In the 2017 playoffs, the Nashville Predators rode a veteran goalie, two strong defensive pairings and three forward lines to within two wins of a Stanley Cup championship. The National Hockey League truly is a copy-cat league, because the Calgary Flames saw that success and exclaimed “us, too!”
During the second day of the NHL Draft in Chicago, Flames general manager Brad Treliving added a top-four defenseman for the second time in three seasons. Rather than relying on a single strong pairing of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, Treliving added Dougie Hamilton in 2015 and now has added Travis Hamonic. The cost of acquisition was high, but Treliving seems comfortable with the price he paid.
“We’ve made two deals over the last couple of years, we’ve given up some assets for it,” said Treliving. “They don’t come around, people aren’t just begging to take them away from you, so you have to give to get. At the end of the day, we think the price made sense for us.”
Likely due to the drop-off in ability between their club’s top pairing (Giordano and Hamilton), their second pair (Brodie and a rotating cast) and their third pairing (whoever was left), the Flames were often vulnerable to line-matching – particularly on the road. As a result, the Flames had been reportedly exploring several different options to shore up their top four defensive group. Acquiring Hamonic circles that square, so to speak, and makes the team a tougher out.
“He’s certainly a guy that we’ve had our eye on for awhile,” said Treliving. “At the end of the day you pay a price. You’ve got to give to get. You hate paying the price. You look at a lot of things. We look at the make-up of our team, where he fits: he’s a right shot, we think he fits in well with our team. The coaches will figure out exactly where, but we had long talks about sliding him in there with Brodie… I like the looks of our top four. He moves pucks, he’s a character kid, he’s got some bite to him. I think he’s gonna fit good with us.”
Signed for three more seasons at a cap hit of $3.857 million per season, Hamonic’s arrival effectively cements the Flames’ core for the next two seasons and arguably signifies that the team feels its window for contention is about to open. The Flames have Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, Matthew Tkachuk, Giordano, Brodie, Hamonic, Hamilton and Mike Smith signed through 2018-19, while Mikael Backlund needs an extension after 2017-18. For a club that likely felt it needed better goaltending and better defensive depth to contend, those two matters appear to have been addressed this off-season.
“I’ve said for awhile: I think you build up through the middle,” said Treliving. “This, to me, solidifies our defense. I like our center ice position, there’s depth there and we keep tweaking at it but I like the looks of our defense.”
During my chat with #Flames acquisition Travis Hamonic, captain Mark Giordano was calling to welcome him to Calgary.
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) June 24, 2017
While he probably bristled at giving up so many picks, Treliving praised the work of his scouting and development staff and noted that the team’s depth on their reserve list and the youth of their NHL roster allowed him to send picks out the door to improve his club for the immediate future.
“For a guy who says I hate giving up picks, I’ve given up a lot of picks,” When you look at each position, outside the NHL: We’ve got some good goaltender depth. We’ve got good defense depth on our reserve list. Our forward group, we’ve got some depth on the wings. We added a Curtis Lazar, Mark Jankowski, depth on the middle. That’s probably the forward group now as we look forward that you add to, but a lot of our forwards in the league are young forwards. Like I said, you’ve got to give to get. We have a 26, soon to be 27, year old defenseman with term on his contract that we think fits at a real good number. We thought it made sense.”
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.