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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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