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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Treliving’s greatest free agency hits and misses

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.

  • freethe flames

    If his greatest hits are Johnson, Ryan and Frolik he should take tomorrow off. John was an addequate back up, Frolik was overpaid by at least 1 half million(and I like Frolik) and the same can be said for Ryan(who again I like; he has helped this team significantly in the FO circle but again is he worth over $3m).
    This year his moves should be in getting solid 2 way rw not looking to hit a home run; three names that come to mind as Hartman, Donskoi and Connolly. All young enough not to fall off the cliff. Honest hard working guys. Don’t chase the stars. But unless he clears cap space he should celebrate Canada away from the phone.

    • buts

      Frolik for 4.3million? A 4th line penalty killer who’s benefited by playing with Backlund. Super overpay along with all e others mentioned. Tomorrow trade yes but don’t sign any fa’s.

      • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

        Michael Frolik has averaged 42 Points a year over a full 82 Games Season for us with ZERO Power Play time as a Flame. Honestly if you think that is fourth line you need to get your head checked. Frolik would easily be a minimum 50 Point guy for us every year if we ever gave him even PP2 time, which he has always deserved over many other forwards, Brouwer was PP1 for half that time for crying out loud. Anytime you have a forward who can regularly put up 35-40 points a year ALL EVEN STRENGTH you thank your lucky stars that he have an elite third liner.

    • Skylardog

      So another wasted asset if he buys out Stone. He is a right shot defenseman, that can play. He was signed for too long and at a time when he wasn’t needed.

      He should have been a tradable asset in 2 trade deadlines ago, but the 3 year deal killed that one. His health made his moving out this TDL impossible.

      Better to keep him in the lineup, move out Brodie, and hope he either plays well enough to be a trade at the TDL deadline in Feb 2020, or if his health becomes an issue again, can go onto LTIR.

      That is how we can manage our assets and get value for them. If you keep Brodie and buyout Stone, then at the end of the season when Brodie’s contract ends, we will have nothing to show for 2 NHL defensemen. If Stone can’t keep healthy, then he has no asset value anyways. At least on LTIR if he goes there, we can spend up to his salary over the cap. As a buyout he is on the books against the cap for the next 2 seasons. Those are 2 very different things.

      If Tre buys out Stone, our cap and trade issues and options should be considered as dire.

  • freethe flames

    I was thinking about Brett Connolly’s NHL development and wondering if one could compare hims a bit to Bennett. Both drafted high 6th and 4th, both put up less than hoped numbers in their early twenties and the at around 25 Connolly finally found some consistency in his game; last year playing a third line tole he had 46 points. Could Bennett be that same kind of guy with a slightly higher ceiling as his younger years have been a bit more productive than Connolly’s?

    • Rudy27

      When tre got Stone, we really didn’t know what we had in Anderson, Valimaki or Kylington. We’d look pretty thin on defense right now if those three didn’t pan out and we didn’ t have Stone in the lineup.

  • Skylardog

    A one year deal for a backup is a position filler, hardly a shrewd move with a lasting impact. He really only had a six game streak where he was unbelievable, then dropped back down to average again. They didn’t have enough faith in him to put him in during the playoffs despite how bad Elliott was playing, so how well did that signing really work?

    I will concede that Frolik has been a good soldier and a good signing, but was never what he was expected to be at the time he was signed. The hope was that he could take on a scoring role with the Flames, but him playing with Backlund turned that into a defensive role immediately. He had put up 42 points in back to back seasons in Winnipeg, and dropped off to 32 in his first season here. He did rebound in 2016-17 to 44, but since then has dropped off. He has only played in all 82 games once in 4 years, missing at least 12 in the other 3 seasons. Still decent, but for a $4.3M contract signed in 2015 at 5.89% of the cap, it needed to be better than an average of 34 points a season. Still like the deal. But it definitely, as Tre’s biggest free agent win, is not a grand slam by any means.

    Ryan I have spoken about frequently recently. You know where I stand on this one. It is an overpay for a 4th line guy that had all the characteristics of the Brouwer and Neal deals. He was over 30, and never even should have been considered.

    But my biggest beef with the Ryan deal is that it was made because Treliving has improperly assessed this team as having two top 6 centers, Mony and Backs. Had he realized that he only had one, Ryan would never have been signed, and the cap could have been put towards what we really needed, another top 6 forward. And if you think he helped in the playoffs, go look at his stats for the Avalanche series. That 4th line got slaughtered. A CF% of 35.63 was the worst of all of the Flames at 5v5 that played in all the games (another free agent blunder Czar played in just 1 game but had a 33.33 CF%). The fourth line was lucky however, to have a 0.973 save percentage when out there (Mangi actually had a 100% save percentage backing him up).

    SO with no free cap as we role into July 1, the hope is that having no cap keeps Brad sitting back enjoying a great Canada Day, with absolutely nothing to do.

  • Trevy

    I think today is going to be about trades in order for teams to maneuver into position for tomorrow. If Tre doesn’t pull the trigger on Brodie and/or Frolik, then we’ll probably be looking at the Talbot signing as our highlight for tomorrow. Also, as Free mentioned, first buyout period ends today, so maybe Stone may be on his way out. That also might be enough to add another low end depth signing

  • Franko J

    There is nothing great Treliving has done in free agency with this team.
    I agree with most posters here that Treliving should be staying clear of free agency this year. With the suggested rumors of a potential Talbot signing the focus should be re-signing the teams RFA’s. The only UFA he should be concerned with is Hathaway. Unfortunately I think he will get higher offers and won’t be back with the team next year. If anything Treliving should know by now the free agent market doesn’t work for him.

  • Getpucksdeep

    I’m wondering which GM has been a “superstar” at the Free Agency game? That is a real question and I would be interested in who anyone thinks has really done really well at Free Agency signings. I know lots of GMs have done far worse than Tre. Besides I’ve been watching hockey too long (1967 Leaf win no less!!) to fall “in love” with players. It’s a business and the only important product in the end is the overall Team. I’m fine with Smith and I’ll be fine with Talbot. Big year for Rittich and lets hope he takes that next step to elite status. If Rittich isn’t the “next one” though don’t expect Talbot to get us to a final.

    The far and away more important aspect is how a GM drafts and we now have 13 drafted or amateur free agent in the line up. I can remember Sutters last year when we had 2 drafted players and a young Gio, a free agent.I know Sutter drafted Bouma, Brodie and Backlund but they weren’t pro’s then.

    All I hope is Tre finds a way to trade Brodie or Frolik AND clear 2-3 mill out in the deal. I still don’t get the Brodie for Kadri stuff. Good trade idea but zero cap help for 2 teams who want cap help.

  • Off the wall

    Last night as Mrs Otw and my son headed to bed, I had a hour to myself to enjoy the campfire. (first time no fire ban)

    I had a roaring fire going, and it was so peaceful, tranquil and relaxing! I heard a noise coming from under the trailer, so I went to investigate.

    Lo and behold, a raccoon was helping himself to the dogs food. I shoo’d it away, but it kept coming back, stealing whatever he could get his little paws on. After two attempts of chasing it away, I just gave up and video’d the lil’ bugger enjoying his tasty treats. He kinda looked like Johnny Sockey, (my dog) and I watched in delight as he got both paws going and went on a feeding frenzy. What a cute lil’ bugger he was. It lasted a few minutes, until he was satisfied.
    Needless to say, Mrs Otw was horrified when I showed her the video this morning.
    “ You better disinfect those bowls, she cried. You never know what that thing is carrying”

    Of course, I laughed, cuz Mrs Otw disinfect’s her hands every time she thinks she accidentally touches the garbage lid. She’s paranoid by germs. Yet here we are camping! 😷

    It got me thinking about Free Agency and the massive overpays we witness every season. Treliving is not the only one. Although his record for FA is not good, he reminds me of that raccoon who just needs to ‘steal’ something on that day.
    The raccoon probably has diarrhea now, so he’ll regret his decision today.

    Let’s hope Treliving doesn’t get another diarrhea idea this year, cuz there’s little to steal in Free Agency. I think he’s demonstrated that already.

    Keep your paws outta the dish Treliving. You’ll end up looking like that raccoon with black eyes!

    • Skylardog

      When we lived in Vernon, we had a raccoon coming up on the deck to steal the dog’s dinner as well. Little bugger would just sit and eat while our dog at the time, Skylar, would go nuts at him on our side of the patio door. Mrs Sky made me disinfect the dog bowl by the way.

      Anyways, on a cold morning, I decided enough was enough. Armed with a spray bottle mixed with hot sauce and water, and a cedar branch, I chased the raccoon throughout the neighborhood for the next hour. Mrs Sky was horrified that I wen out in just a T-shirt, gym shorts, and boots.

      A she said then, I probably scared the neighbors way more than the raccoons. However about an hour after I was done, we spotted the racoon moving her whole litter out of our culvert. Never saw them again.

      One would hope that if you have been to the trough to many times and you know your going to get chased by the Skylardog if you go back again, you move on and go somewhere else.

  • meat1

    To me, Tre isn’t the only GM to have a spotty record on July 1st…how many great contract signings have there been in relation to the number of contracts given out. Everyone would say that Toronto was last years overwhelming winner with the Tavares signing, but looking at it now, I’m not sure it will workout magically for them.

    A teams best bet is to build and develop through drafting and shrewd trading. And Tre has done very well at that. I’m fine with a short term, low dollar contract with Cam Talbot…and nothing else this year.

  • Jobu

    Not much cap out there and a LOT of decent UFAs.

    Best thing to do is wait until the dust settles and if you have any cap (maybe make some?), pickup the leftovers for dirt cheap.

  • drogon

    BT might not use the buyout for sometime, there’s already $1.5M tie to Troy Brouwer for the next 3 years. Not sure if Michael Stone is tradable, if not, we’ll probably waive him just before the season begins.

    • Kevin R

      Tre doesnt need to do buyouts just yet. We have RFA’s with arbitration rights & that will allow us a 2nd buyout window in August I believe. If he cant move pieces around to get the needed cap space then that will be when we may see the Stone buyout. That’s what happened when we bought Brouwer out last year.

      I think the trades with us are going to unfold once the key name UFA’s fall into place. Even if Leafs trade Zaitsev for Ceci, that doesnt solve their problems & Ceci isnt going to gain them any cap space either. The Brodie for Kadri thing could still happen later next week.

      Watch Benning way over pay for Myers. So glad we arent in that bidding war.

      Jets got problems, Connor & Lianne are going to eat up a lot of cap space.
      Wouldnt be surprised to hear Flames Jets discussing a Hamonic/Brodie type of deal with Ehlers coming back our way as well. Obviously other pieces would be involved in something like that. I still think Detroit becomes a factor & need to add, they woudl be a good fit of moving salary/player with out taking too much back.

      Somone want to explain the rationale of Carolina? Why would they have traded for Reimer & not just stayed with Mrazek & MCelhhinney who got them the furthest they have been in the playoffs for years. & then why would Florida trade for Darling to buyout because his cap is higher than Reimer, for an extra 6th rounder??? WTF?????

  • RKD

    Sadly we are stuck with Neal, 4 years left. He couldn’t do anything right. Money well wasted could have been better spent elsewhere. Stop giving 30 year old guys big term and dollars!

  • Derzie

    A manager is only as good as his staff are. Either Brad needs to upgrade his pro scouts or listen to the ones that he has. Whatever the root cause, Brad overvalues the past when it comes to free agency.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    We are at the point with Neal where our best option is to hope his personal and professional pride kicks in over the summer and he comes back a new man. I can still remember when Neal and Johnny connected for their first goal they were both excited like kids again. I thought that was going to be the first of many….nope.

    I can see Neal having a bounce back season if he drops some weight and works on his explosiveness…and stops handling the puck like a grenade. He needs to be with elite players to get anything from him. I hope he comes back better than ever and sticks it to the fans that doubted him…like myself.