Coming into the season with a contract extension and some extra powers, Brad Treliving was rearmed with confidence and autonomy to truly make the Calgary Flames the way he wanted to, without any obstruction.
In his first season of total freedom, it did not go as planned. Looking to build on a forgettable playoff appearance, Treliving’s team took a step backwards, and a pricey one at that.
Here’s a comprehensive review of everything Treliving had his fingerprints on this season.
- Juuso Valimaki – D, 16th overall
- Adam Ruzicka – C, 109th overall
- Zach Fischer – RW, 140th overall
- D’Artagnan Joly – RW, 171st overall
- Filip Sveningsson – LW, 202nd overall
As usual, Treliving’s major strength lies in drafting. With a limited number of picks, he picked up some really likeable players.
The Flames walked away like bandits from the 2017 draft. Valimaki appears to be ready to contribute sometime in the next two years, perhaps even next season. Ruzicka and Joly look like steals relative to their draft position, and Sveningsson is no slouch either. Perhaps Fischer was an odd pick given his career history, but a fifth rounder isn’t going to make or break the team (though it is a little odd that they would use a pick on a guy rather then just waiting it out and signing him – like Glenn Gawdin – if he performs above expectation). Getting promising players on four of five picks is pretty much all you can ask for.
- June 17: traded the rights to Chad Johnson, Brandon Hickey, and a 2018 third round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Mike Smith.
- June 24: traded a 2018 first round pick, a 2018 second round pick, and a 2019 second round pick to the New York Islanders for Travis Hamonic and a 2019 fourth round pick.
- June 29: traded Keegan Kanzig and a 2019 sixth round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for Eddie Lack, Ryan Murphy, and a 2019 seventh round pick.
- July 1: traded Tom McCollum to the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional seventh round pick (condition not met).
- Dec. 30: traded Eddie Lack to the New Jersey Devils for Dalton Prout.
- Feb. 26: traded a 2019 seventh round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Nick Shore.
Treliving went gambling leading up to the draft. Picking up Smith, an aging goalie with consistency issues, was going to be risky; but for the price of a backup goalie who wasn’t going to sign here, the fourth (at the time, fifth if he stuck around until Valimaki was drafted) best defensive prospect who also wasn’t going to sign here, and a third round pick, it turned out to be a great get. Until his injury, Smith was the guy who had pretty much put the Flames in a playoff spot. They got a starter for a handful of spare parts, which is much better and cheaper than previous attempts.
The Hamonic trade was the opposite of that. The Flames paid a hefty price for a guy coming off of a disastrous season hoping that he would improve in a better situation. The logic behind the trade was certainly understandable: TJ Brodie struggled with bad partners and Hamonic struggled with an overall bad situation. They were once among the tops in the NHL before the 2016-17 season, so put them together and they’ll be good again. Bada boom, bada bing.
But there’s a lot to pick apart in that logic. Perhaps it was reasonable to assume that Hamonic was going to be a bounce back second pair defenceman, but why did he give up the same package he gave to get Dougie Hamilton, a burgeoning first pairing player at the time of that trade? Why did he not pay for the player Hamonic was last season prior to the trade instead of paying for the player he was three seasons ago? Hindsight being 20/20 and all, but it never crossed Treliving’s mind that Brodie might’ve been part of the problem, which is certainly more clear now. It seems that a lot of the potential failures involved in this deal were not addressed or given much thought.
With two years at a very reasonable cap hit left, it’s much too early to declare this trade a loss (Hamonic’s play away from Brodie has been promising), but even if Hamonic was a fine player throughout the season, Treliving overpaid at the draft. The damage has been mitigated by great drafting in recent years, but the Flames still gave up a lot of high end assets for a player that wasn’t worth them.
(An afterthought at this point, but it is certainly worth remembering that Treliving also didn’t lottery protect the first round pick. Twelfth overall in this draft isn’t much to get excited about, but it was a disaster that failed to materialize and one has to wonder if he really did give his team an honest assessment before making the trade. Did he really think the Flames were guaranteed to make the playoffs? Was Hamonic really going to be the guy to put them over the edge? Why wouldn’t he lottery protect the pick just in case the worst case scenario happened?)
Otherwise, Treliving addressed depth concerns for very cheap. Lack was worth a shot as a backup goalie, and they didn’t pay much of consequence to get him. When he didn’t work, they shipped him out. Shore is a very low risk deal for a player who is looking like handy 4C depth in the immediate future.
Signings and such
- June 26: did not qualify RW Alex Chiasson, D Ryan Culkin, and D Kenney Morrison
- June 29: Kris Versteeg, one year x $1.75M
- June 30: Michael Stone, three years x $3.5M AAV
- July 13: Micheal Ferland, two years x $1.75M AAV
- July 14: Curtis Lazar, two years x $950K AAV
- July 20: Garnet Hathaway, one year x $650K
- July 22: Jon Gillies, one year x $725K
- July 22: David Rittich, one year x $725K
- Aug. 28: Brett Kulak, one year x $650K
- Sept. 5: Tyler Wotherspoon, one year x $650K
- Sept. 6: Sam Bennett, two years x $1.95M
- July 1: Marek Hrivik, one year x $650K
- June 27: Spencer Foo, two years x $925K (ELC)
- Oct. 3: Tanner Glass, one year x $650K
- Oct. 4: Jaromir Jagr, one year x $1M
- Nov. 16: Glenn Gawdin, three years x $775K (ELC)
- Feb. 25: Cody Goloubef, one year x $650K
- Feb. 16: Mikael Backlund, six years x $5.35M AAV
Treliving got some great deals for re-signing players. Versteeg didn’t get a raise from his 2016-17 contract, and it would’ve again been a value contract had he not been injured for the majority of the season. Re-upping Ferland and Bennett for under $2M each was very shrewd business, affording the Flames some valuable cap space for next season while finding out what those two players are.
For the most part, the rest of Treliving’s body of work is inoffensive. He didn’t splurge the cash on big name free agents and signed depth guys for depth money. Foo and Gawdin were two no-cost assets with high potential that addressed organizational needs. Perhaps one could complain that the entire Jagr experiment would’ve worked better had he been signed earlier and had the benefit of a full camp, but it’s nitpicking. Jagr was a fine fit for a team sorely lacking RW depth. Like Versteeg, it worked until he was injured, and it probably would’ve been a value contract that would’ve solved a lot of bottom six scoring issues had he stayed healthy.
Extending Backlund was Treliving’s major piece of business this year. All in all, it was a pretty fair deal, getting Backlund for just under market value. The contract may run pricey into Backlund’s later years, but Treliving locked up his lockdown centre for the next few years at a much cheaper rate than what he could’ve gotten had he tested the market. Losing Backlund would’ve left a hole in the roster that no one could currently fill.
The major issue is Stone’s contract. If you frame the re-signing as Stone being a stopgap for a prospect RHD like Rasmus Andersson, it doesn’t make sense why he gave Stone three years at that AAV. Stopgaps aren’t particularly necessary when you’re a competing team, and if they’re around for more than a season, they aren’t really a stopgap. Stone was the worst regular defender on the team and the Flames could’ve easily found another third pairing defender to hold down a spot for a year while prospects developed below (Ryan Murphy, a player the Flames traded for just to buy out, had half of Stone’s production in a quarter of the games played. He was also better from a possession perspective). Stone’s quality makes the contract very unlikely to be traded and Treliving may just have to use another buy out to open up a defensive spot for Andersson.
To a lesser extent, signing Glass was also a dumb move. The career fourth line fighter had a pretty good preseason – perhaps having something to do with him playing for his potentially last ever NHL contract – and was rewarded in spite of his entire career history, which would’ve been evidence enough that Glass had probably not turned a corner. He did not turn a corner and was a fourth line fighter during his entire time here. He only played 16 games for the team, but it was 16 games of nothing (all I can remember is him fighting Milan Lucic once) and you have to wonder if someone else could’ve done a better job.
Odds and ends
- June 30: bought out Lance Bouma
- June 30: bought out Ryan Murphy
- Feb. 26: claimed Chris Stewart off waivers
- April 17: fired Glen Gulutzan, Dave Cameron, and Paul Jerrard
- April 23: hired Bill Peters
- May 31: hired Ryan Huska and Geoff Ward
Here’s all the other stuff that didn’t fit into other categories.
Buying out Bouma was Treliving making up for one of his early mistakes as a GM. Here’s hoping that he’s learned that players who have random shooting spikes aren’t deserving of big money contracts. Buying out Murphy was odd given that he made under $1M and was a right-shooting defenceman, but a very whatever move in the end. He figured to be fine defensive depth on a team that employed Matt Bartkowski.
Stewart was a fine piece of business. I don’t think anyone expected him to save the season, but he was free and an inoffensive pickup for the late season. Given that they probably didn’t want to (and absolutely shouldn’t have) sink more assets into a season that was heading off the tracks, Stewart was worth a shot.
Replacing the coaching staff was the punctuation mark to the disappointing season. Treliving didn’t go for a radical stylistic difference by picking up Peters, Huska, and Ward, but they’re at least looking like upgrades on the previous staff. We’ll see how it plays out.
The good and the bad
Treliving might’ve had his worst season as the Flames’ GM. It isn’t any particular move that causes me to give this assessment, but rather the entire mindset behind the 2017-18 Flames.
Treliving took a roster that barely cracked the playoffs last year, kept most of it the same, half-assed a few pretty major things, and paid a hefty price to do so. The 2016-17 Flames weren’t a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination, but with a few tweaks in the right places, they probably could’ve been much better.
The GM tinkered at the edges and didn’t see major improvements. Even on their best nights, the Flames didn’t look as good as the teams that eventually made the playoffs. They had a lot of bounces go against them this year, but the maxim that you make your own luck seems fitting. When things got tough, the Flames simply didn’t have a roster that was going to dig them out of the hole they were in.
The bottom six still couldn’t find the scoresheet. They still didn’t have a bona fide top six RW, relying on Ferland to shoot 20% on a night-in, night-out basis. The backup goalie situation worked until it absolutely all fell apart, which was not helped by Smith also falling apart. Those were all things that were obvious issues at the end of last season. This roster had its holes and they were Treliving’s responsibilities.
Not to say all is futile and that Treliving should be canned. He still assembled the major parts of the Flames core that will take them to the playoffs, but his mistake this past season was not actually adding to it in the right areas. He has the opportunity to right his wrongs and actually do that this offseason. The Flames will have some cap room to play with, some free spots to fill, quality prospects ready to play, and an entire new coaching staff. There’s really no excuse why this roster shouldn’t see major improvements.