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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation manager evaluation: Brad Treliving

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?

The draft

  • 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.

The trades

  • 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
  • Signings:
    • 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)
  • Re-signings:
    • 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
  • Buyouts
    • 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

  • freethe flames

    BT has done a good job in a lot of areas. His two biggest flops were the signings of Brouwer and Neil. His next major problem was not adding a significant forward at this trade deadline. I know that the Zucker thing fell through b/c it was not done on time. Zucker might have been a good add at the time but I question if it is the right move at this moment. Get it right BT. My other concern is that they don’t seem to get the importance of the Farm.

    • withachance

      They dont get the importance of the farm???

      They had up to 5 players from the farm this year in the NHL squad, and tons of key contributors came from Stockton. Treliving turned the prospect pool from a joke to one that consistently churns out NHLers.

  • SgtRoadBlock

    The Main thing we have learn is do not sign any UFA over the age 29 they have never plan out for us 97% of the time.

    i Hope we don’t dip into the Canes Roster for Peter again we don’t need any more Coach’s Pets eating up more ice time over the Kid’s we draft.

    BT dump what ever you can for more picks need to the Caproom. Soft Core Cleaning before Seattle enter the NHL

    GFG see you all at the Draft..

    • Beer League Coach

      29 year old players can still be useful in the short term. My concern is length of contract. I am OK with 1 or 2 year deal for a 29 year old if they show that they still have the skill and desire to play at 100% effort. I would go to 3 years only in exceptional cases. No way would I give any 29 year old more than a 3 year deal. Not even if his name was Crosby. Learn from the Brouwer and Neal mistakes and never ever paint yourself into a corner like that again.

      • withachance

        The thing is no 29 year old UFA would take a 1 or 2 year contract, or even 3, unless they;re coming off an injury or just a bad player. Players want contract stability, and if you dont give it to them, another team with a bad GM will. Its just what the market dictates.

        So we can say oh ok then we just wont sign any veteran UFAs ever, which would be a pretty neat way to handcuff a team on making improvements.

        • Beer League Coach

          So let the player become another team’s albatross contract. I don’t say we need to go back to the days of players signing when they come to training camp like they did back in the 50’s & 60’s but the pendulum has swung to the other extreme now. It is now up to management to let the players know that they will not cave in to unreasonable contracts, either $$ or term. If a 29 year old signs a 2 year contract and is still productive at 31 they can always sign another contract at that time. If they are not productive the team does not owe them anything further. It is time for these contracts to be fair to both the player and the team.

          • withachance

            That all sounds nice and dandy, but thats not the direction this league is going towards though.

            That player that you didnt want to sign for a 4year deal could very well go to your cross province neighbors, proceed to light it up, and fans like you and I will sit here and complain about Treliving not taking a chance on a proven free agent.

            Cant have it both ways.

    • Baceda

      Which Canes players were eating up ice time over the kids? Lindholm and Hanifin were playing exactly where they belonged and Ryan was a great depth guy playing mostly on the 4th line, I don’t think any of the youngsters were ready to centre any of our lines and frankly Ryan outplayed Jankowski and probably should’ve been on the 3rd line instead of Janks (who is getting less and less impressive as time goes on)

      • SgtRoadBlock

        He has a buddy love with Faulk and Staal if BT cave in for more Peters Pet’s get ready for less time for others Flames kids …Again i don’t see a trade with them but if Option A, B and C don’t work out at draft day he may go with Canes as a last deal option.

        Janko score more shorthand goals then Backland and is way cheaper to the Caphit then the 11 year Flames Vet that play the same PK zone spot… i see it as this way if Backland gone Caphit open up and the Center ice spot/ice time open up for Janko,Ryan and Dube… win win

        GFG

  • cjc

    Neal’s underlyings were in decline before he signed in Calgary: his CF, CA and CF% were all in steady decline since the 2014-2015 season. Same with GF%, SF%, SCF%. I feel like FlamesNation reported on this before the signing even happened? Either way, it was possible to see Neal’s disastrous season coming.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    My concern is BT is building a small team, it’s okay to have 1 or 2 small guys, Johnny and Mangiapane, after that bulk up. Goaltending is also a position BT seems to ignore. And stop signing old free agents who’s best days are behind them.
    On the positive side he seems to get guys to sign longer term cap friendly contracts. I just hope he doesn’t give away the farm to Tkachuk, I know he’s a fan favorite but I still think he’s a good player, not an elite player.

    • withachance

      Not too worried about size. Mangiapane and Ryan are guys who play like they’re 6 feet. Look at Boston whos loaded with smaller guys that plays big. Its getting players that are capable of playing that style.

      Also its funny during the regular season people here were basically saying give Tkachuk whatever he wants to get him to stay. Now after 5 games fans are saying he’s not worth a big contract. I’m with you though I think the max he should get is 8M

    • Puck Head

      Flames – 5 players under 6 feet (forwards)

      Blues – 2 players under 6 feet (forwards)

      Boston – 8 players under 6 feet (mix of forwards and defence). If we use size as a determining factor then the Bruins are screwed and should have never made it to the finals.

      It’s not necessarily the size of the player but also the mindset of the player. Czarnik and Gaudreau play soft and I would suggest that Czarnik is expendable. Johnny needs to be flanked by players who can protect him. Ryan, Dube and Mangipane are all 5’10” to 5’11” and bring skill and determination to the table. They’re worth keeping.

      We could use a few more skilled gritty guys in the lineup.

  • Off the wall

    I don’t think you can arbitrarily hand-out $ 5.75Mx5 years to any aging forward without it hurting the club. Neal was and is a disaster of a signing. We can only HOPE he has a better 2nd season with the Flames.

    However, his penchant for getting top performers to ink club favourable deals, is a strength of Treliving’s. How he handles the Tkachuk deal will have major impact on the franchise, as we can’t afford to waste a dollar of cap space.

    There’s been speculation that Bennett might be offer- sheeted and if so, all we would obtain in compensation is a 2nd round pick, for the highest drafted player in Flames’ history. Wouldn’t that be a punt in the head? I hope Treliving values Bennett enough to not let that happen, however we’re going to need to move a few players this draft year, to compensate for the additional costs.

    $14.5M for signing Tkachuk, Bennett, Rittich, another goalie and at least Mangiapane, let alone UFA Hathaway isn’t enough to work with. I’m guessing Treliving will be eager to make some trades.

    June 21st, should be interesting..

    • withachance

      Hey OTW,

      Offering some caveats here:

      I think most of us would be lying if we said that Neal signing didnt excite us of the possibilities in the summer. We cant rely on hindsight only. Yes, Neal had a terrible season, by his standards. The standards he set that showed no sign of stopping because the guy literally was a guarantee for at least 20 goals until this season. Its a terrible deal now, but we can only hope he rebounds next season. Fingers crossed.

      I love Bennett and Im still hoping for a breakout. But he is likely a 3rd liner with energy that tops out at around 35 points. We need to stop looking at him with a 4th overall lens and see him as a player who has a huge question mark over him even after over 300 NHL games. 2nd round pick for that would not be the end of the world. Im not saying get rid of him, Im just saying if a team comes in and offersheets him for over 2.5M AAV, i’d consider not matching.

      Overestimating here, but 8M for Tkachuk, 5.5M for Bennett and Rittich combined, and 1M for Mangiapane is 14.5M on the dot. Thats overpaying on mostly everyone there. I think the Flames are fine on cap, factoring in trades and potential buyouts. Cap issues are grossly overestimated here.

      • Off the wall

        Thanks withachance.
        If all we get for Bennett is a 2nd round pick, then I’m gonna be pissed at Treliving. His trade value would garner a better return. Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing trade speculation on Bennett?

        Personally, I hope it doesn’t happen.

        Who are we buying out?
        Even if we carry the same players, we’re not making this team more competitive.
        We’re at least a few good players short on RW depth.

        That’s the area I hope Treliving addresses this draft.

        • withachance

          I dont think any team in the league would offer a 1st for Bennett in a trade. I’d be pissed too, but I’d also be upset if Bennett got a bad contract as well. I hope Bennett stays for a long time as well, just for the right price. All im saying is it wouldnt be the end of the world

          Stone is a buyout candidate. And factoring in trades, like Brodie and Frolik, which would open up roughly 9M in cap space. I think we’re good.

        • Beer League Coach

          Agree. If we only get a 2nd pick for Benny we should match the offer. However, if the salary is high enough to get 2 draft picks I would definitely consider letting him go. Buyouts are not an option this summer. No way we should be stuck with a $1.9mm cap hit for 8 years to get out from under the Neal contract. If BT can trade him with up to $2mm retained, that could be acceptable if the return is a bottom 6 player who can contribute to the Flames or a 3rd or 4th round pick. We gave up zero assets to sign him in the first place. Addition by subtraction. $2mm for 4 years is still a big price to pay but is a necessary evil in these circumstances. The key here is to minimize the damage that has been done and to learn from that mistake.

        • withachance

          Stone buyout relieves around 1.5M (correct me if im wrong here), Brodie and Frolik trades relieves around 9M. They’re replaceable by Valimaki and Dube, and the remaining cap of 9M can be used to upgrade top 6. I think they’re fine.

          Factor in that Treliving is likely not going to use all of the current cap space to sign the RFAs, I’d say theres around 10M give or take for upgrades if Brodie and Frolik are traded like we thinkl they might be.

      • super6646

        I’d go a bit higher than 2.5 million, but 3 million and above is an absolute no with me. He’s had all the opportunity to take a top 6 spot and hasn’t done it. He’s a fine 3rd liner, but there are lots of fine third liners in the nhl.

    • cjc

      And his underlyings were in decline before he signed in Calgary: his CF, CA and CF% were all in steady decline since the 2014-2015 season. I feel like FlamesNation reported on this before the signing even happened?

      • withachance

        Good point, I remember reading that article. My point is I was much, much MUCH more confident of Neal having a slightly down year but still getting at least 40 points or so instead of a 10 point season. No one could have seen this coming in terms of just how bad he was playing.

  • super6646

    Stop trading the picks, especially for complimentary and medicore players. A first and 3 seconds for hamonic and lazar is gross. We have literally no farm system left, and our only prospect that has legit nhl upside left is dube. I understand we still have a young team, but teams that continually draft their talent have the most success. Hope tre remembers that.

    • Franko J

      @ super6646
      I can understand why Treliving made the trade for Hamonic, but I would be more excited if we kept our pick from last year at 12th. Not saying they would have drafted him, but Noah Dobson looks like a real promising pick for NYI. Dobson appears to show the pedigree of a future Norris candidate after becoming a two time Memorial Cup winner leading two different teams.
      Secondly the Lazar trade was another reach by Treliving. Again if the Flames took in account the player who Ottawa selected I sooner like the upside of Formenton over Lazar.

  • MDG1600

    The Brouwer and Neal signings demote Brad from being a great GM to merely a good GM who is still better than average. Maybe take away his cell phone for the first week of free agency.

    • 🐃💩

      I think his moves put him from good to ok. Smith trade, not making a move at this years trade deadline, not getting rid of Frolik when the issues started. Good trade with Carolina and Ryan was a decent signing.

    • calgaryfan

      Yes MDG1600, if I was an owner paying the bills Treliving would be taking a lot of heat for for those signings. I had never really watched Neal play just heard he was a scorer. Could not believe how slow he was the first time I saw him play. Treliving would be on a short rope at free agent time.

  • Franko J

    I agree keep Treliving away from July 1 and we would be better off.
    His strongest asset is signing players to reasonable contracts and not hesitating to making or trying to make trades on draft day.
    However since he has been GM, he has not made hardly any progress between the pipes with this organization. Basically he has failed to trade for, draft or develop a #1 goalie this team desperately needs in order to take the next step. Not saying Rittich cannot be the goalie of the future here, but for me I still see more questions than answers from him at this time.

    At the same time last year when Treliving was going to be evaluated for hiring Peters as coach, the same can be said in how he will handle the Tkachuk negotiations. While there other priorities this has to be the biggest one for the Flames.
    Secondary is what moves will he make to shake up things and to continue improve the team. I have a feeling he was not too happy with how some players on this team did not “show up” in the playoffs. Now that he has some time to cool down and re-evaluate the roster, I am looking forward to what he might have up his sleeve at this years draft in Vancouver. Will it be something major, minor, or inconsequential?