The calm before the storm is almost over.
That’s where Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving figures the NHL trade deadline marketplace stands these days.
“Lots of conversations, but quite honestly it’s been quiet until the last day or so,” said Treliving, who is certainly looking to add a depth piece or two by Monday’s deadline.
“When I say it’s quiet, everybody has done their homework. You’ve been trying to get a sense of where teams are at the last six weeks. Everybody has had those conversations."
“Teams in certain positions are looking at option A and B if teams are moving players. You’ve got that intel on who may be on the market. You kind of have a sense," Treliving added.
“Then there are teams on the bubble and they’ll take it right down to Monday to see where things go this week in terms of whether they’re keeping, adding or selling players. The quietness of the last few days is not unusual. There’s a little stall where it gets a little bit quiet 10 days to two weeks before the deadline and then the last 24 hours it has started to pick up and I expect that will be steady right through until Monday.”
Here we go.
At some point you can bet Treliving will have an announcement or two of his own, adding depth to a roster capable of embarking on a lengthy playoff run.
“We’re certainly a team that’s looking to add to our roster, not take off it, so you’re the one who has to be a little more proactive because people aren’t coming for your players,” said Treliving.
“You’re always sort of banging away out there to see if there’s ways to make our team better. Obviously we’re challenged, we don’t have a lot of space."
“We made a significant transaction a month ago with bringing in Tyler Toffoli, so I think we’ve been aggressive here. We’ll see what the week brings. We like our team, so you’ve always got to manage that as well as trying to find ways to give yourself the best opportunity you can. We’ll continue to work at it.”
As Treliving has said before, it will take creativity to add roster players, as the Flames are right up against the salary cap, with a projected $737,000 remaining.
The glaring need he almost certainly hopes to fill is a depth centreman.
You can bet a close second on his list is adding a large, experienced defenceman who can step in if injuries occur.
“Yeah, I’m well-known for talking and revealing future plans for us,” chuckled the tight-lipped GM when asked about his wish list.
“I’m not going to say how active we’re going to be. Time will tell. We’ll see where we get to next Monday.”
No matter what happens, the Flames have to be considered one of the early deadline winners, as Toffoli has fit in seamlessly with eight goals and 13 points in 14 games.
However, Toffoli and 29-goal man Andrew Mangiapane are in need of an experienced centre on the club’s 2B line where rookie Adam Ruzicka had been toiling up until he was demoted to make room for a blue line call-up Sunday.
“Is someone sitting out there, cheering on their team and saying, ‘I want them to go get this guy, this guy, and this guy? I totally understand it, but you also have to look at how that impacts anything moving forward,” said Treliving.
“We’ve sort of gamed all those scenarios and had all our discussions. We certainly anticipate there’s going to be movement. How much? We’ll see.”
Of all the impediments to a deal, the league’s stagnant salary ceiling certainly adds further limitations to the flexibility of most contenders.
“The challenge you have, and you look at a team like ours where we all know you have contracts coming due, is you would normally have a two, three, four or five million dollar increase in the cap that gave you more flexibility,” said Treliving, who has to be mindful of his desire to re-sign Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington, who will all require significant raises this summer.
“With basically a flat cap, or maybe $1 million in growth, you’ve got to be careful, so that limits you to looking at expiring contracts. Or if you are taking on money for next year, how does that affect the business you have to do over the course of the summer? That’s just our situation. You’ve got far less flexibility with the cap moving forward than we have in the past.”
Treliving says the market can still change dramatically over the next handful of days due to factors like injuries around the league, as well as how many pending UFAs choose to change their status by signing before Monday.
“For the most part, the deal we did with Toffoli on Feb. 14 has been the only major transaction in the last while and a lot of that is cap related,” said Treliving, who is devoid of a first, third, fourth and sixth rounder in this summer's draft.
“People are waiting until the last possible minute in a league where those teams that feel like they’re in a solid position or feel like they’re going to be a playoff team, go look at how much cap space they have available – very little."
“Everyone is trying to accrue as much cap space as they possibly can, to have as many pennies in the bank come next Monday at 3 p.m. eastern. Now, all that changes with one injury," Treliving added.
"You can’t necessarily plan for it. You try to have as much depth as you possibly can, no question.”