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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Treliving’s July 1 signings feature more misses than hits

July 1 is not a kind day to many general managers. It’s a day of eventual regrets, felt by executives who signed that one – or more – guy for too much money, or too much term, and maybe it turns out he wasn’t worth it, after all.

But if you aren’t first, you’re last: and so, it’s the time to rush out and get that new guy who is totally going to take your team to the Stanley Cup, before someone else scoops him up.

Brad Treliving isn’t immune to the perils the start of free agency induces. Here’s a look at his first four July 1sts with the Flames.

2014

On July 1, 2014, Treliving signed three players:

  • Deryk Engelland (three years, $2.917 million per)
  • Jonas Hiller (two years, $4.5 million per)
  • Mason Raymond (three years, $3.15 million per)

Raymond was the only player who failed to play for Calgary for his entire deal, as he was bought out before the final year of his contract. It’s probably safe to say that, over the course of everyone’s contract, though, none of them were quite worth it.

Engelland was a bottom pairing defender who occasionally was asked to play in the top four in desperate situations (i.e. the “Mark Giordano’s season just ended” kind). At absolute worst, he did just that; fans of truculence and general physical grit would also give him a special place in their hearts (particularly after fighting two Canucks at the same time during the playoffs). The main knock on Engelland, however, was that cap hit: he got a substantial raise from his previous $566,667.

Hiller actually had a pretty good first season as a Flame, but it was overshadowed by his disastrous second and, from there, exit from the NHL. The Flames were (…still are?) floundering in a post-Miikka Kiprusoff world, and with only the general uncertainties that were Karri Ramo and prospect Joni Ortio to turn to, they needed someone else. Dropping from a .918 save percentage to .879 certainly didn’t do anything for his legacy, though.

Raymond was coming off of a redemption season: 45 points over a one-year deal with a $1 million cap hit. Unfortunately, he couldn’t meet expectations. In his first season with the Flames, he scored 23 points over 57 games. In his second season, he had five points over 29 games, and was demoted to the AHL, where he scored 15 points in 15 games. The Flames didn’t need to see what he’d have to offer for his third season, though after he was bought out, the Ducks took a chance on him, to the tune of going pointless in four games.

Engelland is the only one of these guys still in the NHL, and he just had the season of his career playing for his adopted hometown Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season.

2015

On July 1, 2015, Treliving signed two players:

  • Michael Frolik (five years, $4.3 million per)
  • Derek Grant (one year, $700,000)

Frolik is still playing for the Flames, entering the fourth year of his contract, while Grant has been kicking around for other teams.

Frolik is probably Treliving’s best July 1 signing. Scooped up after back-to-back 42-point seasons in Winnipeg, Frolik – known more for his defensive abilities than scoring prowess – immediately clicked with Mikael Backlund, and the two have formed probably the most stable linemate pairing on the Flames, along with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Frolik scored 32 points in 64 games in his first year, and approached his career high totals in his second year with 44 in 82. However, this past season he only scored 25 in 70, suffering his lowest shooting percentage in years. While there’s reason to believe he can bounce back – his other numbers were in line with his career – one could argue his cap hit is too rich, but that very well may be the July 1 factor kicking in.

Grant was a low key depth signing, and indeed, he only got in 15 games for the Flames, spending more time in the AHL. He registered all of one assist, but he was a fun – if, perhaps, ultimately inadequate – fourth line kind of guy to watch. Grant has bounced around since then, and he ended up playing 66 games for the injury-riddled Ducks this past season, scoring 24 points (including his first NHL goal). He’s an upcoming free agent once again.

2016

On July 1, 2016, Treliving signed two players:

  • Troy Brouwer (four years, $4.5 million)
  • Chad Johnson (one year, $1.7 million)

Brouwer is still playing for the Flames, while Johnson is approaching free agency once again.

Brouwer is perhaps the most infamous free agent signing of Treliving’s career. He was coming off of a string of high-30, low-40 point seasons, and hit a new payday after his previous three-year, $3.67 million per deal. However, red flags abounded for Brouwer and, halfway through his contract, have proven mostly true: he’s gone from being considered for the top line to being fourth line fodder. Brouwer has scored 25 and 22 points in his first two seasons in Calgary, which isn’t the worst thing ever, but for that price…?

Johnson was signed as the Flames needed a backup for new starter Brian Elliott. Johnson had stretches of incredible play – featuring some calls for him to be the starter – and the reverse, wherein it became obvious why he was the backup who had been signing primarily one-year deals. In the end, he finished with a .910 save percentage over 36 games for Calgary, which was certainly respectable – moreso than the .891 he put up for the Sabres over 36 games this past season.

Also worth mentioning: Treliving signed Lindey Vey on July 5.

2017

On July 1, 2017, Treliving signed two players:

  • Spencer Foo (two-year entry-level contract, $925,000 per)
  • Marek Hrivik (one year, $650,000)

Foo was a formality, as the undrafted college free agent had already agreed to sign with the Flames, while Hrivik was a depth signing.

Foo took a while to find his footing in the professional game, but once he got it, he started putting up numbers, finishing his first AHL season with 20 goals and 39 points over 62 games. He earned a four-game call-up at the end of the Flames’ lost NHL season, scoring two goals in that time. One of the few right-shot right wings in the system, he may be in the fighting for an NHL job this season.

Hrivik certainly looked to have potential – and his 30 points in 32 AHL games will attest to that – but injuries ultimately ended up claiming his season, and he was only able to dress three times for the Flames. It’s unfortunate, because there might have been something more there.

Also worth mentioning: Treliving signed Luke Gazdic on July 2.

2018?

Treliving hasn’t made too many big splashes in free agency, which is probably the way to go, since only one of his bigger signings has really worked out. His low risk, low reward deals have been fine – but really, those are pretty difficult to mess up.


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  • SoCalFlamesFan

    I look at this list and it looks better than I thought. Really the only stinker that hurt the flames to an extant has been Brouwer. He was the only signing I thought even at the time was questionable.

    • kirby

      Yeah paying Hiller $4.5 per and giving Raymond a 3×3 doesn’t look bad at all huh. Frolik has totally contributed his $4.3 mil worth on the ice too eh. Good thing we have a couple more years of that cap hit to look forward to while giving us 30 pts a year.

      Other than Engelland who was decent, and Foo who has good potential, this list looks horrible. Around $60 million spent on Brouwer, Hiller, Raymond and Frolik? Puke!

      • SoCalFlamesFan

        Raymond at the time was considered a great find, just his body didn’t heal as well at thought after his injury.

        Hiller had a good year, as stated above.

        Frolik was played well, he had been excellent with Backlund over the last years.

        • kirby

          Raymond was not considered a “great find”, it was considered a long shot. And over $3 mil per year on a 3 year term for a guy surrounded by question marks coming off serious injuries was completely boneheaded and was easily predictably as a failure.

          • Kevin R

            WTF are you talking about, that was Ground Zero +1 for the start of our rebuild. These guys were vets brought in to bridge us. Hiller was great, we were the cinderellas of the NHL & made two rounds of playoffs. Hiller was a big part of that. Second year both him & Ramo crapped the bed. Both were gone at the end of it.

            Frolik has been a great addition & meshed so well with Backlund they became a well know better shutdown line in the league. Last year was the worst we saw from Frolik & right now there is valid debate as to whether that was him regressing or from his injuries.
            Raymond actually was ok in his 1st year, 1 year too long of a contract but at 3.0 mill whatever, wasnt like we had cap issues.
            Engellend was a great warrior & we missed him last year. He sure looked good playing for Vegas, who made it to the Cup final.

            Brouwer would be the consensus bad UFA signing so far. Personally, I expected more out of Brouwer so Im sure Management had even higher expectations. Happens to all the GM’s

            Why cant was all just agree that it is wise to stay out of the bigger ticket UFA market, you have to overpay because you are acquiring a player of perceived need without relinguishing any assets.

          • kirby

            Yeah that’s true, perhaps i’m undervaluing Frolik’s defensive contributions. Although i did allude to the fact he contributes more than points, and was -19 last year for whatever that’s worth (the whole team was down for the most part so take that for what it’s worth)

            And i never bashed Engelland at all, i had no problem with that signing even though many did at the time, and he’s the kind of guy who brings accountability and toughness to any blue line he’s on.
            Hiller……i’m not going too far into that one, not like there were a ton of options at the time and he had a brief period where he was good for us, but he was a complete mess not too long after that.

            Yeah it was a bridge period but overall, outside Engelland, there’s no way you can say we got valued return for the investments made. Raymond on a 1 yr deal would have been perfectly fine, good or bad. But 3? I will never understand why they felt that was necessary. If that’s what it took to land him, should have just moved on.

            But 1000% agree: the UFA pool brings more disappoints and wasted investments than not. I much prefer to stay away in most cases. Overpaying for other teams cast offs rarely pays off the way you want it to.

          • HOCKEY83

            Kevin R…The most intelligent thing said about these players so far. I spoke with Raymond after leaving the Flames. He attends my company Golf tournament. He said Hartley was the cause of his demise. Played him 5 mins less per game and then sent him down and out. He said when Hartley decided he no longer liked a player it was over for that player. He said that’s why he took Hudler off the top line. He fell out of favor with Hartley and that was it for him as a Flame. Diminished stats are fine to report but there’s always behind the scenes stories as to why. Brouwer gets 3 to 5 less minutes a game from when he was with St.Louis and Washington as well as plays with less talent than he did on both those teams…Of course his numbers are not going to be the same. I’m all on board with getting rid of Brouwer but it’s not his fault the Flames overpaid him and then played him in a diminished role.

        • kirby

          And yeah Frolik has played “well”, he contributes a bit more than just a point total, but simply not worth what he’s making. He’s underachieved overall.

      • smith

        Not really sure why people have a problem with Frolik. Over the last 5 years has shown he is a 20 goal 45 point player (roughly). That is better than Lindholm while not receiving any power play time, less shelter and more d zone starts. And the talk is that Lindholm (who sounds like a fine player) is looking at 5 Million a year.

        • kirby

          Well Frolik hasn’t scored 20 G since 2009, and 45 pts is his career high which he hit in 2008. So i’m not sure that’s what he’s shown in the last 5 years at all.

          And no, he is not better than Lindholm, especially considering Lindholm is only 23 and has only scratched the surface of his potential and has more pure talent than Frolik ever had, while Frolik is now over 30 and has noticeably regressed.

          Frolik is a decent player, he’s just not living up to what he was supposed to be. That’s all. And you seem to be overvaluing what he’s been in recent years.

          • Still no edit button?

            You mean other then being on what was considered one of best shut down lines in the league. And don’t even bring up plus minus. They were extremely snake bitten aaaaaaand couldn’t score. If there pdo and shooting percentages go up to even average they are well into ther plus

          • HOCKEY83

            Agree with Kirby. Over the last 5 seasons his stats are relatively similar to Brouwers and Frolik gets more ice time than Brouwer. Their NHL career stats almost identical. As far as I’m concerned Frolic needs to be bought out every bit as much as Brouwer

    • oilcanboyd

      Not a good note to evaluate July 1 Free Agent signings by the amount of hurt imparted on a team! It goes to show that the July 1 frenzy is not worth getting involved in. A team by team evaluation over the last 5 years (regardless of GM as some are more recent) would be interesting. More losing balances I am sure.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Brad should trade Frolik to make room for some scoring help on the right side. Flames still need offense. I can’t imagine Brad is done tweaking this team. No?

  • Pizzaman

    The only reason to go Jul 1 is because you believe this is your year to go all the way and therefore you will overpay on a multi year deal to get that first year. Since we aren’t going all the way with the holes we have (2xRW, goalie, legit 4th D, power play) why would we chase Neal or Perron? You aren’t getting Guys to build your team around like Tavares or Karlsson, not in this market.

  • WidemansAnger

    Raymond and Hiller were motiveted by Burke I am sure of it. Engelland was a stud but everyone hated on him when he was here. Glad he is doing well in Vegas and won the NHL leadership award! Brouwer would be fine if he made $1.25 million less these guys take big money but it comes with big expectations, ask Milan Lucic how his pay day is working out… 🙂 GM’s should have that figured out by now, what gives?

  • MDG1600

    And this is why drafting is so important… I bet if you did the same exercise with the other teams in the league you would see the simple truth that Free Agents get overpaid. Players a team drafts are always cheaper, especially early in their career and in a Salary Cap world that is important. IMHO it is really hurting the Flames that they haven’t developed more quality forwards internally. Fingers crossed that Dube or Mang or maybe Gadwin turn out to be the real deal.

  • Jobu

    Jobu NHL fact #309

    Free agent signings are always overpays or not hot players when signing in less desirable cities (such as Calgary). The one rare exception is talent willing to take a pay cut to stay close to home.

      • mrroonie

        Development camp is for coaches to determine what the players need to work on over the summer. Last year it started on July 4 and wasn’t announced until June 30 so I would expect an announcement in the next couple of days.

  • Pete_R

    The only signings that look really bad are Brouwer and Raymond. Hiller was borderline. Those signings aside, overpaying is only really an issue if it puts the team in a positon where they can’t sign more valuable players. The rest played their roles and or were cheap enough it was worth a shot.

  • Kzak

    It’s easier this year. Sign Ryan and sign two of either Grabner, Reeves, Reider, Neal and Duclair. Mrazak might not be a bad signing either. Of course, all that hinges on getting good value deals, but I think Neal and possible Grabner might be worth a bit of an overspend.

  • Derzie

    Frolik has been good. The rest were varying degrees of bad. Judge the result not the thinking at the time. The results were poor. Rose colored glasses to think otherwise.