Calgary Flames

Brad Treliving isn’t great at signing UFAs

Since taking over as general manager in 2014, Brad Treliving has completely retooled and redesigned the Calgary Flames we know and love today. He has built up the prospect pool, made bold trades, and signed key core players to cap-friendly and long-term deals.

Treliving’s skills as a GM rival any in the entire NHL and the past few seasons he has put his team in an excellent position to succeed. Most recently, the Flames totalled 50 wins in a season that started with much lower expectations than that. Sustained playoff success is the next step.

Brad Treliving’s resume

The one major red mark on his resume is his handling of unrestricted free agents. If they are restricted, it seems to be no problem at all, but when it comes to the unrestricted market, he may be a different GM.

That being said, it’s hard to judge every GM on their unrestricted signings because trust me, there are a lot of terrible signings made around July 1st. It’s just that a few bad signings during free agent frenzy can have a lasting and negative impact on a team’s salary cap.

Since becoming GM, Treliving has made 16 UFA signings in and around July 1st where those players were regular NHLers. There are always a handful of depth signings made around that time, but often for much less money and negligible NHL ice time. Those 16 signings have been hit or miss with the team, with the majority being the latter. Let’s breakdown how these signings have panned out.

2014 Offseason

Contracts Signed

2014Length (Years)Total $AAVStatus
Deryk Engelland3$8,750,000$2,916,667Expansion Draft
Jonas Hiller2$9,000,000$4,500,000Not re-signed
Mason Raymond3$9,450,000$3,150,000Bought out

Treliving’s first summer may have been his worst. After trading for Brandon Bollig at the draft for a 3rd round pick, the Flames GM went and signed three of the more questionable contracts of his entire tenure thus far. Deryk Engelland was a bottom pairing defenceman in Pittsburgh, but was given three years at just under $3M.

Hiller, coming of a tough season in Anaheim which included a bout of vertigo, was given $4.5M a season over two years. Finally, Mason Raymond had a near career season the year prior and earned a three-year deal for his efforts. How did these players fare coming to Calgary?

Player Performance

2014Points/Game Season BeforePoints/Game Season After5v5 CF% Season Before5v5 CF% Season After
Deryk Engelland0.210.1443.40%40.20%
Mason Raymond0.550.4044.90%43.50%
SV% Season Before SV% Season AfterGSAA Season BeforeGSAA Season After
Jonas Hiller0.9110.9182.912.80

In joining the Flames, Engelland’s offensive production and possession game dropped, but that wasn’t necessarily his purpose. He was supposed to bring size and grit to the lineup, but for the cost of his contract there should have been a bit more.

Engellend played a key leadership role over the course of his three seasons and saw consistent deployment in the defense corps. Really, his signing somewhat worked out. His saving grace was that he was the expansion draft selection, even though he was a pending UFA.

Raymond’s numbers also dropped, especially on the offensive side. His play in Calgary was almost non-existent. Perhaps he is most well-known for being kept over Paul Byron to be put on waivers, where the Canadiens quickly snooped up the diminutive and skilled forward. Byron went on to have a stellar career in Montreal. Raymond, on the other hand, was bought out with one year left on his deal and didn’t play in the NHL again.

Hiller never quite got his game back either. Although his numbers in his first season with the Flames were good, his GSAA dropped significantly year over year—this part of his game really hurt the Flames’ chances of success. He played his two years and then was done in the NHL.

2015 Offseason

Contracts Signed

2015Length (Years)Total $AAVStatus
Karri Ramo1$3,800,000$3,800,000Not re-signed
Derek Grant 1$700,000$700,000Not re-signed
Michael Frolik5$21,500,000$4,300,000Current Flame (?)

Treliving went from one of his worst free agent year, to easily his best. The 2015 free agent period was a huge improvement, mainly due to the signing of Michael Frolik. A highly sought after UFA league-wide, Frolik may have come at the cost of a five year deal, but his cap hit was extremely manageable. Kari Ramo’s signing looks a bit generous when looking back at it now, especially considering the Jonas Hiller-Ramo tandem would be making a combined $8.3M that season. Derek Grant’s signing was a cheap depth move, but he ended up having moderate success with the club.

Player Performance

2015Points/Game Season BeforePoints/Game Season AfterCF% Season BeforeCF% Season After
Derek Grant 0.100.0754.40%46.30%
Michael Frolik0.510.5054.50%51.30%
SV% Season Before SV% Season AfterGSAA Season BeforeGSAA Season After
Karri Ramo0.9120.909-2.28-5.96

All three players’ numbers dropped the season after signing their deals with the Flames. Frolik’s was an extremely minute decline, and he ended up making up for it in the next few seasons. Becoming an integral part of the notorious 3M line, Frolik was one of Calgary’s best two way players for a few seasons. After a season of publicized criticisms by his agent, Frolik looks to be headed to a different team in the final year of his deal.

Grant’s numbers are not of major significance, and he ended up getting a better shot somewhere else.

Ramo on the other hand, was a tough signing for the team. On one hand, he was the better goaltender in the duo used by the Flames that year, but his numbers absolutely plummeted in his second season with the Flames. The team thought it would be better to hold onto the goaltender they knew, but that wasn’t the best call. After the tough seasons, and a knee injury later, Ramo was another Flames UFA signing that found himself out of the NHL following the expiry of his contract.

2016 Offseason

Contracts Signed

2016Length (Years)Total $AAVStatus
Chad Johnson 1$1,700,000$1,700,000Not re-signed
Troy Brouwer4$18,000,000$4,500,000Bought out

Finally, we’ve come to our favorite UFA signing of them all: Troy Brouwer. Easily Treliving’s biggest miss fire thus far, is the quintessential example of a bad July 1st signing. Too much term and too much money going to player that had one good season.

Johnson, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, was actually a really good signing for the Flames. His strong run in November/December of that season is one of the major reasons the Flames were able to clinch a playoff berth. Unfortunately, Johnson played backup to Brian Elliott in the postseason, and we all know how that worked out.

Player Performance

2016Points/Game Season Before Points/Game Season AfterCF% Season BeforeCF% Season After
Troy Brouwer0.480.3448.70%44.40%
SV% Season Before SV% Season AfterGSAA Season BeforeGSAA Season After
Chad Johson 0.9200.9102.833.01

The numbers clearly show how bad of a season Brouwer had after signing, and they just get worse the season after. And, in Brouwer’s case, it wasn’t just his offensive output that took a hit, but his defensive game as well. Brouwer was bought out last summer, and the cap penalty of $1.5M will be on the books for the next three seasons because of it.

Johnson played the lone season with his home town team, and then went back to Buffalo on a higher salary deal. No harm no foul here.

2017 Offseason

Contracts Signed

2017Length (Years)Total $AAVStatus
Kris Versteeg1$1,700,000$1,700,000Not re-signed
Michael Stone3$10,000,000$3,333,333Current Flame (?)
Marek Hrivik1$650,000$650,000Not re-signed

The offseason of two summers ago was a mixed bag. The Flames made some big trade splashes, acquiring Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith, limiting their need to dip into the free agent market as much as previous years. Pending UFAs Kris Versteeg and Michael Stone were handed new deals right before July 1st after playing key roles on the team the prior season, and Marek Hrivik was a depth move that lasted three NHL games with the Flames.

Player Performance

2017 Points/Game Season Before Points/Game Season AfterCF% Season BeforeCF% Season After
Kris Versteeg0.540.3347.80%47.00%
Michael Stone0.230.1243.50%49.50%
Marek Hrivik0.130.0055.70%48.90%

This is why this summer presents a bit of a crossroads for Treliving. On one hand, it made sense to sign Versteeg and Stone to deals based on the prior season. That being said, both players’ production dropped significantly the next season. Versteeg missed significant time due to injury, but was still a different player. Although his one year deal didn’t end up hurting the Flames at all, it does show a bit of an overpayment that year; albeit slightly.

The Stone’s deal has turned into one of the most hindering contracts on the team, and it cost a fifth round pick to re-sign him before July 1st. Right now he appears to be another buyout candidate for Treliving to deal with.

Hrivik came, he saw, and he conquered his three NHL games. Not bad from a signing perspective, but not great either in terms of impact.

2018 Offseason

Contracts Signed

2018Length (Years)Total $AAVStatus
Dalton Prout1$800,000$800,000Current Flame (?)
Derek Ryan3$9,375,000$3,125,000Current Flame
Alan Quine1$700,000$700,000Current Flame
Austin Czarnik2$2,500,000$1,250,000Currnet Flame
James Neal5$28,750,000$5,750,000Current Flame (?)

Treliving’s busiest July 1st was this past season, where he made a few good deals and one terrible one. Dalton Prout was a head-scratcher, Alan Quine was a great depth addition, and Austin Czarnik looked like a steal. Derek Ryan was highly sought after, but opted to stick with his coach and take a ‘ three year deal with the Flames. Last, and definitely not least: James Neal. The biggest ticket free agent that Treliving has signed so far as GM in Calgary.

Player Performance

2018 Points/Game Season Before Points/Game Season AfterCF% Season BeforeCF% Season After
Dalton Prout0.000.1051.40%50.60%
Derek Ryan0.480.4757.10%54.90%
Alan Quine0.140.3838.90%48.10%
Austin Czarnik0.400.3357.70%55.00%
James Neal0.620.3051.50%51.10%

Looking at the stats, Prout and Quine had limited impact on the team. Yes, Prout had some tough moments and isn’t a top-six defender, but he played the seventh defenseman role to a tee. His rights are still owned by the Flames, but his time is probably up.

Quine was recently qualified and could play the same type of role again this season, which would be perfectly fine. He has the ability to make an impact in the bottom six in the NHL, and might get a more serious shot back in the bigs next season.

Ryan plays an extremely key role on this team now, so his contract is perfectly alright at the moment. His numbers also stayed extremely consistent year over year, and are especially impressive on the defensive end of the game. So far, the Ryan signing looks to be a sneaky steal for Treliving.

Czarnik’s numbers may not have been the best in his first season, but he should play an expanded role in the 2019-20 season. His contract is also extremely manageable, so there is no harm done.

The opposite can be said about Neal’s real deal. Just one year into his contract and it’s currently looking like a disaster. Time can still turn this around, but the heart rate must be at a dangerous level for the Flames’ GM. The one saving grace is that Neal’s contract does not include any movement restrictions, but it’s still a hard contract to trade.

If he turns it around this season, it would be a fantastic redemption story. That being said, it’s still $5.75M over the next few seasons for a team that is playing close to the cap, and if we’re being honest, the chances of Neal returning to 20 goal form are low.

All quiet on the 2019 front

There is no doubt that Treliving is a competent general manager, but around July 1st he may be getting caught up in the drama of it all. If we want to separate the 16 contracts into quality, you could say there haven’t been many “good” quality ones:


In a year’s time, the 2018 contracts could easily shift either way on this list, but the point remains that when he whiffs on a contract, it’s very difficult to find a solution.

The craziest part of this discussion is that Treliving is a master of the RFA contract. Hopefully he is able to work his magic yet again on Matthew Tkachuk, but when it comes to UFAs there appears to be something missing.

With the team close to the cap as is, there probably won’t be any big moves come July 1st unless the team sheds a significant chunk of salary. They will surely make a small move for a UFA goaltender (Cam Talbot anyone?), but don’t expect much else. Even the rumoured negotiations with Patrick Maroon will be hard to finalize due to limited cap space this season. Perhaps this is for the best, as Treliving’s free agency track record speaks for itself. Maybe he should continue his recent quiet streak to focus on the RFAs he has on his plate and leave the bad UFA deals for the rest of the league.

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