Successful Flames draft weekend won’t be measured by 26th overall pick

Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk says head coach Bill Peters is demanding, but in a good way, and discusses his takeaways from going into the playoffs as a top seed in the West, and ending with a disappointing first round loss.

CALGARY – A perfect draft weekend for the Calgary Flames would open with news Matthew Tkachuk has agreed to a lengthy contract extension.

It would also include landing a player 26th overall who has the size and grit of a Tkachuk and can step into the lineup this fall.

Neither is going to happen, which is why Brad Treliving enters the pick-a-player party with muted expectations.

“If something happens, great – but we may just go there and draft some players,” said the Flames GM, who will arrive at Friday’s draft in Vancouver with five picks including first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh-rounders.

Should he indeed return to Calgary with nothing but prospects to show for the star-selecting sleepover, it would be a radical departure for the Flames’ fifth-year architect who has spent the past three drafts making significant splashes.

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He isn’t sure that’s possible given the cost uncertainty associated with Tkachuk’s pending deal, which could eat up anywhere from $7 to $9 million of the $14.5 million he has remaining of the $83 million cap.

A buyout of Michael Stone’s final year at $3.5 million could provide some cap relief given the 29-year-old defenceman was seen as the coach’s eighth or ninth option this spring when everyone was healthy on his talented blue line peppered with emerging youth like Rasmus Andersson, Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington.

Perhaps Stone, a serviceable third-pairing veteran, could also be packaged up in a deal that could involve Michael Frolik or T.J. Brodie.

Frolik’s frustration with being undervalued by coach Bill Peters was evident in his agent’s tweets last winter, which could certainly open the door for a swap with an eye on saving some of Frolik’s $4.3 million salary or trying to land a bigger offensive threat for the two-way Czech.

Calgary’s defensive depth could also put Brodie in play due to the huge value the slick-skating puck-mover would have around the league. When his deal for $4.65 million ends next summer he’ll be a luxury the Flames can likely no longer afford given his skillset as a top-pairing defender.

Like the five-man Dougie Hamilton deal at last year’s draft that landed the Flames Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, Brodie could be the best bait to land the Flames a top-six forward it has been searching for.

Flames fans can stop dreaming of a James Neal swap as there’s no market for an aging seven goal-scorer making $5.75 million for four more years. He’ll need a significant bounce-back season for any future movement to become a possibility.

Goaltending and grit are at the top of Treliving’s wish list this summer, with both being in short supply.

Treliving swapped for Mike Smith on draft weekend two years ago, one year after landing Brian Elliott.

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He may very well be able to find David Rittich’s tandem-mate this weekend, but don’t expect it to come in the form of top-ranked goalie prospect Spencer Knight from the U.S. national development team.

Treliving admits he too is hesitant to select a goalie in the first round of the draft (only two netminders have been so selected the past six years). He doesn’t believe the Boston College–bound goalie will be around by the 26th spot anyways.

Treliving will continue to ponder the merits of bringing Smith back, perhaps opting to trade for someone like Leafs backup Garret Sparks or bid for another UFA like Curtis McElhinney July 1.

Draft rankings and mock drafts suggest the Flames will have plenty of undersized talents to choose from with their 26th shout, which isn’t exactly what this club is begging for now.

That said, Treliving is definitely of the school of thought that you draft the best player available, as opposed to trying to address specific organizational needs.

“You always take the best player – if you start trying to fill potential needs it’s a fool’s game because by the time these players are going to be ready your needs could change,” said Treliving.

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He adds that any player the Flames pick this weekend won’t be expected to vie for a roster spot in months, but years.

Finishing tops in the western conference can do that to a team’s prospects.

“It’s an interesting draft,” said Treliving of an affair that includes very few consensus picks.

“Teams drafting in the teens could get a player who is number six or seven on their list.”

The Flames may not be as lucky.

Those who are expected to be around late in the first round for the Flames could include might-mites like 5-foot-9, 160-pound C/LW Jakob Pelletier, 5-foot-9, 185-pound Swedish winger Nils Hoglander, 5-foot-10, 165-pound RW Bobby Brink, six-foot, 161-pound defenceman Ryan Johnson and six-foot, 170-pound Connor McMichael.

“There are some undersized players in the top 10 too – you’re seeing more and more of it,” said Treliving of the ongoing movement putting a premium on speed and skill.

Alternatives with some size include 6-foot-4, 198-pound German defenceman Moritz Seider, 6-foot-4, 198-pound C/RW from Calgary, Brett Leason, 6-foot-3, 201-pound Russian LW Egor Afanasyev, 6-foot-4, 201-pound defenceman Matthew Robertson, and 6-foot-3, 203-pound centre Johnny Beecher.

Regardless of who the Flames pick, fans will be watching for the extraneous moves that have become all the rage around these parts – something Treliving cautioned might be stymied by the raft of RFAs out there.

“You can’t go out and buy all sorts of cars before you know what the mortgage payment is,” he said, alluding to the gap that will see him spend the bulk of his remaining cap space on Tkachuk, while also having to ink RFAs Sam Bennett, Andrew Mangiapane and Rittich.

Then again, it’s hard for anyone to believe a swapper as prolific as Treliving won’t be active in his quest to shore up the pugnacity present on rosters that advanced much further than his talented club’s five-game fling this spring.

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