CALGARY – Brad Treliving has been around long enough to know what the line of questioning would revolve around, so he cut to the chase.
Mere hours into the opening of training camp physicals, the Calgary Flames general manager addressed the media with an eye on nipping the talk of the day in the bud.
"Before we go too much further," started Treliving, following opening pleasantries with scribes, "… Matthew and Andrew aren’t here today. We think a lot of both players and we continue to work on both situations, but as we move forward after today, especially for our coaches and players, we want the focus to be on who’s here now and not have them distracted with questions."
Tkachuk’s absence has been expected for months.
Mangiapane’s is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
More on the latter in a bit.
The former is part of an elite group of youngsters who are not only going to get paid handsomely this fall, but are providing a considerable distraction to the teams trying to sign them.
It’s no different in Calgary where talk revolved around who wasn’t there, prompting Treliving to discuss the elephant in the room before urging those gathered to cease and desist asking about it.
Good luck with that.
As expected, Treliving wouldn’t discuss numbers or characterize negotiations in any way.
He did, however, provide some window into his mind on whether he believes dominoes like Mitch Marner or Brayden Point need to fall to open the door for a Tkachuk deal.
"I don’t think so – I don’t think there’s any dominoes – everybody has their own situation," he said.
"We know what’s going on out there but we have our own structure. We’re focused on Matthew and Andrew and not anybody else."
Treliving said he’d address the RFA absences at a team meeting Thursday night with an eye on ensuring it’s not a distraction.
He insisted he wasn’t going to discuss some of the other possible moves he’ll have to make in order to expand his $7 million in cap space to fit Tkachuk into the mix.
"We may or may not have to do other moves, depending on what happens," said Treliving.
"I’m not going to forecast what could potentially happen."
As player after player wheeled out of the testing area they discussed how the team would handle increased expectations this year, what went wrong last spring, Johnny Gaudreau’s beard and how excited they were to have a presence like Milan Lucic on board.
But RFA talk still ruled the day, which brings us back to Mangiapane.
There’s plenty of time for him and agent Ritch Winter to come to their senses and get his deal done.
We’re looking at a pact that should come in right around $1 million for a one-year contract. No other term has been discussed.
Mangiapane only proved himself to be an everyday NHLer the last 28 games of the season when he posted eight even-strength goals and a dandy in the playoffs.
He needs to get to camp to continue the momentum he was building alongside Derek Ryan on the fourth line.
The absence of Tkachuk opens the door for Mangiapane to potentially slot in on the left side of the team’s second line. Such an opportunity could result in a 15 or 20-goal season, which would dramatically bolster his bargaining power for next season.
Is he willing to worth risking that over a couple hundred thousand dollars?
He needs to consider it a "show-me" contract, enabling the undersized sixth-round pick to cash in next year and down the road.
"We feel we’re being fair and they probably feel they’re being fair, too," said Treliving, who qualified Mangiapane at just over the league minimum at $715,000.
"You can’t let it surprise you or get emotional – it’s business. If Matthew and Andrew aren’t here there’s other guys that are trying to grab a look-see they wouldn’t otherwise get. The players always decide. We’ve got lots of depth."
Treliving said surgery on Juuso Valimaki’s torn ACL went well, with the hotshot defenceman confirming it’s still going to be many, many months before he can contemplate a return this season.
Treliving also chuckled at the awkwardness of calling Michael Stone to offer him a $700,000 deal a month after buying him out.
"The first conversation was unique," he smiled.
"‘Hey Mike, remember me?’"
He said last year’s playoff flop needs to be used as a motivator, vowing to "address what happened straight on and move forward."
Treliving hopes his team learned from last spring’s five-game series loss, but said no one should forget about the strides made to become a 107-point team.
"If you want to be a good team, there will be expectations," he said.
"You should relish it and park it. Don’t expect things to happen because of last year. The group knows they’re a good team, but that and $1.50 gets you a venti coffee."
Captain Mark Giordano said he and many other players continue to communicate with Tkachuk.
"He’s in the group chats – it’s not like he’s being excluded from anything," Giordano said of his assistant captain.
"We know it’s going to be a big topic and focal point but for us we have to get on the ice, get our reps and move forward. It can be a distraction in the media, the room and off the ice. But it’s not a distraction when you’re on the ice."
That will happen Friday when the team has its first set of practices at the Saddledome.