The list of Brad Treliving’s best trades during his time as general manager of the Calgary Flames is impressive. However, as good of a list it is, that’s just the positive—there’s plenty that fall into the negative.
When you have an aggressive mindset like Treliving when it comes to the trade market, you’re bound to get some major wins as well as some big time losses. Treliving has seen his fair share of both. His trade history certainly isn’t as bad as some other general managers out there, but he has still put up some stinkers whether that’s due to bad luck or poor judgment.
Let’s take a look at some of Treliving’s worst trades during his time as the Flames general manager.
June 24, 2016 — Traded a 2016 2nd (Jordan Kyrou) and a 2018 3rd (conditions not met), to STL for G Brian Elliott
When we talk about poor trades being either poor judgment or bad luck, this one was a bit of both. The Flames had run with a duo of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller in 2015–16 to less than stellar results, so a change was clearly needed. Enter Brian Elliott.
The then 30-year-old veteran was coming off arguably the best season of his career, posting a .930 save percentage across 41 games for the Blues. With the veteran on the market, Treliving took his chance and sent a second-round pick along with a third-round pick to St. Louis, hoping to solve the Flames’ goaltending woes.
Sure Elliott was coming off a great season, but he’d never been a starter in the NHL before and had a career high of just 55 games played all the way back in 2009–10. Giving up that kind of draft capital for a team in the middle of a rebuild was a huge risk. Needless to say it didn’t pay off.
Elliott posted a very pedestrian .910 save percentage in the regular season across 49 games, but his playoff performance is all that anyone will remember. Elliott imploded in the first round, posting a .880 save percentage across three games. The Flames would get swept in the first round and Elliott would leave as a free agent following the season.
To make matters even worse, the Blues would use the Flames second round pick on Jordan Kyrou, who has since established himself as a bonafide star in the NHL at just 24 years old. There’s no way to say the Flames would’ve picked Kyrou had they kept the pick, but it certainly stings to see the Blues get an all-star in Kyrou out of the Flames pick in return for one average year of Elliott.
March 1st, 2017 — Traded D Jyrki Jokipakka and a 2017 2nd (Alex Formenton) for F Curtis Lazar and D Michael Kostka
For as long as he’s been in Calgary, Treliving has loved flipping draft capital for patchwork solutions. In particular he did that for years to help solve the Flames’ issues at both goalie and forward. The Curtis Lazar deal is a perfect example of that as he tried to make a Hail Mary acquisition to fix the teams need at right wing.
This trade was a mistake pretty much from the second it was made. Lazar being a first-round pick back in 2013 was the only reason he fetched a second-round pick from the Flames, as he’d shown nothing at the NHL level at the time. Lazar had posted just 36 points across 176 games in the NHL when the Flames traded for him, so he was far from a guaranteed solution to the teams issues on the wing.
This one was a huge gamble from Treliving and the risky bet from Treliving would unsurprisingly fail as Lazar would end up playing just 70 games in Calgary across three seasons, picking up only 15 points. He would leave in the summer of 2018 as a free agent.
Meanwhile trading a second-round pick would come back to bite Treliving once gain as the Senators would use the Flames pick on Alex Formenton. Formenton has since become a full-time NHLer for the Senators and at 22 years old is just beginning his career.
June 24, 2017 — Traded a 2018 1st (Noah Dobson), a 2018 2nd (Ruslan Iskhakov) and a 2019 2nd (Samuel Bolduc) for D Travis Hamonic and a 2019 4th (Lucas Feuk)
Almost exactly two years to the day of making one of his best trades with the Flames by picking up Dougie Hamilton in 2015, Treliving went out and made one of his worst in 2017 in a near identical deal. With Travis Hamonic looking to move west and the Flames in need of help on defence, Treliving recreated the Hamilton trade by sending three draft picks to the Islanders for Travis Hamonic.
The deal seemed like quite of a risk right off the bat, as Hamonic was already 27 and coming off a brutal season with the Islanders in which he missed 23 games with an injury. Like the previous two deals on this list, Treliving decided to trade draft capital despite the Flames still being in a rebuild. Trading mid-round picks is one thing, but shipping out an unprotected first-round pick when your team finished fifth last just two years prior is a questionable call.
Needless to say it came back to bite him in a big way as the Flames would fall off in 2017–18 and miss the playoffs finishing 20th in the NHL. Treliving lucked out big time as the Islanders wouldn’t land a lottery pick with the Flames pick and would instead end up picking 12th overall where they would select Noah Dobson.
Dobson has since become a full-time top-four defenceman at just 22 years old, and most recently posted a career-best 51 points in 2021–22. Hamonic meanwhile spent just three seasons in Calgary, with 2018–19 being his only decent season as a Flame. He would leave as a free agent in 2020 after skipping the 2020 bubble playoffs. Using the fourth-round pick on Lucas Feuk removed any chance of redemption.
That said, things could’ve been much, much worse and that’s saying something considering how things went. As we now know the 21st place Hurricanes would win the second-pick in the draft to earn the right to draft Andrei Svechnikov.
Had the Flames lost their final game of the season against Vegas, they would’ve finished 21st and thus won the second overall pick which would’ve been transferred to the Islanders. To this day it’s still a mystery why Treliving didn’t protect the first-round pick he sent the Islanders.
October 1st, 2018 — Traded D Brett Kulak for D Rinat Valiev and D Matt Taormina
A rather inconsequential deal at the time, this one has just looked worse and worse every year for the Flames and Treliving. When it was made it seemed like a throwaway deal swapping some AHL players for each other. Four years later now and the trade has developed into much more than that.
The day before the deal, Brett Kulak cleared waivers and with no room on the roster due to veterans like Dalton Prout and Michael Stone, the Flames shipped the 24-year-old, 2012 fourth-round pick to Montreal for a couple AHLers in 32-year-old Matt Taormina and 25-year-old Rinat Valiev. Taormina was a career AHLer, but Valiev was a 2014 third-round pick so he at least had some upside.
That said, Valiev had registered just 12 NHL games at the time while Kulak had 101 games in the NHL when he was moved. Needless to say Kulak still had a good amount of NHL upside and was coming off a season in which he logged 71 games for the Flames as a regular on the blueline.
In the end Taormina would play one season with the Stockton Heat before retiring in 2019, while Valiev played two seasons with the Heat before also retiring in 2020. Kulak meanwhile continued his progression and turned into a full-time NHLer with the Canadiens and has since become one of the more underrated bottom pairing defenders in the NHL—now on a four-year, $11M contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
It may have seemed like a simple throwaway deal of a player who just cleared waivers at the time, but the signs were there that Kulak could be a dependable and solid NHLer for years to come. Giving him up for essentially nothing due to veterans like Prout and Stone taking up roster spots was a mistake then and is now.
March 16th, 2022 — Traded a 2022 2nd (David Goyette), 2023 3rd, and a 2024 7th for F Calle Jarnkrok
This may seem a little harsh to list this here, but the way things turned out after this deal was made makes it look like a pretty massive overpay and loss for Treliving. This deal is certainly has a lot of bad luck involved, but that’s the nature of trading for rentals in the NHL.
With the Flames going into the deadline as a full-on Cup contender, Treliving paid up for what was viewed as the final missing piece to the Flames forward group in Calle Jarnkrok. The deal seemed like a great fit at the time, which made the high cost palatable but it just didn’t work out at all. Jarnkrok didn’t gel at all in his short time with the Flames, making the price to acquire him sting.
He would manage just a single goal and eight points in 29 games for the Flames, with his only goal coming in the Flames’ final game of the season. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out for Jarnkrok in Calgary and he would leave as a free agent after the season making him a pure rental.
In the end Treliving gave up some valuable draft capital in a second- and third-round pick for just 29 games of Jarnkrok. The Kraken have since selected David Goyette who had 73 points in 66 games in the OHL last season with the second-round pick, and will have the Flames third next year. Time will tell if this deal looks even worse for the Flames, but if the past is any indicator trading second-round picks has not gone well for Treliving.
Bad luck and poor judgment
As many good trades as Treliving has made, he’s also made just as many mistakes. It’s just the art of being a general manager in professional sports. Treliving’s main flaw throughout the years has been the repeated mistake of sending out draft capital for short term patchwork solutions.
Sure he’s experienced some pretty bad luck with teams seemingly nailing every top pick he trades, but it serves as a warning when it comes to throwing around draft picks for solutions that won’t last. Luckily Treliving’s worst days of dealing seem to be behind him, as most of his worst deals happened a few years ago.