Dealing Frolik opens doors for Flames in run-up to trade deadline

Calgary Flames right wing Michael Frolik is congratulated as he passes the team box after scoring a goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

CALGARY — There isn’t a team in the NHL that wouldn’t give up a fourth-line player who was making $4.3 million if given the chance.

Thus, when the Buffalo Sabres agreed to take on the remainder of Michael Frolik’s salary in a trade Thursday, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving couldn’t say yes fast enough.

The 2020 fourth-round pick the Sabres threw in was a puzzling but nice bonus for a Flames club that was previously without this summer’s fourth rounder thanks to the Oscar Fantenberg rental last year.

The important thing here is that by season’s end the record will undoubtedly show that the return for Frolik will far exceed the draft pick.

“The return is cap space,” Treliving said shortly after consummating a deal he said picked up steam over the Christmas break. “We didn’t trade to keep it in our pocket. Our intention is to go out and make the team better. This is a big part of it.”

Frolik alone would never have helped the Flames acquire the type of impact player they are hoping to land before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Treliving had been trying for the better part of six months to move Frolik, to no avail. Every team wanted a sweetener in the form of a draft pick, asset or for the Flames to retain some salary.

Not because Frolik is a bad player, disruptive teammate or wanted out, as some erroneously believed after agent Allan Walsh spoke out on twitter over Frolik’s diminished ice time by Bill Peters early last year.

Fact is, Frolik is a tremendous person, a better teammate and he was happy in Calgary — outside of his ever-fluctuating ice time here the last year and a half.

A consummate pro, Frolik was constantly one of the fittest Flames to show up every fall, ready to play any role he could. Few Calgary skaters have been better penalty killers the last four years than he has.

He had to agree to the trade, which he did because he’s in the last year of his contract and would rather play somewhere where he won’t be in and out of the lineup.
The Sabres have had some injuries of late, including Jeff Skinner, and they see Frolik as much more than a fourth liner.

Frolik, 31, instantly became the team’s oldest skater and will undoubtedly play a role in teaching a young roster how to be professionals. He’s now the Sabres’ fourth-highest paid forward, all made possible by the Sabres’ trade of Marco Scandella to Montreal earlier in the day for the same fourth-rounder the Flames wound up with.

It was just last year Frolik was still (at times) part of the Flames’ second line, where he, Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk thrived for the better part of two years.

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The Sabres, who have a sliver of the depth Calgary has, will give Frolik every opportunity to play far more meaningful minutes than the nine-to-11 minutes he’s been seeing of late on a Flames roster packed with options.

Much cheaper options, in fact.

The emergence of Dillon Dube ($778,000), Andrew Mangiapane ($715,000) and even PTO signing Tobias Rieder ($700,000) made Frolik more than expendable, especially considering his price tag and age.

What’s more, the Flames have players like Austin Czarnik, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips and Buddy Robinson thriving in the minors, ready to prove their mettle at the NHL level if given a chance.

Again, all make relative peanuts.

“He never asked for a trade, he was never a problem, he was a good solider for us,” Treliving said of Frolik, the only Flames player with a Stanley Cup ring, other than Milan Lucic.

“He’s in his last year, he wants to be in the lineup. He had to give his permission and we wish him well.”

Frolik was skating alongside Backlund and Sam Bennett in Thursday’s morning skate, replaced Thursday night by Mark Jankowski, yet another cheaper option who can bring just a few things Frolik could.

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