Everybody loves a good comeback story right? Seabiscuit, The Mighty Ducks, Robert Downey Jr., Rocky, Kim Kardashian…
It’s a story that everyone can root for and it’s safe to say that Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has added himself to that list after making franchise history with a new contract for Jonathan Huberdeau.
Just under a month ago, the Flames were told that franchise cornerstone Johnny Gaudreau would not be signing a long-term contract with the Flames and just a few days later the same with Matthew Tkachuk. After somewhat of an underwhelming free agency period, the Flames looked done for and Treliving’s job was certainly in question.
Since then, he has done nothing but stick the course and perform some extremely tidy business along the way:
There was an immense amount of risk in the Flames not doing anything about Huberdeau this summer, or throughout next season. After trading Tkachuk to Florida, and losing Gaudreau for nothing, the team couldn’t afford for history to repeat itself.
So what did Treliving do? Took a flight to Montreal, had himself a nice dinner, and signed Huberdeau to the richest contract in Flames franchise history. For a team that lost two of its biggest stars, it now has a face of the franchise that will be under contract for the next nine seasons.
Preserved cap space
When the team knew Gaudreau was not signing a long-term contract with the team, a spacious $10.5M in cap space suddenly opened up. In a flat cap world, this could be looked at in a way that resembles winning the lottery. Of course the team would have probably preferred Gaudreau, but the extra space opened up a world of possibilities.
What Treliving didn’t do was go out on July 1 and spend it all on bad contracts. Since his first free agent frenzy period—where he handed out almost $10M to Mason Raymond, Jonas Hiller, and Derek Engelland—Treliving has learned from his mistakes and kept the Flames money in his pocket for more judicious spending.
By keeping that space open, the Flames were able to take on the full cap hits of Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar while still leaving a little bit of room open for more.
Restricted free agent magic continues
If there is one thing that Brad Treliving has excelled in during his tenure as Flames GM would be signing RFAs to contracts. That trend continued this year with Oliver Kylington and Andrew Mangiapane.
After taking massive strides this season, and in search of potential massive deals, the Flames made prudent moves with Kylington and Mangiapane by locking them up to multi-year deals.
Kylington was on the outside looking in a year ago today, but his emergence alongside Chris Tanev earned him a two-year, $2.5M contract. With most projecting him to earn upwards of $3M on a three-year deal, the Flames get a bit more flexibility this season and next, while also allowing Kylington to prove himself further.
Mangiapane followed a similar suit, with his 35-goal season earning him a three-year extension worth $5.8M a season. Not cheap, but also a bit of a bargain if you’re going to get 35 goals a season for the next three years. That is the gamble here for the Flames, they didn’t lock him up to a long-term deal, but they also want to ensure that Mangiapane can replicate that type of production for multiple seasons. Mangiapane gets paid, and the Flames retain one of their top scorers.
From rags to riches
To go from being in the dog house among Flames fans at the start of July to being the saviour of the team at the start of August may give most fans whiplash, but Treliving has earned it. In an offseason where the team lost two 100-point players, there is an immense amount of excitement and optimism going into the 2022–23 NHL season.
There is still work to be done, but the Flames GM has done everything in his possible to keep the Flames competitive while being dealt one of the worst hands in NHL history.