Nothing Brad Treliving has done or seen the last two days has changed his plans moving forward.
The Calgary Flames still have to address significant holes to fill on the blue line and in between the pipes.
Even though this is a general manager who has a penchant for making a big splash at the draft and during the off-season, you get the sense Treliving is content to wait for the market to come to him, as opposed to chasing it.
However, he has been quick to point out the perils of overspending on free agents.
He knows that all too well, having miscalculated on players like James Neal, Mason Raymond and Troy Brouwer (who he will continue to pay $1.5 million each of the next two seasons).
With cap dollars being coveted more than ever due to a flat cap and a horrific economic outlook for the league and province, he’s ultra-keen on avoiding similar mistakes.
He keeps suggesting that he may do his shopping days after free agency opens, as prices settle.
He has also alluded to the possibility of trading to fill holes, as his cap space will allow him more flexibility than most teams around the league in terms of moves to address his needs.
With cap space comes power, which he may yield to help cash-strapped clubs get out of cap jail via trade.
“Having flexibility down the road – does that open up opportunities for you?” he asked.
“I think it may be a later trade market. If 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.”
Things like when or will there be a season this winter, followed by next year’s expansion draft.
All are factors in how a GM moves forward.
“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,” he said.
“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 first day of free agency.”
This is a very savvy, patient GM who seems hesitant at this point to be one of the ones getting caught in the hype and inflation free agency typically brings.
This is an atypical marketplace, which calls for a creative approach.
As he predicted, there was very little trade movement during the draft, as his colleagues are hesitant to be the first to stick their toe in the water to try assessing market prices.
Flames fans are allowed to dream about adding players like Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug, but the reality is many top-tiered free agents have no interest in playing in Canada.
It’s a limitation the Flames deal with via the trade market too.
Two of the most likely Flames additions continue to be Cam Talbot and TJ Brodie, who know and love the city, the organization and their teammates.
Or will the Ontario-born Brodie land with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who could use his skill set?
If Talbot chases larger dollar or longer term elsewhere the list of possible replacements is long, as more than a dozen capable netminders will be chasing jobs on nine or ten teams.
Talbot sure is a good fit in Calgary though. Only Markstrom would be higher on most depth charts, but at what additional cost? Likely too much, unless Treliving decides it’s time for him to finally solidify his goaltending long term.
Taylor Hall, the top forward available starting Friday, is a long shot if he intends to simply chase the biggest dollars.
However, if the limited budgets around the league prompt the Calgary native to prioritize fit and comfort level, the Flames could be a significant contender. He knows the Flames have expressed plenty of interest in him as recently as last Christmas, and the prospect of jumping into a lineup with a top-six like the Flames have has to be enticing.
But the price would have to make sense for the Flames, who won’t be anywhere near the highest bidders.
Treliving’s best free agent signings in Calgary have been role players, a la Derek Ryan, Deryk Engelland and Michael Frolik.
That’s the most logical and likely road he’ll take, which opens the door for right-handed defenders like Troy Stecher, Radko Gudas, Zach Bogosian or maybe even Chris Tanev to be entertained.
In such uncertain times, free agents can’t be blamed for wanting quick resolution.
Treliving and the Flames may not be willing to offer that, choosing perhaps to see what chairs are left when the music starts to fade.