Flames continue trend of thrifty, savvy pre–free agency moves

Take a look at the latest news around the NHL, with the Calgary Flames making a trade for Eddie Lack and signing Kris Versteeg. Also get updated on where Joe Thornton and Alex Radulov may be headed.

• Lack offers goalie depth
• Versteeg staying put on cost-effective deal
• Deals coming for fifth D-man, winger?

Brad Treliving must really hate long-weekend traffic.

The Calgary Flames GM got a jump on his colleagues and everyone else heading to the lake Thursday when he rounded out his roster ahead of Saturday’s free-agency frivolity.

He did so by adding pieces without giving up a single roster player and by avoiding the inflated prices GMs typically pay July 1.

It started when he shocked no one by re-signing UFA Kris Versteeg to a thrifty one-year, $1.75 million deal.

He then completed a trade with Carolina to secure the Flames a backup goalie in Eddie Lack. The deal also included former first-round defenceman Ryan Murphy and a seventh-round pick in exchange for towering blue-line prospect Keegan Kanzig and a sixth-round pick in 2019. The ’Canes also retained 50 per cent of Lack’s salary, making the 29-year-old Swedish netminder a $1.375-million cap hit.

Calgary also re-signed defenceman Michael Stone to a three-year deal at $3.5 million per season.

The moves follow a busy week by the Flames, who acquired Travis Hamonic to round out a top four that will give their new goalie, Mike Smith, more insulation than he ever had in Arizona.

By the way, Smith too will have 25 per cent of his contract paid for by the Coyotes as part of a thrifty shopping spree by Treliving that saw every aforementioned player acquired at extremely reasonable prices.

Even the big acquisitions, like Smith and Hamonic, didn’t come with big-ticket pricing, which sets the Flames up well cap-wise.

It gives Treliving room to sign key youngsters like RFAs Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland this summer as well as position them to have a solid crack at keeping Mikael Backlund next summer when the breakthrough centre is in need of a new deal.

It means nothing at this point in the calendar, but Treliving deserves high praise for the fashion in which he filled out his summer shopping list.

Oh sure, he might stick his toe into the free-agency pool Canada Day for a depth player or two positioned far from the bidding wars.

Otherwise, he’s done his heavy lifting in creative, thrifty fashion, with the biggest cost being draft picks.

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Yes, the Calgary Flames are done rebuilding and hoarding picks, and now figure to have a core in place that allow them to contend for a Stanley Cup the next three or four years.

No, Lack isn’t the answer to every Flames fans’ prayers as the veteran had a bad year in Carolina, where his inconsistent play drew the public ire of his coach at one point.

“Look up any goalie that’s played 10 games in the National Hockey League in the top 60 in save percentage,” said Bill Peters after a subpar effort from Lack in an overtime loss. “I know who’s 60, and there’s 30 teams. Not good enough.”

Lack’s struggles stemmed partly from a concussion earlier in the year as his save percentage sat at .873. However, he had a better finish, with the six-foot-four netminder ending the season with a .902 efficiency rate and a 2.64 GAA.

Either way, he had lost the faith of his coach and needed to be discarded after the ’Canes added Scott Darling to be part of a duo with Cam Ward.

He’ll be counted on for 20 or 30 games and certainly represents one of the biggest question marks/concerns the Flames enter the season with given the possibility of injury for the 35-year-old Smith.

Glen Gulutzan is certainly familiar with Lack and his colourful personality as the Flames coach was an assistant in Vancouver when Lack was there.

Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling take fans inside the Blue Jays and around MLB with news, analysis and interviews.

Both Lack and Murphy were castoffs in Carolina, as was Kanzig in Calgary, where there was no chance his six-foot-six, 245-pound frame was ever going to progress to the Flames lineup.

The Versteeg signing was widely expected after a solid season last year in which the 31-year-old winger was a surprising fan favourite who stepped in during Johnny Gaudreau’s finger injury to be the team’s premier playmaker.

After his 15-goal, 37-point season, the well-traveled “local boy” from nearby Lethbridge, Alta., made it clear he wanted to continue playing at home this season, which Treliving was happy to accommodate given his ability to play on any line.

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Staying close to home "everything" for Versteeg
June 29 2017

Treliving’s work this week also included landing prized college prospect Spencer Foo out of Union College, where the junior winger scored 26 goals and 62 points in 38 games. The intriguing possibility he could make the jump to the Flames this year or next tipped the scales in Calgary’s favour as he contemplated offers from many NHL clubs, including his hometown Oilers.

Yes, the Calgary Flames have pushed their chips in the middle, making it clear now is their window of opportunity to challenge for much more than just a playoff spot.

There are plenty of question marks surrounding many of their acquisitions (except Hamonic), but the risks are mitigated by the fact no one cost the club a roster player and no one was overpaid.

Up the middle and on the blue line the Flames are positioned brilliantly to take some major steps forward, setting the stage for a return of the Battle of Alberta.

It also opens the door for Treliving to get to the lake early to enjoy watching the fireworks and overspending his colleagues partake in every Canada Day.

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