Treliving predicts uncertainty may restrict unique off-season trade market

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving outlines the team’s two biggest priorities heading into this unique, and busy offseason, says they're prepared for the NHL Draft and picking 19th, and also have a few key UFAs to worry about in goal and on defence.

While many expect next week’s draft and subsequent free agency to produce a flurry of transactions, Brad Treliving isn’t so sure.

The Calgary Flames GM said Friday the unprecedented circumstances and long list of unknowns could have many teams effecting significant changes to their rosters long after free agency hits next Friday.

“It’s a little bit of tentative market tight now,” said Treliving, who has historically used the draft to make big trades. “I do think there will be activity as we approach the draft, but I think it may be a later trade market.

"If you get through the draft and a little bit of free agency and people see things they were looking for that they don’t get in free agency, it may extend into the fall once the dust settles a little bit. There are a lot of unknowns. It’s a unique time. There are lots of discussions going on but it’s a new frontier where there are a lot of things in play.”

Treliving described the market as being “clogged,” where the constraints of a flat salary cap have GMs hesitant to be one of the first to dip a toe in the water to start setting the new price structure for pending UFAs and in trade.

“A lot of it is just hesitation of people not knowing what the market is -- there’s a real hesitation now to take on excess money,” he said, before listing factors complicating his world. “First of all, we don’t know when we’re playing. We have a flat cap. I don’t think that, itself, is restrictive, because there will be movement.

"But there’s a cautiousness to the market right now in terms of dollars today, but also a year and two years out, looking at your team. You’re looking at balancing contracts for years to come. You’ve got an expansion draft on the horizon so that plays a role in it too. There are lots of factors in it. The next week is busy, but it’s not the end of time. It may not all just happen in one or two days here.”

Another factor that could hamper activity is that by staging the draft virtually there is no interaction on the draft floor, in lobbies, restaurants and watering holes that can lead to deals.

But the biggest issue is trying to peg player value at a time when the cap is expected to be stagnant for some time.

“Usually in free agency you have a pretty good idea of what prices may be and where a person slots, but that’s a little bit different right now,” said Treliving, who had ongoing talks with his five UFA defenceman and UFA goalie Cam Talbot, but has yet to table anyone offers ahead of Friday’s free agent frenzy.

“Does that position still cost what it did a year ago? Did it go down, or go up? Those are unknowns. Even the expansion draft – it’s great to go get this player, but six months later you have a protection issue. Lots of activity, very little productivity in terms of player movement to date. I do think this stuff will carry on beyond the draft and the first day of free agency.”

With $17 million in cap space, the Flames are in a better position than many other teams in terms of having flexibility to navigate through it all. The team needs a goalie to play alongside David Rittich and Treliving said he’d be happy to have Talbot return for a second season.

But at what cost?

With a dozen unrestricted goalies to choose from, the Flames and roughly nine other teams will soon determine the worth of everyone from Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner and Anton Khudobin, to Braden Holtby, Thomas Greiss and Talbot. Will Henrik Lundqvist be in play? How is the market affected by the possibility Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Reimer or Darcy Kuemper could be traded?

The Flames' other obvious need is on the blueline where there is a gaping hole to fill alongside Noah Hanifin on the right side of the second pairing.

Again, the Flames will have plenty of free agents to choose from, including the possibility of bringing back players like TJ Brodie and Erik Gustafsson. They’ll also weigh the merits of trying to obtain a defender or two via trade, which is another market that has GMs guessing at values.

“You’d certainly like to do some things but you need a partner,” said Treliving of the trade route. “We’re gauging the market now, but we’ve got decisions to make. Having flexibility down the road – does that open up opportunities for you?”

So many questions.

And as Treliving predicts, many of them may not be answered as early as you’d think.

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