CALGARY – The Calgary Flames are on the verge of adding two defencemen.
Not via trade, but from within.
On a day when Brad Treliving revealed James Neal will be out "week-to-week" with a lower-body injury, the Flames GM addressed trade deadline questions brimming with excitement over the pending returns of Michael Stone and Juuso Valimaki.
He then sent a series of mixed messages on how he’s approaching Monday’s trade deadline.
More on that later.
Stone skated with the Flames Wednesday morning for the first time in months following a blood clot scare and may soon provide the young defence corps with more NHL experience.
Valimaki is progressing well in Stockton where he’s played nine games following a lengthy recovery from a high ankle sprain that derailed an otherwise productive rookie season for the 20-year-old Flames first-rounder.
"What it does do is give us more depth – in some respects it’s like adding two guys," said Treliving, who has long been rumoured to be in the market for a depth blue-liner at the deadline.
"Those are two players that up until recently weren’t available to us. Two good defencemen we could be getting back soon. It goes into the equation a little bit of what we may do."
He’s well aware the war of attrition each spring sees teams go eight or nine defencemen deep on long playoff runs.
Despite injuries to the aforementioned duo, his blue line bunch has done well to help lift the Flames to tops in the West despite regularly icing three young defencemen – Rasmus Andersson (22), Noah Hanifin (22) and Oliver Kylington (21).
"We grade on the curve, so we’ve got 20-year-olds and you’ve got an 80-year-old or whatever Gio is now, so it bumps the average up," laughed Treliving of his 35-year-old captain and Norris Trophy frontrunner, Mark Giordano.
"We think our average age is pretty good – we’re probably around 40 with Gio in there. Those are good players regardless of age. They’ve more than held their own.
"Having said that we’ve seen the game post-break and the games get harder. Experience does matter. You weigh all those things. We’re cognizant these are young guys who haven’t played a playoff game."
He insisted the Neal injury doesn’t change his trade deadline philosophy or approach, adding, "he will be back at some point – this isn’t season-ending."
He sent several mixed messages by touting the merits of standing pat with a successful group, while also reminding people you need to look for ways to improve if possible.
"One thing that shouldn’t be lost here is we’re in a good spot based on the group that’s here," said Treliving.
"If it makes sense to add to that in a way that makes sense we’ll look at that.
"Chemistry is a very powerful thing. If you add, it better be better than what you have or it better be addressing a job description that isn’t being filled right now."
Sure, the Flames could use another big gun in the top six, but if the price is too high and the trade competition too stiff, he knows he has a team that’s scored more goals than anyone but Tampa.
All the more reason why the focus should perhaps be on tightening the ranks defensively.
So, will one of the NHL’s most aggressive GMs roll the dice by giving up futures to "go for it?"
"I chuckle when people are saying, ‘we’re going for it.’
Everyone goes for it," he laughed.
"This isn’t the last year for the franchise. We plan on playing next year too, so we’re not going to give everything away and close up shop when this season is done. We’re not taking away young core players for a quick fix or rental player, but if we find something we think can help this team we’ll look at it. You manage all those things.
"The other thing I caution everybody with is the idea we are ‘entering a window.’ You never know when your time is. There are guys who show up their first year, make the final and never get there again.
"We know the core of this team is young and hopefully will continue to get better. But you never take anything for granted in this game – it has a way of humbling you if you do."