What Brad Treliving’s past trade deadlines can teach us about his approach in 2024

The Hockey Central panel answers a burning question surrounding the Maple Leafs and discusses who should be Toronto's top target at the NHL trade deadline, as well as how many goals Auston Matthews will score this season.

The NHL’s trade deadline is just around the corner, and with it brings the usual wave of speculation as we do our best to guess what’s in store for buyers and sellers — and just how busy each team will be. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are among the more intriguing teams this year. For one thing, few franchises face as much pressure to win than the club in blue and white — especially after last spring’s long-awaited first-round triumph and subsequent second-round collapse. And then there’s the matter of the man in charge: After being hired in May to replace Kyle Dubas as GM, we’re about to see how Brad Treliving navigates his first trade deadline in Toronto. 

So, what should we expect? 

Treliving spent nine years at the helm of the Calgary Flames, and while no two organizations are the same, his tendencies during his tenure there could hint at the kind of approach he might take as we get closer to the March 8 deadline. (For the sake of this exercise, we’re focusing on the years Calgary was in a position to contend, not sell, at the time of the deadline.)

He’s not a big in-season shopper 

While we all know Treliving made some major waves on the trade market throughout his nine-year tenure with the Flames, the vast majority of his deals have come in the off-season. The GM hasn’t exactly made a habit of doing business in-season. There is an exception, of course, and you don’t have to scroll back too far through the archives to find it.

In the spring of 2022, the Flames were looking like a force, not only bouncing back from a down year in 2020-21 but emerging as one of the league’s top contenders. With the Flames sitting atop the Pacific Division, Treliving rewarded his club accordingly with his busiest deadline yet. 

He started early with the acquisition of forward Tyler Toffoli from Montreal in a Valentine’s Day deal five weeks out from the March 21 deadline. In return, he sent a player (Tyler Pitlick), a prospect (Emil Heineman, acquired one year earlier from Florida in the deal that saw Sam Bennett dealt away at the deadline) and a package of picks that included Calgary’s 2022 first-rounder to the Canadiens. This is the only time Treliving’s traded away a first-round pick in a deal around the deadline, but he did so knowing he was getting more than just a few months of Toffoli. The forward’s contract — he still had two more years on his deal at the time of the trade, at an AAV of $4.25 million — added to the forward’s price tag and made him a popular trade candidate. 

[brightcove videoID=6346358053112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Treliving wasn’t done. A month later, as the deadline drew nearer, Treliving landed Calle Järnkrok from the Kraken for a second-rounder (the one acquired in the Bennett trade) and a third-round pick. He also traded for forward Ryan Carpenter, sending a 2024 fifth-round pick to Chicago in return. 

The 2021-22 Flames finished the regular season as division winners with 111 points on the season, but after defeating the Dallas Stars in Game 7 of the first round they were quickly ousted by their rivals in Edmonton, losing to the Oilers in just five games of Round 2. 

Term is a top priority 

Treliving isn’t unique in his preferences here — more and more, we see GMs seeking a little extra term to go with their deadline acquisitions, or at least the promise or possibility of a player signing an extension. Term played a big role in the aforementioned trade for Toffoli in 2022. And we’re seeing plenty of speculation this year about Treliving’s interest in bringing in defenceman Chris Tanev and signing him to an extension. 

Renting and re-signing a defenceman like Tanev would be in keeping with Treliving’s past dealings. In 2016-17, he acquired defender and then-pending UFA Michael Stone from Arizona for a pair of mid-round picks and signed him to a three-year extension that off-season to keep him in the fold. 

[brightcove videoID=6346581588112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Another similarity? The familiarity. Like Stone in 2017 — a player Treliving oversaw in Arizona — Treliving knows Tanev well, having signed the defenceman in 2020. It’s no surprise to see the GM reportedly in the mix to land him again. 

His deadline trade history includes more picks than prospects 

Preferring to keep his prospects in the system, Treliving was far more willing during his Flames tenure to deal away picks — especially mid-round selections — at the deadline, as opposed to prospects. At the 2019 and 2020 deadlines, in particular, he sent a collection of mid-round picks to L.A. and Chicago in exchange for depth on defence (Oscar Fantenberg in 2019, and Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson in 2020). 

He’s not afraid to stand pat

This may not be the news fans want to hear, with pressure at an all-time high for Toronto to make a real run this post-season, but should this year’s deadline end up being a quiet one for the club, it wouldn’t be the first time for Treliving as he navigates his first deadline at the helm. 

In his first year as GM in Calgary in 2014-15, Treliving’s deadline dealings were more akin to that of a GM thinking about the future than a post-season run. Despite sitting third in the Pacific two weeks prior to the deadline, Treliving prioritized picks with a pair of trades — most notably, sending Sven Baertschi to Vancouver for a second-round pick. (That worked out pretty well, with the selection being used to draft defenceman Rasmus Andersson in 2015.)

The following year, with hopes of building on 2015’s success mostly dashed by the time trade season rolled around, Treliving went into selling mode in February 2016. Among the veterans out the door: forwards Jiri Hudler and David Jones and defenceman Kris Russell.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.