Since joining the Calgary Flames as general manager in 2014, Brad Treliving has done a pretty good job building the team up. His trades are shrewd. His drafting is rock solid. He re-signs players to good deals. He just seems to get a bit kooky when free agency opens on July 1.
Here’s a quick look back at his best, and worst, moves regarding unrestricted free agents.
Part hit, part miss
Immortalized with a Bob McKenzie tweet joking about the cap hit, Deryk Engelland signed a three year deal in 2014 that payed him $2.9 million… per season. It was a hefty amount for a guy that was a third pairing player for most of his run, but he was a pretty important role player for the team and fought two Canucks players at once during the 2015 playoffs.
Jonas Hiller was signed to a two year deal with a $4.5 million cap hit in 2014. He was very good for the first season and led the Flames to a playoff appearance. His second year he was pretty bad, posting an .879 save percentage.
The greatest misses
Mason Raymond was signed to a three year deal in 2014 with a $3.15 million cap hit. Fresh off a bounce-back season with the Leafs, the hope was he could be middle-six filler and a veteran who could help the young players progress. Instead he gradually slid down the rotation towards the fourth line. He was waived and sent to the AHL midway through his second season, and was bought out following that year.
Troy Brouwer was signed to a four year deal in 2016 with a $4.5 million cap hit. Fresh off a couple long playoff runs, the thought was that he could be a veteran mentor for the kids and provide some grit to a lineup full of fast, smaller players. Instead, Brouwer’s long seasons and physical playing style caught up to him and he rapidly slowed down. He sent two seasons in the bottom six before being bought out.
Two years later, in 2018, Treliving signed James Neal to an even longer, more expensive contract than Brouwer’s – five years at $5.75 million. Neal had just played several lengthy playoff runs, but didn’t have the same physical playing style as Brouwer. In his first season with the Flames, his only to date, his shooting percentage cratered and it’s yet to be seen if he can bounce back.
The greatest hits
It was only a one year deal, but Chad Johnson‘s 2016 signing for $1.7 million helped get the Flames into the 2017 playoffs. They’ve tried oodles of different goaltenders under Treliving’s regime – if he signs, Cam Talbot would be the 11th different goalie – but Johnson was arguably the best bang for the buck.
Derek Ryan had a bit of a hefty cap hit at $3.125 million for three seasons given he was penciled in for fourth line duty. But two things happened: he became one of the team’s most important role players in 2018-19, and he became part of a fourth line that ended up being used as a third line down the stretch. Barring the bottom falling out of his game over the next two seasons, this deal has been an easy win.
Finally, signing Michael Frolik for five years in 2015 with a $4.3 million cap hit was the perfect move at the perfect time for the Flames. Frolik developed great chemistry with Mikael Backlund and formed an effective shutdown line, and that duo was elevated by Matthew Tkachuk’s arrival in 2016-17. While the team seems primed to move on from him this summer, his impact and value in the lineup is undeniable.