Flames’ Brad Treliving Has Saved the Battle of Alberta

The moves made by Calgary Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving has kept the team competitive when the cards were stacked against them. It appeared as though the Flames were on an upward trajectory after finishing last season with 111 points and winning the Pacific Division before their top two players suddenly didn’t want to play for the team anymore. We finally experienced the first Battle of Alberta playoff series since 1991 and even though the Flames came up short, it didn’t disappoint. With the Edmonton Oilers getting better at each position, the Flames had to match that to keep the heated rivalry alive and did just that.

It so happened that Johnny Gaudreau’s contract expired to become an unrestricted free agent when Matthew Tkachuk also needed a new deal as a restricted free agent. Treliving, through no fault of his own, wasn’t able to convince either to stick around long-term. Gaudreau had plans to move closer to home and ended up signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tkachuk had his sights set on just a few teams and was traded to the Florida Panthers.

The Flames appeared to be headed for a rebuild before Treliving pulled off the re-tool of the century. Sean Monahan was cleared for cap space, and coming in was Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Nazem Kadri, and prospect Cole Schwindt. The first-round pick in and out cancel each other out, but Treliving was also able to re-sign two young impact players in Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington.

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

So, did Treliving do enough to keep the Flames competitive? Yes, and for the next few seasons, saved the Battle of Alberta.

Flames Made the Trade of the Offseason to Recover

In the Tkachuk trade, Florida seemed to get the better deal at first because Huberdeau and Weegar were both heading into the final years of their contracts, while Tkachuk was locked up for eight years. Even if Treliving wasn’t able to re-sign either player, it would have been an admirable effort to acquire the league’s second-highest scorer and a very good underrated defenceman, plus more, for a player who made it clear he wouldn’t sign long-term. The Flames’ trade options were limited, which made it even tougher to bring in a good return.

Despite having the odds against them, Treliving pulled off the blockbuster of the offseason and then locked up Huberdeau for eight years. Tkachuk may be a few years younger and brings the grit and defensive play needed for the playoffs, but Huberdeau is an excellent passer and has strung together many amazing seasons offensively, essentially replacing what the Flames lost in Gaudreau.

Now add Weegar, a very good defenceman, to an already dominant blue line, and it will become lethal. Very underpaid at $3.25 million, Weegar has played the role of the top defenceman in Florida for big parts of the past two seasons while Aaron Ekblad struggled with injuries. In Calgary, he likely won’t be forced into the number one role with a very strong group around him. Weegar will likely play on the second pair and create very good matchups for the Flames. Huberdeau has already re-upped long-term, and Weegar has stated he is willing to stick around as well.

Mackenzie Weegar Florida Panthers
Mackenzie Weegar, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The final pieces of that trade involved a first round draft pick in 2025 and prospect Schwindt since there was no guarantee Huberdeau and Weegar would sign extensions in Calgary. The first round pick was used in a more recent move to help upgrade the team that we’ll dive into below.

Replaced Gaudreau with Next Best Free Agent

Treliving did everything he could to keep Gaudreau in Calgary, and his decision to test the market came the night before free agency opened. This put the Flames in a very bad spot, considering Plan A was to offer what they to keep their franchise player around. Instead of having time to negotiate with other top free agents, many slipped through the Flames’ hands since they were already in contact with other teams.

Regardless, Treliving struck again and managed to sign the next biggest free agent available a month after the market opened on July 13, 2022. Kadri may not be as young as Gaudreau or Tkachuk, but he is now a Stanley Cup winner coming off a career year. It will be very tough for the Flames to replicate the chemistry Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm had, and it may not happen again, but seeing as Lindholm can play the right wing, and Huberdeau and Kadri can slot into the other top line positions, the team will likely start there. Kadri also brings some of the physicality that the Flames lost in Tkachuk on a nightly basis that is integral to keeping the rivalry between them and the Oilers heated.

Nazem Kadri Colorado Avalanche
Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

To sign Kadri, the Flames had to free up cap space. That meant dumping Monahan’s contract on the Montreal Canadiens with a sweetener. It cost the Flames a future first round pick, but if you remember from above, they also got one from the Panthers. After hip injuries, Monahan hasn’t been the same multi-30-goal scorer and was pushed down the lineup last season. It was worth it for the Flames to upgrade to Kadri at that cost since they don’t know if Monahan can bounce back.

Treliving Made Key Signings

To add to an already busy offseason, Treliving also had to re-sign key players Mangiapane and Kylington. Both had breakout seasons in 2021-22 and will look to improve on that success. Mangiapane is a legitimate top-six forward who scored 35 goals and 55 points, nearly doubling his career-high goal output. Kylington went from scoring five goals and 16 career points in 95 games across four seasons to nine goals and 31 points in 73 games last season.

Kylington was a top-four defenceman by the end of the season but may have to slide down to the third pairing. Fortunately, nearly all of his production came at five-on-five. With a talent like his on the third pairing, it emphasizes the Flames’ depth and strength of their defensive group.

The Flames are going to need Mangiapane to at least replicate his goal-scoring production from last season. The team lost two 40-goal scorers and got Huberdeau (30 goals) and Kadri (28 goals). Mangiapane has shown that he is a threat to score anytime he is on the ice, especially on the road, and may very well have Kadri, who is an improvement over Mikael Backlund, as his centreman.

Related: Flames Treliving Has Established Himself as an Elite NHL GM

With the Oilers keeping key players around and only getting better, the Battle of Alberta will remain the best rivalry in the league as they jock it out for the division title during the next playoff series. Instead of folding, the Flames will once again be a top team and likely stay that way for a few years thanks to Treliving’s outstanding offseason work.

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