Flames' Treliving forced to play cap 'Cirque du Soleil' with opening roster

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving spoke about the depth of the team this season and why it's important that they prove it's a strength.

Exhaling deeply as a way of summing up the oddity of the NHL’s latest camp, Brad Treliving delved right into the rhinestoned elephant in the room.

“Needless to say we’re involved in some cap Cirque du Soleil, is the best way to put it,” smiled the Flames GM.

“There will be a few things going on this year in terms of the taxi squad.”

The six-man squad he’s referring to is the one that veteran Derek Ryan will open the season on after clearing waivers Tuesday morning, along with Oliver Kylington and Zac Rinaldo. And while that paper transaction caused plenty of chatter/concern in Calgary, there was very little chance a man making $3.1 million was going to get claimed on a day when almost 100 other players were similarly exposed.

It’s all part of the monetary gymnastics fans will see daily around the league as teams try to accrue cap space.

“I sat down with him a couple of days ago to explain the thought process around it and he understood where we were coming from,” said Treliving.

“None of the actions in the last 24 hours speak to anything about what we feel about Derek Ryan. We feel he’ll play a big role for our team as he has the last two years.”

As a matter of fact, it would shock no one if the 34-year-old centre was in the lineup Thursday in Winnipeg, or for Saturday’s home opener.

“They’re not going to have sandwich boards on that say they are on the taxi squad – they’re part of the Calgary Flames,” said Treliving, who now has a 30-day window to freely activate Ryan, Kylington, Rinaldo, Connor Mackey, Louis Domingue and Buddy Robinson anytime before 5 p.m. on game nights.

“We anticipated he’d be a player for us today as he was yesterday. Because of the extenuating circumstances and the world we live in, we’re allowed to have taxi squads, so part of that is how you can work that to the advantage of your cap. You want to have as much flexibility as possible. One, for being able to withstand injuries. Secondarily, the ability to accrue cap space – you always want to have that as much as you can to give you as many options as you can. The opening day roster certainly had those two objectives in mind.”

The moves help give the Flames $2.09 million in projected cap space.

The Flames unveiled their 20-man roster shortly after the league’s deadline with no surprises, but gave the media a chance to pick Treliving’s brain on the eve of puck drop:

On what he learned from camp: “For me, probably the biggest education was familiarizing myself with the new players. We’ve talked for months about who fits with whom but until you see them on the ice and in the room, that was the biggest takeaway for me. I think we got some questions answered but until you get into game action you’ll learn more."

On PTO invites Michael Stone and Brett Ritchie, who weren’t signed: “No news to report on PTOs yet.”

On world junior stars Connor Zary, Jakob Pelletier and Duston Wolf: “Pelletier is going back to Val D’or, as the QMJHL is getting going soon. The (NHL) has extended the time we can keep those players in town. We’re keeping a large group here until Stockton gets going. Connor and Dustin are staying until we get some clarity on the WHL situation. I thought Connor was a noticeable player (Monday) night. His assets were on display. We talk about young players having a respectful disrespect for veterans in camp. He didn’t just dip his toe in, he made plays.”

On Jacob Markstrom’s camp: “My impressions are Jacob is just an unbelievably competitive person. A real professional — comes early, stays late. Tremendous teammate. From Day 1 he walks right in and he’s a great teammate and guys are drawn to him. He’s a pro.”

On Connor Mackey: “I think it’s really fair to say he’s played himself into a way to be here. He’s a player that’s available for selection by the coaching staff. We think he’s going to be a real good player. He’s still a young player and hasn’t played a game. I told him, ‘you may have the new world record for two restart training camps without a game being played. I don’t want him sitting out for any extended period of time, but he’s proven in training camp he deserves to continue being here.

On what excites him most about his team: “We have to live in the present and not get too ahead of ourselves. We have great depth in our lineup. We talked a lot in the fall about maybe rearranging our group from a forward perspective and I like that look. It gives us a lot of options. At least on paper we’re a more dangerous team to match up against. Our defence is a work on progress where we have some new people and young people in the lineup. The other part that makes me excited is how excited our group is. The practices have been with purpose. There’s a real business-like approach, and now we have to translate that into the regular season.”

On Chris Tanev: “Chris came in early, he’s been here a few months now. He’s just a pro. He does it right. He trains hard. There are great leadership qualities with him. He’s come in seamlessly with our group. He moves the puck and isn’t appreciated enough for that part of his game. He’s fearless in blocking shots. He’s brought some real stability.”

On Tyler Parsons: “He had ankle surgery early December and he’s going to get re-evaluated in another four weeks so he’ll miss some time. The surgery went well and hopefully, he’ll be up and rehabbing here soon.”

On camp standout Andrew Mangiapane: “Andrew has had a really good camp and looks like he’s ready to take the next step. He does this every year – he works at his craft, he’s stronger and quicker and looks more comfortable in his surroundings. He hasn’t hit his ceiling yet, he’s still a young player.”

The Flames' full roster can be found here.

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