The Flames put together their most successful season under Brad Treliving after an aggressive off-season of spending and trading to drag the Flames out of the mediocrity they had been wading in for the two years prior.
The general manager made some bold statements last off-season. How did it pan out?
- Martin Pospisil – C/LW, 105th overall
- Demetrious Koumontzis- LW/C, 108th overall
- Milos Roman- C, 122nd overall
- Emilio Pettersen- RW/LW, 167th overall
- Dmitry Zavgorodniy- LW, 198th overall
With his picks limited, both in quality and quantity, Treliving still managed to have himself an interesting draft.
Which is no surprise, as he’s made his name off of swinging for the fences in later rounds. Given what Treliving had to work with (with the caveat that he did this to himself), it’s hard to find a better draft class. The main highlight is Pettersen, who raised eyebrows in his first collegiate season, finishing second in true freshman scoring. Pospisil has future fan favourite written all over him after another feisty and high scoring USHL campaign. Zavgorodniy and Roman put up respectable if quiet seasons in the CHL, and Koumontzis had some alright production in his freshman year too.
Contending teams sacrifice high end picks to build. It comes with the territory. But the way many contenders survive long term is through a healthy prospect pool built through the late rounds. Treliving’s early returns from the 2018 draft suggests that the team does still have promising youngsters in waiting.
- June 23, 2018: traded a 2019 fourth round pick to Montreal for a 2018 fourth round pick (Milos Roman)
- June 23, 2018: traded Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and the rights to Adam Fox to Carolina for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin
- Aug. 20, 2018: traded Hunter Shinkaruk to Montreal for Kerby Rychel
- Oct. 10, 2018: traded Brett Kulak to Montreal for Rinat Valiev and Matt Taormina
- Nov. 27, 2018: traded Morgan Klimchuk to Toronto for Andrew Nielsen
- Feb. 25, 2019: traded a 2020 conditional pick to Los Angeles for Oscar Fantenberg (conditions: if Flames make conference finals and Fantenberg plays in 50% of the games, 2020 pick is a third. Conditions not met, so it is a 2020 fourth)
Treliving’s season, and perhaps even his job and legacy in Calgary, would be defined by the outcomes of the Hamilton trade.
It was certainly a risky move at the time: the team was parting with their first line RW, their first pairing RHD, and a star prospect for a RW who had yet to crack 50 points and a developing defenceman. There were plenty of ways it could go wrong.
Thankfully for Treliving, the risk paid off. Lindholm fit nicely into the first line RW spot, reaching new career highs and turning the first line and first power play unit into a well rounded threat. Hanifin may not have been as flashy, but he settled in nicely on the second pairing, also hitting a career high in points. We’ll get into it later, but Treliving was also able to get both assets under lock long term for reasonable cap hits, arguably moving this trade into the win column.
The only other trades worth talking about were the Kulak trade and the Fantenberg trade. Kulak, whose value was knocked down to $900,000 during RFA negotiations, was a pretty serviceable depth defenceman during his time in Calgary. He wasn’t much else, but on a team that emphasized depth, it seemed odd to flip someone with NHL experience for two AHLers who were both not going to see serious minutes in the NHL.
The part where it gets confusing is when they traded for Fantenberg at the deadline. The rationale behind adding Fantenberg was that the team needed someone with experience heading into the playoffs, a problem that was created when they traded away Kulak. It’s not of much consequence, but it’s head scratching. If they valued NHL experience, why did they trade away an NHL defenceman? Why did they open up that spot for Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington if they didn’t fill the requirements?
Perhaps Treliving was trying to do right by the player and let him get an opportunity, which is fair, but the entire situation is some pretty sloppy asset management. They traded away an NHL defender (who has since blossomed into a second pairing defender and received a great contract for his work – someone you absolutely want on your third pairing) for two non-NHL pieces, and then rectified the self-inflicted issue by trading a fourth for a player who may not return next season. I don’t mind trading Kulak, especially with Valimaki and Kylington in line, but this probably could’ve been handled better.
Otherwise, minor moves that didn’t really move the needle either way for either team.
Signings and such
- June 25, 2018: did not qualify Austin Carroll, Daniel Pribyl, Emile Poirier, Hunter Smith, and Nick Shore
- June 11, 2018: Yasin Ehliz, one year x $650k
- June 11, 2018: Marcus Hogstrom, one year x $650k
- July 1, 2018: Alan Quine, one year x $700k
- July 1, 2018: Austin Czarnik, two years x $1.25M AAV
- July 1, 2018: Derek Ryan, three years x $3.125M AAV
- July 1, 2018: Tyler Graovac, one year x $625k
- July 2, 2018: Buddy Robinson, two years x $700k AAV
- July 2, 2018: James Neal, five years x $5.75M AAV
- Aug. 21, 2018: Anthony Peluso, one year x $650k
- Mar. 19, 2019: Luke Philp, two years x $817k AAV (ELC)
- Mar. 30, 2019: Dmitry Zavgorodniy, three years x $786k AAV (ELC)
- Apr. 9, 2019: Artyom Zagidulin, one year x $842k (ELC)
- Apr. 12, 2019: Adam Ruzicka, three years x $801k AAV (ELC)
- Apr. 20, 2019: Martin Pospisil, three years x $796k AAV (ELC)
- May 7, 2019: Carl-Johan Lerby, two years x $925k AAV (ELC)
- May 10, 2019: Alexander Yelesin, two years x $925k AAV (ELC)
- June 30, 2018: Dalton Prout, one year x $900k
- July 16, 2018: Elias Lindholm, six years x $4.85M AAV
- July 16, 2018: Jon Gillies, two year x $750k AAV
- July 25, 2018: Brett Kulak, one year x $900k
- July 25, 2018: Mark Jankowski, two years x $1.675M AAV
- July 26, 2018: David Rittich, one year x $800k
- July 30, 2018: Garnet Hathaway, one year x $850k
- Aug. 30, 2018: Noah Hanifin, six years x $4.95M AAV
- Aug. 2, 2018: Troy Brouwer, bought out in year three of a four year x $4.5M AAV contract, leaving the team responsible for $1.5M AAV until 2022.
Treliving was pretty busy with the contracts this past season, signing the most players he’s ever signed as GM of the Flames.
The obvious talking point is the Neal contract, which has started to smell just one year into the five year deal. To defend the decision, it wasn’t a bad idea at the time: Neal was a consistent goal-scorer who didn’t have the Troy Brouwer-esque underlyings to suggest that his success was a facade. The Flames wanted a 20 goal scorer who could improve the power play and provide veteran leadership. That was Neal.
To attack it, the Flames had just bought out Brouwer, who was signed to be a 20 goal scorer who could improve the power play and provide veteran leadership. It’s wrong to compare players on the basis of vague superlatives, but Treliving had a painfully recent example of an aging winger on a big money contract expiring before his best by date. He kind of just forgot that those things can happen. I don’t think anyone was expecting Neal to play as poorly as he did this season, but the signing seems shortsighted in hindsight.
The rest of his UFA signings were pretty good. Ryan, despite some early season struggles, turned out to be one of the Flames’ most important players down the stretch. Czarnik was a pretty handy pickup who looks like he has some potential. His recent dip into the European market also signifies his willingness to look under every rock for talent. We’re too far out to say whether or not any of those players will turn into something, but adding some high quality non-NHLers is a safe risk to improve the team for cheap.
He shone again in re-signing players, capturing Hanifin and Lindholm for some pretty team-friendly numbers, and every other RFA for cheap too. Given their contributions to the season, signing Hathaway, Jankowski, and Rittich to just a bit over $3M is pretty handy work. Those negotiation skills will be important in the near future, I suppose.
The good and the bad
It’s hard to attribute the success of the 2018-19 Flames to one single person, but Treliving is a fitting candidate for that praise.
When I wrote this post last year, I criticized Treliving for a half-assed attempt at fixing a roster with some serious problems. This year was almost the exact inverse, with Treliving aggressively targeting weak spots and building a deep roster. He added a lot, and still didn’t seem satisfied with what he had. Treliving had a vision, identified what needed to be changed, made a plan, and executed it. It was risky and radical, but it paid off.
There were definitely some mistakes, as we’ve covered, and there’s still issues that need work. No off-season is perfect. The next challenge is remaining a contender. The Flames are up against the ceiling cap wise, need to re-sign plenty of important players, and then add a little bit too. Clearly, finishing first in the West is not enough, and Treliving can’t rest on his laurels.
2018-19 player evaluations
#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund | #13 Johnny Gaudreau | #18 James Neal | #19 Matthew Tkachuk | #21 Garnet Hathaway | #23 Sean Monahan | #24 Travis Hamonic | #27 Austin Czarnik | #28 Elias Lindholm | #33 David Rittich | #41 Mike Smith | #55 Noah Hanifin | #58 Oliver Kylington | #67 Michael Frolik | #77 Mark Jankowski | #88 Andrew Mangiapane | #93 Sam Bennett | Complementary Players | Bill Peters | Assistant Coaches