On Friday, the Calgary Flames made a big trade. Heading to Calgary are three players that the Flames get to have at their disposal immediately, along with a draft pick that they’ll get to use in 2025 or 2026, depending on a few factors.
The inclusion of a conditional draft pick in this trade is part of a trend under general manager Brad Treliving. Let’s dive into the history of Treliving’s conditional picks.
There have been 14 trades made by Treliving that involve conditional picks. We’ll break it down by the types of conditions involved.

Games played minimums

In 2015, Treliving’s second off-season, he traded Max Reinhart to Nashville for a conditional seventh round pick, contingent on Reinhart playing 18 NHL games in the following season. Three months later he made the same trade, reversed, sending a conditional seventh to Colorado for Freddie Hamilton, contingent on Hamilton playing 18 NHL games in the following season. Neither player met the threshold.
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Following the Vegas expansion draft, Treliving returned to this model, sending depth goalie Tom McCollum to Detroit for a condtional seventh, contingent on McCollum playing in 15 NHL games for at least a full period. He didn’t meet the condition.

Making the playoffs

Back in 2017, before the Vegas expansion draft, the Flames traded Brandon Hickey’s rights, Chad Johnson and a conditional 2018 third round pick to Arizona for Mike Smith. The pick had the potential to convert to a 2019 second round pick if the Flames made the playoffs the following season (2017-18).
This created a complication when the Flames traded for Travis Hamonic at the 2017 draft, moving their 2018 first-rounder, their 2018 second-rounder and a conditional 2019 second-rounder in the process (in exchange for Hamonic and a conditional 2019 fourth-rounder). If the Flames made the 2018 playoffs that pick would be Arizona’s, so the pick would slide to 2020 instead (and the Flames would receive the Islanders’ 2020 fourth-rounder). Yes, three picks were contingent on the Flames making the playoffs in 2018 or not.
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Playoff success

In 2016, the Flames sent Kris Russell to Dallas in exchange for Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock, and a conditional second round pick that became a first-rounder if Dallas made it to the conference final. (They didn’t make it.)
The Flames used the exact same trade set-up two trade deadlines in a row in a pair of trades with the Los Angeles Kings. In 2019, a conditional fourth-rounder was sent to the Kings for Oscar Fantenberg – with the pick upgrading to a third-rounder if the Flames made the conference final. (Nope.) The following season, a conditional fourth-rounder was sent to the Kings for Derek Forbort – again, with the pick upgrading to a third-rounder if the Flames made the conference final. (Nope again.)

Player re-signing

The rules have since changed, outlawing the practice, but the Flames made a pair of trades where an additional pick would be swapped if a player re-signed with the acquiring team:
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  • A second-rounder and a conditional third-rounder were sent to St. Louis in exchange for Brian Elliott. Elliott didn’t re-sign, so the third wasn’t swapped.
  • A third-rounder and a conditional fifth-rounder were sent to Arizona in exchange for Michael Stone. Stone re-signed, so the fifth changed hands.

Player success

One of the weirdest pairs of conditions was a part of a Calgary/Edmonton trade in 2019. The Flames sent James Neal to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic and a conditional third-rounder. The condition was the Flames would get the third if Neal scored more than 21 goals and Lucic scored 10 or fewer goals than Neal (e.g., there had to be a hefty gap in goals scored between the two players).
This condition came into play when the Flames traded for Erik Gustafsson, with the condition on that trade sending a third round pick to Chicago – the earliest third-rounder the Flames had at the time. The 2019-20 season ended up being truncated by the pandemic and the NHL had to arbitrate the condition later on.

Draft pick value

The Flames have seen top 10 protection for first-rounders factor into two recent trades.
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During the 2021-22 season, the Flames sent Tyler Pitlick, Emil Heineman, a fifth-rounder, a conditional first-rounder and a conditional fourth-rounder to Montreal for Tyler Toffoli. If the Flames’ first-rounder was in the top 10, the Flames had the option to defer the pick by a year but Montreal would get the conditional fourth-rounder as compensation if they did so. (They didn’t.)
In the Tkachuk trade, the pick involved essentially has double top 10 protection. If Florida’s 2024 first-rounder is in the top 10, Philadelphia gets their 2025 first-rounder (via the Claude Giroux trade) and the Flames would get their 2026 first-rounder (because the 2025 is already gone). But if Florida’s 2024 first-rounder isn’t in the top 10, the Flames might get the 2026 first-rounder anyway if Florida’s 2025 pick is in the top 10.
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Why do teams like including conditions in trades? Honestly, it probably makes the GMs involved feel like they’ve hedged their bets a bit, which probably leads to more trades. As much of a headache as complicated conditional picks probably create for us media types, it leads to more player and pick movement, which is probably a positive overall.
But man, it becomes a big pain when you need a flow chart to figure out the conditions on a draft pick changing hands.

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