Brad Treliving left the Calgary Flames a big mess to clean up
7 months ago
Last week, Brad Treliving made the decision to step down as general manager of the Calgary Flames. The Flames organization clearly wanted him back to manage the team for a 10th season, but Treliving decided now was the right time to move on.
Don Maloney, John Bean and the Flames ownership group are now in charge of hiring a new general manager who will step into a complicated situation in Calgary.
Treliving left the Flames with a big mess to clean up. Here’s why.
2024 unrestricted free agents
The first order of business the new general manager will need to figure out is what to do with the group of 2024 UFAs that are in the Flames organization. The critique to make about Treliving in this case is why wouldn’t he do a better job spacing out the contracts of key players? How often do you see teams go into a season with seven high profile, core players all as pending unrestricted free agents? That is putting the team is a difficult situation.
|Player||Annual Cap Hit||2022-23 Goals||2022-23 Points|
|Mikael Backlund||$5.35 million||19||56|
|Elias Lindholm||$4.85 million||22||64|
|Tyler Toffoli||$4.25 million||34||73|
|Noah Hanifin||$4.95 million||7||38|
|Chris Tanev||$4.50 million||1||13|
|Nikita Zadorov||$3.75 million||14||21|
|Oliver Kylington||$2.50 million||N/A||N/A|
The Flames have seven key players who will become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2024. Backlund, Lindholm, Toffoli, Hanifin, Tanev, Zadorov, and Kylington all have total control over their futures in the NHL as they are no longer under team control.
This is going to put the new Flames GM in a tough position. Who should they keep? Who should they trade? Who should they bring back without a contract extension to start next season?
A challenge that the new GM is going to run into is dealing the Flames ownership group. Murray Edwards will likely have the mandate of “do everything you can to make the playoffs” and face the consequences of that short term thinking later. (Which is what this team has seemingly done every year under the ownership of Edwards.)
This is a short-term thinking ownership group who consistently gets themselves in trouble in these situations. The term “asset management” doesn’t exist in the lexicon of those who are at the very top of the Flames organization. That will be something the new GM will have to navigate as they build the roster in the short and long term.
Old, expensive core group of players
Treliving is leaving behind a couple disastrous contracts. 30-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and soon to be 33-year-old Nazem Kadri are going to take up a combined $17.5 million worth of cap space for the next six seasons. That is 21% of the Flames projected 2023-24 salary cap. On top of that they have Blake Coleman, MacKenzie Weegar, and Jacob Markstrom signed for at least the next three seasons. Those five players who are all in their 30s, take up a combined $34.65M worth of cap space (42% of their cap).
How many of the group of seven 2024 UFAs do you want to sign to long term extensions knowing you have 42% of your salary cap tied up in five 30+ year old players. Do you want to add Lindholm, Backlund and Toffoli to that group, all guys who are getting older quickly? Once again the new GM will have to navigate this difficult conundrum.
Lack of high-end prospects
One of the biggest critiques you can make about Treliving’s nine years as a GM is the fact he traded away so many draft picks.
What happens when you trade away so many first, second and third-round picks? You have a prospect pool that lacks depth.
That’s where the Flames prospect pool stands right now. They have one elite prospect in Dustin Wolf, and three NHL prospects in Matthew Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, and Connor Zary.
Their upside can be debated.
Wolf is the one guy who looks like he will be an elite, number one goalie, which is great for Flames fans. Coronato looks like a top six winger, but not an elite, franchise altering player. Pelletier looks like he’ll top out as a middle six winger. Zary looks like a middle six centre.
Outside those four players, the Flames prospect pool is extremely bare.
Some observers would say Jeremie Poirier could be an everyday NHL defenceman, but I think it’s too early to tell with him.
The best way to find elite talent is though the draft. As of right now it looks like the Flames are going to have to wait a while longer to add young, elite talent to their roster as there is not much of it in the form of existing prospects.
The new GM is going to have to replenish the prospect system with limited draft capital as the Flames don’t have their 2023 third and fifth-round picks and their 2024 fifth and seventh-round picks.
Fractured relationship between the players and the head coach
A lot of the blame for the fractured relationship between Darryl Sutter and the players is on the head coach and ownership who gave him a lucrative two year contract extension. But let’s not forget that Treliving was the one who hired Sutter in the first place. A lot of people think that ownership forced Treliving to hire Sutter, but I don’t think that’s the case. Listen to how Treliving spoke about hiring Sutter in 2022.
Treliving extended Bob Hartley in December 2014 and hired four of his own head coaches. Five coaches in nine years at the helm is not a good look.
Treliving was the one to hire Sutter. Was there a suggestion from ownership to do so? Potentially. We don’t know that for sure. But Treliving made it known publicly that he was the one to hire Sutter and has complimented him as a coach countless times in the media. Treliving bares some of the responsibility for where things went wrong with Sutter this season.
Treliving has done some good things when it comes to setting the organization up for future success. He beefed up the amateur scouting staff. He added to the analytics department. And he brought in smart hockey people to help guide the organization moving forward like Brad Pascall and Don Maloney.
But he also left behind a big mess for the new management team to clean up. Something that will likely take years to get out of to build a long term contending team.
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