation after the final year of Mike Smith’s current contract” ?

    That needs to be figured out RIGHT NOW, not after next season. Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, it’s all been pretty much the same. Mike Smith solved NOTHING last year (outside of a few good stretches, which BTW we got from Elliott too, but nobody was clamoring for him to stay or making excuses for all the great chances to win he gave us), he solves nothing next year, and we can’t afford to flush another season with sub-par unreliable inconsistent goaltending costing us when it matters most, which Smith did both late in the season and ALL SEASON LONG on home ice. Slow, clunky, sloppy technique, tries to play the puck like Marty Brodeur circa 1999 when he’s actually Mike Smith circa 2018. We need to explore every possible avenue to correct this in THIS off-season, not next. Otherwise, we’re basically phoning in another year of at-best mediocrity and going nowhere by relying on a 36-37 year old goalie who’s been declining for years to suddenly be better than he is and carry a flawed team over the hump which has been proven repeatedly in recent years that he’s not the guy to expect that from.

    I know people are still gonna make excuses and point everywhere else, but simple fact is he was a band-aid. Nothing more. And we bled right through it. We need to stitch this wound and let it heal, because i’m not at all looking forward to spending another season watching us slowly bleed out over the course of the season. I don’t like this idea of seemingly being perfectly content with what he brings to the net for another year. Whoever is playing right wing, whatever out D pairings are, whoever is behind the bench, none of it matters if we have a goalie who allows 3 goals a night on home ice and constantly allows soft bad angle squeakers because of poor technique, and can no longer hold up to the grind of a season because he’s been so overworked behind bad teams over the last 7-8 years of his career.

    No thank you. We can (and MUST) do better than him NOW, not later. If not, 2019 is a wash. I said this early last season, nobody listened. I’m saying it again. He will cost us more games than he will save. Believe it now or wait for the results (again) and believe it then.

    • TheWheeze

      Been saying that for weeks. Keep getting poo pooed. You forgot about opposing teams scoring the first goal of the game three minutes in. Now, a lot of that had to do with poor defensive systems which could be remedied by proper coaching. But I am of the opinion, and I will say it again to the detriment of those tired of hearing it, Gillies is a write off. Mason McDonald will never be up to the job, Schneider, another write off. I believe our goaltending situation is an area of serious concern. We have Parsons. Who is a long ways away…….and that, folks, is it……..

    • freethe flames

      Who are your top 3 candidates and why? What will it cost to get one of them. I don’t disagree with you in that we need to see the position upgraded.

  • Trevy

    After watching some of these teams playing in the playoffs, Tre has his work cut out for him. I just don’t see Calgary at that level…yet. They need to restructure their bottom six and solidify their goaltending. A lot of these playoff teams are playing like they’re possessed. Hopefully with some player movements and BP at the helm, they’ll be able to go toe to toe with these guys

      • Nick24

        A top six forward would be very useful, but outside of that there shouldn’t be too much tinkering with the top 6. Chris Stewart ranks 6th among Flames forwards in EVP/60 this year with a EVP/60 of 1.46. That can’t happen. Mark Jankowski was 7th on the team with 1.39 EVP/60. They need more production from top six forwards. This may have been because Frolik was going through some serious shooting% issues, and it’s unlikely his goal scoring doesn’t rebound next season.

        For comparison, the Jets had seven players score above 2 ESP/60, and the Flames only had 3. The Predators only had four forwards below 1.45 ESP/60, while the Flames had eight. The Forward group simply isn’t strong enough to really be an elite team. Even though most of their bad luck should rebound next season, at least to some degree, the Flames would be better off with another elite element to their top six. However the bottom six does need to be overhauled.

        The Flames need better players in their bottom six, and fortunatley, there are always good players available for cheap that can fill this role. Further, the Flames have a few WHL grads, as well as promising AHL forwards that could step up and help.
        Provided the Flames can add some more effective players to their forward group, we could see a much improved team, come the fall.

          • everton fc

            Peters wants another centre. Perhaps this idea pushes Monahan to wing?

            I think Frolik is a 2B/3rd line wing. We could roll with two second lines – lines 2A, & 2B, centred by Backlund & Jankowski.

  • Garry T

    The McDavid contract has created expectations for pay cheques throughout the league which if not met with a strong management of team incomes, will destroy the NHL. The $ 6,000,000.00 contracts are manageable. Take a look at the number of teams that have no cap space and yet have guys that are 23-28 and are asking for or are about to ask for $50 million and $ 60 million dollar contracts. In the next three months, I predict that all kinds of teams are going to be letting quality players go because they just cannot afford them in this ridiculous market place. How do you not sign Van Rymsdyke , a 40 goal scorer this year. How do you not sign 4 other top players in Toronto by July 1st, 2018. Look at the number of guys in Canada’s biggest market being dropped and multiply that times another 20 teams at least! The Canadian teams do not have a $ 75,000,000.00 Canadian budget. It is in USD and with six teams looking for exchange assistance, that either has to come from NHL coffers or contributions from non- Canadian teams. The Islander, New Jersey, Carolina, the two Florida teams, Dallas, Phoenix, the Avalanche are all in trouble and they cannot justify a Franchise player or two budget.
    We have Tkachuk who needs to be signed. Does he jump from $ 1,000,000 to $ 6,000,000.00? Does he ask for more because he was recently included in a group of five top players throughout the league who were franchise players and unique onto themselves as they are presented as unique and valuable assets to their clubs? If this keeps up player longevity is going to drop like a stone because the bucks are not there. Do you think a Calgary Flames fan currently paying $ 160.00 per person per night is going to put up with another 10 to 15% increase in tickets every three years
    If this financial game of roulette continues? The Flames and other Canadian team payrolls are now at $105,000,000.00 a year for players, coaches, and team management. 105 Mil before any other cost! If this process keeps up, every team will need a new 30,000 seat stadium sold out to capacity to survive this inflated market place. In addition, will the NBC and Canadian Sports Groups in television continue to pay out $ 9 Billion or more every 3-5 years to the NHL and subsequently the clubs? What if NBC says this is enough! The CBC could not afford it. Sportsnet and TSN have to pay for their contracts in USD at 30%. This sucks! It’s a game! Half of these players never completed grade 10 never mind graduated from school properly and when they start getting huge dollars, will they get taken by managers … drug dealers …. financial advisors …. . Sorry for the rant but I see bad things happening down the road. The NHL managers have to be reigned in by the owners or we need to bring the NHL franchise back to Canada and form an 8-10 team league and compete for players globally. Let the US teams form their own league and do what they want. This is sick!

    • oilcanboyd

      The Oilers started the salary spiral a few years back when Pucklington sold Gretzky to a shyster who didn’t have two pennies to rub together except borrowed ones. Then he pays Gretzky a ridiculous contract by yesterday’s standards. And the Oilers again added fuel to the fire by signing McDavid to more than 12 million bucks….and Draisaitl to 8.5 million, both on their first contract after ELC.

      • Snitch

        Unfortunately, that was the market on McJesus. Any other team would have paid that. Some more. Draisaitl though, way too much. The Oilers have a long history of overpaying. Just start with Lucic.

        • Who is Alberta’s team?

          Drai is a point per game player. Toews has averaged 40-50 points per year, the last 5 years. He makes 10 million per. Lol looks like you clowns know nothing. Jealous maybe?

          • Flint

            Actually Toews has averaged 60,4 pts (20,4 more than 40) the last 5 years, and last year he shot 5% below his career avg. He’s also a .852ppg player, which is higher than Leon (.769). Lastly, Leon wasn’t a ppg player last year and has never been… he was .897.

            And Toews does a hell of a lot of 200-ft hockey things better than Leon including being one of the best faceoff men in the league. So, if you’re trying to cherry-pick a “bad contract” comparable… you should try harder, and know the numbers. Especially from someone who writes that others “know nothing”

          • KKisTHEproblem

            Uh, lets see: over the last 3 years, he’s 0.85 and over the last 2 years, he’s 0.92. Not a point per game player and he spends a significant amount of time with McJesus and still can’t reach 1.0 PPG. As much as you like to bash Gaudreau, he’s 0.97 over 3 years, 0.95 over 2 years and 1.05 last year. He doesn’t play with McJesus and is the one creating. $6.75 mil/year. Eat that….. No jealousy here baby…. Who cares what Toews makes, if you need to use him to justify Drai getting $8.5, you go ahead

    • Stu Gotz

      There are a couple of positive things going on in today’s NHL but I get your point. NHL owners will never reign in the GM’s because they are a major part of the problem. A new CBA is the answer to many of your points and the next negotiations are going to be ugly to say the least….a lockout? Likely….

      • BlueMoonNigel

        The impending long, brutal lockout that is unavoidable is the chief reason Chucky will go for the gold in his upcoming contract. Chucky needs to protect himself financially when the lockout happens. He well remembers the cash crunch his family endured when the 04-05 season was scrubbed and Papa had to strap on a tool belt and work construction and Mama had to take in laundry just to make ends meet. If the owners are going to dick around with the players again and try and screw them financially, the only thing the players can do is to make as much cash as possible before the lockout comes.

        • FL🔥MES

          Ummmm…all agents will try to get as much money as possible. Tkachuk had the 3rd most points on the Flames this year but also only played 68 games. He’s got a ways to go to catch up to Johnny. That should give you an idea where he his contract will be. It’s not going to be stupid crazy money. BT will pay him whats he’s worth in relation to other players on the team. That said, BT should sign him sooner than later…or keep him on the 3M shutdown line to suppress his point totals (I would prefer to see what he could do on a scoring line and rack up the points).

    • canadian1967

      Not to mention how all of the money paid out for rights by the networks needs to be recouped in advertising dollars, which of course affects every one of us. That is of course if you have ever bought anything, anywhere.

    • everton fc

      The reality of all sports, and all business. Sad. But true.

      What Canadian teams may need to do is try and get as far as they can, with a blend of youth and vets that don’t cost a fortune. Going forward, it’s the only way the Oilers will be competitive at all, really. If the Flames can secure Tkachuk, Ferland and Bennett, for the right prices and terms, same w/Andersson (almost a blessing, perhaps, Bennett has not warranted a big raise. Ink him for a little term, cheap, and if he’s no more than a 35 point third-liner who can learn to limit his dumb penalties… we could do worse). Also re-sign Kulak on a nice, affordable deal, as we know he can’t hurt us in a 5/6 role, and may be able to play 3/4 minutes, if injuries hit.
      You can see, potentially, how guys like Kulak, Shore, and maybe even Wotherspoon, have value, in terms of player pricing. (Ditto Hathaway, as an extra/4th line option)

      The good news for us is a lot of money is coming off the books (don’t for get Mason Raymond’s buyout). But it has to be spent wisely, and to me, that’s internally. A backup goalie would be another place to spend – a true “1A”, if Rittich is not that type of goalie. I still think he is. But we need Smith’s replacement. Not sure that’s Rittich. Used to think he might be. However….

  • FL🔥MES

    Wasn’t there discussion 2 years ago on FN that we were entering our 3 year window back then? I guess we burned off two years and have hit the reset button on the next 3 year window?

      • FL🔥MES

        So I have to ask, if you’re Off the Wall is your wife Up the Wall? In other words, do you drive her UTW? I’m sure you do when you start talking hockey.

        • Off the wall

          For sure Puck, do you think I should attempt to give her that nickname?!
          I can’t talk hockey to my wife, she’s a Canucks fan, or at least she was, now she just tunes me out. She refers to it as selective hearing, however you and I know her team sucks!
          Johnny Sockey and I have some riveting conversations, and he’s a Flames fan right down to his tail…

    • Kevin R

      In all honesty, I don’t think the window was opened 2 years ago & I think FN were saying it was getting really close to being opened. In fact, this last year was to me the first year of the open window & we failed miserably. Many blame the coach, maybe we just lacked or under valued the need for the depth needed to succeed. We sure had some underachieving going on.

  • RKD

    They absolutely must make the playoffs, they traded Iggy 4 years ago and next April will be 5 years. They need to maximize the prime years of guys like Gaudreau and Monahan. When those guys don’t make the playoffs it is a waste. There can’t be too many more missteps now.

  • freethe flames

    Earlier in the blog “kirby and the wheeze” said we needed to upgrade the goalie position and they were asked to privide names of possible candidates. First before I present my list let me say that I do not think that Smith should play as many games next year and that the Flames should be moving away form him and therefore need to have a back up that can be ready to be an nhl starter the following season. I am on the fence about either Gilles or Rittich being that guy but have not given up on either of those guys. So here’s my list: UFA’s Bernier; he has been a starter with a very bad Leaf team and has been a solid back up with the Kings, Ducks and the Av’s(he also only 29), Khudobin has solid numbers as a back up on a good Boston team(31), Hutton solid numbers behind the Blues but has never been a starter(32). From the world of RFA’s(first three are all 26): Lehner has been an NHL starter and has played on a bad Sabres team(he may want out), Grubauer been a solid back up but I don’t know if Washington has the depth to move him and either Pickard or Sparks from the Leafs Pickard does have an NHL record of note but spent the season in the AHL(should be motivated) and Sparks who has been in Leafs organization for years(let’s remember neither were able to take the back up job in TO). If the Flames go down this route they need to move at least one of Gilles or Rittich; so that one can be the starter for the Heat and Parsons can be the back up; they also need to move one if not both of McD or Schnieder and sign Faranger to be their starter in KC(and emergency call up to the Heat).

    • everton fc

      Sparks out of Toronto, will he replace McElhinney, who is priced right (albeit, for one more year, and probably his last in the league) and proven he can be the type of backup Smith could have used, here? And will Sparks want to be a backup, in Toronto? Toronto, even w/the contracts falling off, is in a bad space, when it comes to the cap. Perhaps Sparks could be had, with another prospect, for Brodie and ?? Lehner’s got a similar intensity to Smith. He’s another… Pickard, another. I don’t see the Caps moving Grubauer. And “no” to Khudobin, though he did play for Peters, in Carolina.

      Of the group above, I like, in order, Sparks, Lehner, Pickard, Bernier, Hutton (who’s age is a bit high, but he’s played the backup role well). But, do any of these guys have the potential to become our next #1? The next “Dubnyk”?

      Ultimately, I think a 1/1a scenario here, is more to my liking, and probably more affordable.

  • Hockeyfan

    how far has this team come in a short period of time? certainly not relatively far as you suggest. supposed better roster in all aspects, mired in mediocrity and struggling to be competitive on a nightly basis. lack of fortitude and skill to play well when it matters. keep eating the grass fed to you sheep, the Flames are far from good being led by zombie troll, yeesshh, what a picture.

  • TheWheeze

    Sure, everyone wants Tavares. But Treliving’s track record indicates a man who is very adverse to giving one player 10 million a season. I just don’t see it.

  • Trevsy

    This blog is well over due for an article and analysis about Sigalet and his record as a goalie coach since moving up to the Flames. This topic appears to be the elephant in the room.