Throughout his eight-year tenure with the Calgary Flames, general manager (GM) Brad Treliving has faced his fair share of criticism. Many have felt that he failed to make the big changes needed to get his club over the hump, as he instead looked to try the same thing over and over with a core that seemed to struggle every time the playoffs came around.
This offseason, he looked to continue with that same core but was unable to as Johnny Gaudreau left him hanging by choosing to sign as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Shortly after, it was reported that Matthew Tkachuk was not willing to sign an extension, meaning Treliving needed to find a trading partner for him. What he has done since has quickly turned him into a hero in the city of Calgary, as he was faced with some very difficult circumstances and overcame them in spectacular fashion. In the way he was able to do it, he has proven he is one of the top GMs in the entire NHL, and here is how.
Outstanding Return for Tkachuk
When it became clear that the Flames had no choice but to trade Tkachuk, most expected a rather underwhelming return. After all, Treliving had little to no leverage, as teams were more than aware he wasn’t going to risk signing him to a one-year deal and have him potentially walk next offseason for nothing in return similar to the Gaudreau situation.
Despite that little leverage, however, he was able to pull off an absolute heist, moving him to the Florida Panthers for not only Jonathan Huberdeau but also Mackenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick. It was a shockingly great return, one that had many questioning not only what Panthers GM Bill Zito was thinking, but how Treliving was able to convince him to give up that much.
The one concern, however, in acquiring both Huberdeau and Weegar was that at the time both had just one season remaining on their contracts. That meant that getting extensions done was imperative, though with Gaudreau and Tkachuk not wanting to be in Calgary many feared their two new arrivals may feel the same way.
That hasn’t been the case, however, as Huberdeau recently agreed to a monster eight-year, $84 million deal, and Weegar is reported to have a strong desire to get an extension done in the near future. While Tkachuk is certainly a great player himself, this deal appears to be a massive win for the Flames at this point and time, and will likely be looked at in the same light years down the road.
Moving Monahan to Acquire Kadri
Since free agency began over a month ago, the Flames were one of several teams rumored to have an interest in Nazem Kadri. That said, it felt like a longshot Treliving would land him due to his limited cap space. Most thought that it would only be possible if one of Sean Monahan or Milan Lucic were to be traded, and moving either seemed nearly impossible. On top of that, most expected Kadri had other preferred destinations higher on his list than Calgary, a team who he had vetoed a trade to years ago.
Once again, against all odds, Treliving made magic happen. Not only did he add Kadri on a seven-year, $49 million deal, but also found a way to ship Monahan and his $6.375 million deal to the Montreal Canadiens less than an hour later. This move gives the Flames some ridiculous center-ice depth, as they now have one of the best 1-2 punches throughout the entire league down the middle in Kadri and Elias Lindholm.
Obviously the most thrilling news in this is the Kadri acquisition, but the fact that Treliving was able to move Monahan is exceptional in its own right. Yes, it is believed he has also sent a first-round pick the Habs’ way in order to make it happen, but the once very consistent goal scorer had turned into a liability in the Flames lineup over the past two seasons due to a variety of injuries. Swapping him out for Kadri is a massive, massive upgrade.
Flames a Serious Contender
It wasn’t much over a month ago when Flames fans and media alike thought the team may be headed for a rebuild. Losing their 115 and 104-point scorers from the 2021-22 season seemed like far too much to overcome, and in all honesty, it probably should have been. Instead, Treliving was able to pull off some of the best GMing we have seen in the league in some time. His moves have not only prevented the Flames from a rebuild, but have them in the conversation as a serious Stanley Cup contender not only for 2022-23, but many seasons beyond.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.