It’s long past time for Brad Treliving to act
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Mike Gould10 months ago
It’s now been more than a decade since the last time the Calgary Flames made a significant mid-season trade to add a player.
Ten years and two days ago, Flames general manager Jay Feaster completed a blockbuster deal with the Montreal Canadiens. The ex-GM sent struggling forward Rene Bourque off to the Habs alongside prospect Patrick Holland and a 2013 second-round draft pick.
On the other side of the continent, Montreal pulled Mike Cammalleri out of a game against the Boston Bruins and informed him that he, along with Karri Ramo and a 2012 fifth-round pick, had been traded to the Flames.
It was a memorable deal that had long-lasting ramifications for both teams.
Bourque continued his inconsistent play in Montreal but peaked with eight goals in 17 games during the Canadiens’ 2014 run to the third round. Montreal selected @Zach Fucale with the second-round pick and, while he never really lived up to the hype he received in Montreal, he finally made his NHL debut this year as a member of the Washington Capitals.
Cammalleri was a bright spot during some very underwhelming seasons for the Flames, putting up 50 goals and 96 points in 135 games before leaving for New Jersey as a free agent in 2014. Ramo helped the Flames to make the playoffs and win a round in 2014–15 and was one of the only reasons to watch the team the following year.
More than a decade later, the infamous Cammalleri/Bourque swap remains the most recent instance of the Flames making a significant move to add to their team during a season.
Despite icing a playoff team four times since 2015, the Flames have never been able to substantially change the makeup of their team prior to the trade deadline — although, to quote Pierre LeBrun’s comments on TSN after the Flames missed out on acquiring @Jack Eichel, they’ve certainly tried.
Calgary remained in conversation with the Buffalo Sabres during the highly-publicized Eichel sweepstakes earlier this season but ultimately fell short. They tried to acquire Taylor Hall from New Jersey in 2019–20 but failed to beat Arizona’s offer. We don’t need to go over what happened with @Mark Stone and @Jason Zucker at the 2018–19 trade deadline.
During Brad Treliving’s tenure as Flames GM, his team has absolutely attempted to make big mid-season moves. Unfortunately, you don’t get any points for “trying” in the NHL. We’re quickly approaching the end of @Johnny Gaudreau’s extremely reasonable contract and the Flames have exactly zero playoff round victories to show for it. That can’t be seen as anything but a failure.
Gaudreau’s contract has effectively been the Flames’ “window” to compete. We’re quickly approaching an off-season where the Flames will need to re-sign Gaudreau, @Matthew Tkachuk, @Andrew Mangiapane, and @Oliver Kylington. Those four players collectively count for just $16.925 million against the salary cap this season. If the Flames want to keep them all beyond this season, they’ll likely have to shell out between $25 and $30 million per year.
Tkachuk will need a $9 million qualifying offer this summer. Gaudreau, on the heels of his outstanding season, might command close to eight figures. After being nickel-and-dimed on his last two deals, Mangiapane’s next contract likely exceeds $5 million per year. Kylington should easily get more than $2.5 million annually on a short-term extension.
Let’s consider the lowest possible estimate for what those four players might cost to keep next year: $25 million. How are the Flames going to ice a competitive team with $8 million less cap space to commit to supporting players? It’s going to be significantly more difficult, and it’s not as though the Treliving-led Flames have an extensive track record of success in the best of times.
Of course, that’s all assuming the Flames are able to coax Gaudreau back and lock Tkachuk down on a long-term deal. Will the Flames have any hope of competing without Gaudreau around to carry the load on offence? If Tkachuk signs a one-year deal to become a pending UFA, can the Flames risk keeping him just to lose him for nothing?
The Flames’ path forward is uncertain, to say the least. They’ve shown signs of improvement this season, but does that really matter if they can’t keep both of their top-line wingers beyond this year? And will they even be able to remain competitive while committing twice as much money to their four pending free agents?
The rest of this season is key for the Flames. If they want to compete, this might be the year to do it. If so, it’s time for Brad Treliving to break that ten-year post-Cammalleri trading drought and commit to making his team more competitive. The first five years of the Gaudreau $6.75m window went by without any adjustments and the team suffered for it.
With Gaudreau on his cheap deal, the Flames have operated less as an aspiring contender and more as a team content simply to make the playoffs and let things unfold. Unfold they have, with the Flames winning just three playoff games over five seasons.
While their division rivals have bulked up for playoff runs, the Flames have aimlessly tinkered with their defensive depth while bleeding picks to bring in low-upside forwards like @Curtis Lazar. It hasn’t been pretty.
What if the Flames don’t think they can make additions to turn this team into a contender this season? Is trading Gaudreau an option? Possibly, but it’s one they really should’ve explored before this year.
Gaudreau is having an outstanding season and has likely raised his value since the puck dropped on opening night. That said, his value already plummeted on July 28, 2021, when he entered the final year of his contract and his 26-team no-trade clause kicked in.
As of this season, the Flames can only trade Gaudreau without his consent to five teams of his choosing. That’s going to severely limit the value of any packages Calgary is offered for the 28-year-old winger.
That said, getting anything of value for Gaudreau would absolutely be preferable to losing him for nothing in July 2022 (the worst-case scenario). The Flames can either make a push or sell anything that isn’t bolted down — at this point, either avenue would be understandable — but watching Gaudreau leave after standing pat would be catastrophic.
Here’s the thing: if Gaudreau leaves, the Flames probably need to start over. No matter what, the repercussions of Gaudreau leaving would be painful and the recovery would almost certainly take some time. Either way, it would be a huge missed opportunity if the Flames had Gaudreau at a $6.75 million cap hit for six years and never once made a significant mid-season move to get him some legitimate help.
If, no matter what, a rebuild (or, at the very least, a significant retool) is in the cards after this season, the Flames might as well push in some chips to try and take one last kick at the can with Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Mangiapane, and Kylington collectively making less than $17 million. @Claude Giroux and @Tomas Hertl would be excellent targets.
Or … they need to look at the various contenders around the league, gauge their interest in the Flames’ big-ticket pieces, and start selling. If teams like Carolina, Florida, Toronto, Colorado, and Washington are willing to pay up for the last few months of Gaudreau’s contract, the Flames should pull the trigger on a deal to supplement their asset base.
Yes, the Flames already missed the boat on the best forward on the trade market this season. Yes, their best opportunity to trade Gaudreau may have already passed. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing the Flames can do. Pick a lane: buy or sell. At this juncture, standing pat is unacceptable.
If a stagnant Flames team looks outmatched again as a low playoff seed and Gaudreau ends up leaving for nothing, Treliving should have to answer for his inactivity. He can avoid that line of questioning either by bringing his team some help or being proactive and selling his players on expiring contracts.
Either way, it’s long past time for the Flames to commit to a direction. Which one will they choose? Only the GM can answer that question.
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