There’s just a little over a month left before the Calgary Flames begin their pre-season games. Over the course of the offseason, Flames general manager Brad Treliving has been tasked to get a whole lot done in a short amount of time. Has he done enough to impress? We asked, you answered.
The Flames’ offseason moves
As the 2020–21 season came to an end, assessing the Flames’ to-do list before the 2021–22 season was a lengthy process. There was much to do and while there is still time left, there are a bunch of action items still seemingly in the queue. Recently, it was the hangup of Nikita Zadorov‘s arbitration case. After settling for a one-year, $3.75M contract, both parties avoided going to arbitration (which was originally scheduled for August 26, 2021).
Flames were able to get a much better sense of their cap space and the Zadorov contract was the first domino to fall after free agent frenzy simmered down. Now the team can start looking towards putting together their training camp rosters and personnel.
As it stands, the Flames have indeed made some large splashes in their offseason, none bigger than signing free agent Blake Coleman to six-year contract, making him the only Flame with a contract through to 2026–27. A few trades were also made, with Zadorov being one of the bigger names, as well as adding Daniel Vladar to the system to vie for the backup spot behind Jacob Markstrom.
So with all that’s been done so far, what’s the outlook on Treliving’s body of work for the 2021 offseason?
Despite all the moves, it’s still deemed a below-average offseason for the Flames general manager. This offseason has been one like no other, with an immense amount of buzz around trading for Jack Eichel. With that big of a move being desired by the masses, it’s not surprising that the majority of people would vote for a below-average offseason unless the Eichel trade actually comes to fruition.
Let’s go over what Treliving has actually done so far and see if he’s tended to the issues the Flames needed to address. Of note, some replies on the poll suggested that Treliving’s offseason was merely average, with neither above- or below-average assessments quite hitting the mark.
So far, the Flames have 16 new contracts in the books. This includes the aforementioned Coleman and Zadorov contracts, but also ones like re-signing unrestricted free agents like Brett Ritiche to keep him a Flame for another season, or tending to restricted free agents (RFAs)—most recently with Juuso Valimaki‘s two-year deal.
Questionably, the Flames have yet to tend to any of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, or Andrew Mangiapane. Those contracts are no-brainers, yet it’s still taking time. For Gaudreau, he gained valuable leverage in seeing his modified no-trade clause kick in, shifting the negotiations—if there have been any—in his favour.
Both Tkachuk and Mangiapane are eligible to re-sign with the Flames as they’re both heading into their RFA year, so it wouldn’t be unsurprising to see at least one of these players with a shiny new contract prior to 2021–22. However, it hasn’t happened yet, much to the delay and displeasure of those of us waiting for some good Flames news.
Addressing current needs
The Flames had some major needs to tend to in order to elevate them to being Stanley Cup contenders. In losing Mark Giordano to the Seattle Kraken, the Flames’ defence corps was in shambles, as figuring out the top-four became a cringeworthy activity. The Flames currently go into next year without appropriately filling in the void left by Giordano, but based on this year’s defencemen market, the void might be a better option than the overpays that were seen across the league.
For the forwards, adding a legitimate top-six player in Coleman makes their forward group rather strong when it comes to the top-two lines. The inverse to that is their bottom-six took a hit, particularly in losing Derek Ryan to the Edmonton Oilers as he walked away in free agency, as well as adding players who won’t move the needle in Tyler Pitlick and Trevor Lewis.
When it came to goaltending, the Flames closed out the season with heavy reliance on Markstrom. Then backup goaltender Louis Domingue slotted into one just game after the trade deadline—the second last game of the season. Now, Vladar and Adam Werner fill out the immediate two and three spots behind Markstrom, and they’re both reasonably good options to have in the system.
The Flames biggest issue was replacing the on-ice impact of Giordano, and it’ll have to take some time before that can truly be evaluated. In looking at the Flames right now, their forwards and goaltending got better while their defence got significantly worse.
The Eichel in the room
As much as there is an overkill on mentioning Eichel among Flames news (or lack of news) right now, I’d be remiss to not include this pretty big asterisk in evaluating Treliving’s offseason. Suffice to say that there hasn’t been this much discussion around acquiring a player for the Flames in a long time—the last big name to be tied to the Flames at this level might have been Mark Stone, and we all know how that turned out.
For far too many years, the Flames have seen an elite player go to another team after being in on everything, and being unreasonably close to making a big deal without actually making it. Over the tenure of Treliving, the Flames’ biggest acquisitions were Dougie Hamilton, Travis Hamonic, and Brian Elliott—none of whom are still a part of the team. While there were more trades, these three were true acquisitions without subtraction as only picks went the other way.
To say that there’s been a sizeable gap since the Flames last made a game-changing trade is an understatement. Treliving simply hasn’t executed on the trade front as of late, and a lot of the rhetoric around his ability to build a contender now hinges on the theoretical trade for Eichel.
Whether it pans out is yet to be known, and for all we know the current Flames’ roster could very well get into the playoffs quite easily, but they are far from ready to contend for the Cup. In bringing in Darryl Sutter to coach the team now, the signal is they are willing to compete with the current core, but the problem is that the current core isn’t ready to compete.
Getting into the playoffs is one thing and we all know anything can happen, but to be a pessimist with self-proclaimed reason, the Flames are closer to being the 2020–21 Montreal Canadiens than they are the 2020–21 Tampa Bay Lightning (even though they literally have a former Lightning now on their roster).
The Flames still have a long way to go to be powerhouse contenders for the Cup and prime opportunities like adding Eichel don’t come around often. Treliving knows this; everyone knows this. In assessing Treliving’s offseason, this Buffalo Sabres/Eichel situation could either be trade for the times or yet another year where inaction takes the place of action.
Ready for the new season
The offseason is not done and neither are the Flames. They still have lots to do both big and small before they are ready to bring on the new campaign. After last season’s huge disappointment of not securing a playoff spot in the North Division, a repeat of it in the Pacific would be devastating to this group.
The Flames will have a full year under Sutter’s tutelage instead of the midyear takeover, so with any luck this team won’t raise the blood pressure of too many fans over the course of the regular season. As for Treliving, the hope is that he will still make moves to better the Flames. Let’s hope he does what it takes to bring the below-average rating up to something a little better.