While the Calgary Flames’ trade deadline transactions weren’t sexy, it’s what wasn’t on their transaction list that should have fans most excited.
Amidst fears Mike Smith’s lower-body injury is worse than originally thought, the fact that Brad Treliving chose not to rent a goalie speaks to how optimistic the club is on his recovery.
No, the team’s 35-year-old MVP hasn’t skated in eight days and counting following his scary, last-second injury Feb. 11 that required him to be carried off the ice by teammates.
But Treliving insists he’ll be back “sooner rather than later.”
“I know you’re all expecting my nose to grow in terms of the timeline, but we just don’t know – we’re hopeful,” said the Flames GM, following a day of relative inactivity that saw the club make two small moves to add depth.
“We looked at that option [of trading for a netminder] and just felt it didn’t make any sense. And when I say we looked at that option, it’s certainly no disrespect to our young goaltenders. It’s my job to look at every option. Nothing made sense in that regard. We’re hopeful Mike will be back and we’re confident in the two lads we have here.
“You look at everything, but in terms of spending what you need to spend and acquiring something that was A, available, and B, could made a difference, we felt our situation was best to stand pat.”
By resisting the urge to add a Robin Lehner, an Antti Raanta or a Cam Ward, the Flames also showed tremendous belief in rookie David Rittich and Jon Gillies, who are holding down the fort with just 19 NHL games of experience between them.
That same faith was shown to the core of the club, which is going to have to make the final push for a playoff spot without the aid of a scoring winger the Flames have so desperately craved all season.
Instead, the Flames’ two moves included plucking Chris Stewart off waivers to help fill Brian Burke’s coveted truculence quota, before sending a seventh-rounder to Ottawa in 2019 for fourth-line centre Nick Shore.
Add to that the signing of Canadian Olympic team loaner Cody Goloubef to an AHL deal, and the somewhat imminent return of Kris Versteeg from hip surgery, and the Flames feel like they’ve creatively gone about adding depth options.
“Today’s a day where you get real excited and you’ve got to be careful you don’t do stuff just to keep up with the Joneses,” said Treliving, whose team entered Monday’s deadline clinging to the west’s final wild-card spot.
“You have to be careful not to chase things – it’s got to make sense. But we think we’ve got some depth now. We’ve had some young guys that have come up and played well throughout the year. I think our top guys have been good. Now we have to have everyone playing good. We looked at lots of different things but we felt like this is what made sense.”
No one is foolish enough to think Stewart, 30, could play a first-line role or duplicate the 28-goal pace he set almost a decade ago in Colorado.
He’ll undoubtedly patrol the right side of the third or fourth line, using his six-foot-two, 240-pound frame to disrupt the opposition while scoring the odd goal.
“In speaking with Chris today, we’ve got a very motivated player that’s on an expiring contract who wants to continue his career,” said Treliving.
“In another jersey, he wasn’t a whole lot of joy to play against. Ultimately, performance will dictate the type of opportunity [he gets] and where he goes into the lineup.”
Shore, whose brother Drew played for the Flames a few years back, is the team’s only right-handed centre who can kill penalties. The 25-year-old is a pending restricted free agent.
With the Smith and Travis Hamonic acquisitions eating up several of the Flames’ high draft picks the next few years, this isn’t the year to throw all their chips into the middle for a pricey rental anyway.
The underachieving Flames didn’t show enough consistency for management to mortgage the future for anything else.
Fact is, if the Flames are able to make the playoffs it won’t be the lads added Monday who will be the difference makers.
It will be the strong core of leaders on the top two lines, the back end and the young goaltenders who must play to their potential.
Other than a weak bottom six this team doesn’t have too many glaring holes in its lineup.
“We’ve seen it with our team where, at times, we’ve played really good hockey,” said Treliving.
“We’ve got to continue to play well. Today was more about tinkering and finding some players that would fit. Sometimes the right fits don’t come.
“But, ultimately, the group we started the day with is going to determine our fate down the stretch.”