Coach Darryl Sutter called Mark Giordano his best player.
GM Brad Treliving called him the conscience of the team and the best leader he’s ever seen.
The question now is whether the Flames will allow the Seattle Kraken to call him at the June 21 expansion draft.
In an off-season in which Treliving admitted Thursday there will be changes, few potential departures could rival the loss of the captain.
The GM and the 37-year-old defender tiptoed around the topic following Thursday’s exit meetings, but neither denied the obvious quandary facing a franchise that will undoubtedly protect Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev, leaving Giordano exposed.
“There are certain situations where you have to be an adult about it and know there are certain things that have to happen,” said Giordano when asked if his nose would be out of joint if left unprotected. “I have a pretty good relationship with Tree where we’ll talk about it over the next little bit.
“For me it’s pretty obvious as a player there’s going to be certain situations that we’re going to have to talk about. But personally, I’ve been here my whole career and I love it here so obviously I want to still be here next year. I can help this team win and moving forward I want to be here. That’s all I can say now. The rest is not in my control.”
It’s in the hands of Treliving and Seattle GM Ron Francis, who would be thrilled to add Giordano and his one year, $6.75 million contract to be a pillar of his new squad.
“Everybody knows there’s an expansion draft coming up – (Giordano) and I have spoken about that and we’ll keep that internal for now,” said Treliving. “As far as Gio, he’s been, in my mind, the conscience of this team for a long time, since I’ve been here. He sets the tone for the group on and off the ice. I’ve had the good fortune to be around good leaders in my career and I put him at the top of the list.
“But there is a business side of this and we’ll sit down as a group and make some decisions as we get closer to the expansion draft.”
Discussions around the future of several top Flames were front and centre Thursday when the GM and almost half the players addressed the media to discuss what went wrong in their quest to make the playoffs.
Johnny Gaudreau expressed his desire to stay in Calgary long-term, which would require signing an extension past next season.
“If Tree and the owners are happy with the way I’ve played here the last six, seven years it’s something we can figure out this summer,” said Gaudreau, who will almost certainly have to be traded if a new pact can’t be signed.
“I love the city of Calgary and playing here. I don’t think I’ve ever once said I didn’t want to be here. If it comes up this summer it’s something I’d be willing to do and try to get done.”
Matthew Tkachuk said he’d had no such talks with the Flames to extend his deal, which makes sense given how unlikely it would be he’d re-sign here a year early, especially after making it clear Thursday how unhappy he was with his reduced ice time under Sutter.
Giordano’s future here will all come down to just how radical the team wants to re-shape this roster.
If changing the culture of a core that just can’t get it done here is important, one sure way to do it is by jettisoning the captain.
For better or worse.
Sutter would certainly vouch for the importance of having a Norris Trophy winner mentoring his young blueliners and would likely push for Treliving to cough up a significant asset or two to keep him in town.
Others might suggest spending something like a first- or second-round pick to keep the aging defender in town is bad asset management.
Treliving has reiterated that if anything was learned from the Vegas draft it’s that making side deals might not have been the best idea for most clubs.
He certainly didn’t shy away from agreeing with the age-old belief in this town that notable changes are finally required.
“Certainly it’s not good enough, so our team has got to change,” said Treliving, who won’t get much help via the draft where he’ll likely draft from the 13th position.
“How deep those changes go we’ll have to determine that. It’s easy to say, ‘blow it up, get rid of everybody and start fresh,’ but I think there’s some really good pieces here.”
Underperforming pieces, who need help depth-wise on a team that had trouble scoring goals.
Treliving will get significant input from Sutter, who got the team to buy into more of a checking and defensive mindset. For a team that opened the season with shameful work ethic issues before Geoff Ward was fired, there were signs of improvement down the stretch.
Ultimately, eight losses in nine outings at a crucial time ended their playoff hopes.
Treliving may also want to tap extensively into the brain of Milan Lucic, who offered up the most insightful of assessments on what ailed his team.
“What’s missing is between the ears more than anything,” said Lucic, who said four games in his team thought things would be too easy following a good start and week off. “This team has shown signs of greatness in the near past with resiliency and sticking with it and pulling through. But for whatever reason it wasn’t there.
“When you play for individual achievements versus team achievements this is what happens – you don’t get to play in the playoffs. And when you play for team achievements, playing to win or the division title and home ice and all that type of stuff, that’s when things go well for you as an individual. That’s the mindset we have to bring into next season.”
And, according to Lucic, that means bringing Giordano back as well.
“This team wouldn’t be the same without him if he wasn’t here moving forward,” said Lucic. “He’s captain for a reason. He’s a true Calgarian. He’s a true Flame. He’s a true warrior, he’s the best teammate and best friend. Even at his age he can still do what he does. I’m hoping and praying we’re still teammates moving forward.”