As news of Calgary’s latest trade and signing rolled in on Thursday, the hockey community feted Flames architect Brad Treliving for yet another masterful development.
Nazem Kadri in, Sean Monahan out.
The moves had many anointing Treliving as next year’s GM of the year, with one keener going as far as to suggest he should win the Hart.
The latest magic trick pulled off by the NHL’s most prolific plate spinner came on his 53rd birthday while in Texas, moving his daughter into school.
“I was on the s— list today, I pretended I was on the phone all day while a lot of the heavy stuff was going in,” chuckled the man who may also top all GMs in the humour department.
“It has been a busy day today.”
Make that a busy five weeks, starting with Johnny Gaudreau’s 11th-hour decision to abort contract talks on July 12, setting off a chain of trades and signings that have made Treliving the NHL’s central figure this summer.
While Rome appeared to be crumbling all around him, he managed to snare and sign a superstar like Jonathan Huberdeau, followed up by Thursday’s seven-year, $49 million deal with Kadri to give the Flames the depth up the middle they’ve craved for decades.
Asked why it took five weeks for one of the top unrestricted free agents to finally sign with Calgary, Treliving cited the cap crunch as a key impediment.
“It’s a little bit like fishing – sometimes you think you’ve got it on the hook and then it goes away a little bit. Then you see if you can get it back,” laughed Treliving, who dreams of having time to cast from a boat.
“Early on, I didn’t really think … well, it was an interesting time because at the beginning of free agency we were trying to manage our situation.
“We didn’t know what (Tkachuk’s) number would be, then we made the trade and we wanted to leave as much flexibility as you can.”
Suffice it to say, his plans changed quickly.
The two sides stayed in touch, but it wasn’t until Treliving felt good about Kadri’s desire to sign in Calgary over the last few days that he went out and paid handsomely to rid the team of Monahan’s $6.375-million cap hit. He did so by sending him to Montreal with a conditional first-round pick, which could be in either 2024, 2025 or 2026.
The return was coveted cap space and future considerations.
As incredible a Flame as Monahan was the first six years in Calgary, a mounting injury list debilitated him to the point he was hurting the club as an expensive fourth-line liability the last few years.
Through it all, Monahan was as good a soldier as a team can ask for, making Treliving somewhat emotional when thanking the longtime assistant captain for his service.
But like everything that’s happened in Calgary this summer, Treliving turned the page quickly to one of the league’s prized signings of the summer.
“To put (Kadri) with the current centremen we have gives us a formidable group,” said Treliving, who tried to trade for the 31-year-old Cup champion in 2019.
“He’s got a unique combination of skill and snark and he plays a premier position at centre ice.
“Watching him over his career, he’s really developed an ability to play in all sorts of situations.
“That blend is unique, he can play on the power play, he can play heavy, he’s highly competitive, highly skilled. Smart player and plays centre ice.
“He’s our kind of player.”
Darryl Sutter’s kind of player too, which is what has Flames fans debating whether this year’s team will be better than the 111-point edition last season when Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were around.
It’s an incredible debate given where this club was after losing Gaudreau for nothing.
“You deal with it – it’s not just me, it’s our staff,” said Treliving, drawing universal praise for his crisis management.
“You dig in and get to work and say, ‘how do we make our team better?’
“The last month has probably been a bit more dramatic with the people and players involved.
“You can curl up and play woe is me or dust yourself off and get after it, and that’s what we did.”
Seven million annually (and a first-rounder to make the deal possible) is a significant price to pay, but the intangibles and pedigree Kadri brings as one of the league’s most intense competitors should continue to help shape the Flames into more of a springtime threat.
“When there’s a lot on the line, some tense up and some embrace it – he loves the spotlight,” said Treliving, who knows how hard it is to land a top-six centre.
“He plays on that edge, which we value. He’s crossed the line a few times and paid for it.
“You mature and learn from it. When we were doing our homework it just kept coming back that he’s a winner.”
Does it change the team’s identity?
“I don’t think our identity has changed at all,” he shrugged.
“We have highly competitive players, a team that is competitive, checks hard, plays hard and hopefully can play any way the game needs to be played. But before we get into identity, let’s get into camp.”
Before then, no one would put it past Treliving to make another move or two.
With 10 defencemen signed to one-way deals, you get the feeling he’s not quite finished.
“We made our team better by adding Naz and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Treliving.
“We’ve got a lot of defencemen still. We can tweak a few things up front.”
And maybe sling a few moving boxes for his daughter while he’s at it.