Maple Leafs GM candidate Brad Treliving's best and worst moves
The former Flames general manager is emerging as a top candidate to be the Maple Leafs' GM. Here are the five best and five worst moves he made in Calgary.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' GM search is in its infancy, but with critical decisions to be made in the next couple of months, the team has little time to waste.
At this point, the entire pool of candidates is unclear, but betting markets have tabbed former Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving as the clear favourite to take over. Toronto has indicated that "experience" is a quality it values and Treliving has plenty of that after guiding the Flames for nine seasons.
In 700 games during his reign, Calgary went 369-262-73 and earned three playoff series wins. In order to understand what he might bring to the table, we have to take a closer look at some of the transactions that defined his time with the Flames.
Admittedly, this isn't the perfect time to do so, as we don't have a firm verdict on some of his most recent moves. His blockbuster free-agent signing of Nazem Kadri could go either way. The extension he gave Jonathan Huberdeau seems like a misstep now, but we're only one year in.
The Matthew Tkachuk trade is a bit of a mess overall with the Florida Panthers surging through the playoffs on his back, but Tkachuk's desire to leave town put Treviling in an impossible spot — and most considered the return solid at the time. It looks rough now, but while it's safe to say Florida won the deal we don't know to what degree Calgary lost.
Putting the elephant in the room aside, here is a look at the five best moves and five worst moves from Treliving's time as the Flames' GM:
Brad Treliving's best moves as Flames' GM
1. Traded Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox to Hurricanes for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm
This seems like a brutal trade for Calgary looking at the names alone, but at the time, Fox was just a prospect who didn't appear willing to sign with the team.
Moving off of Hamilton was a bit puzzling, but getting a top-pairing defender in Hanifin that the team was able to sign to a six-year deal with an AAV under $5 million was a coup. Ferland had a solid year in Carolina, but his NHL career lasted just 17 games after that due to a series of concussions.
Meanwhile, Lindholm has been a part of Calgary's core since arriving, producing 325 points in 369 and often serving as the team's first-line centre. Like Hanifin, Lindholm was immediately signed to a long-term contract with an AAV under $5 million.
If we assume Fox was never going to play for the Flames, this deal added a top-line forward and top-pairing defenceman at a reasonable price.
2. Traded a first-round pick and two second-round picks to Bruins for Dougie Hamilton
Shipping Hamilton to the Hurricanes proved to be an excellent move, as did adding him. Hamilton had a strong three-year run in Calgary, earning down-ballot Norris Trophy votes in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.
The offensively-gifted defenceman made an impact on the scoresheet, posted stellar possession metrics and logged 20:20 per night during his time with the Flames.
Boston didn't get much out of the deal as it turned the first-round pick into Zachary Senyshyn, who has 16 NHL games to his name. The best player from the two second-rounders was Jeremy Lauzon, a defenceman who failed to make an impact with the Bruins before getting selected in the Seattle Kraken's expansion draft.
3. Drafted Matthew Tkachuk 6th overall in 2016
While the Flames were not able to reap all the benefits of selecting Tkachuk thanks to his exit prior to the 2022-23 season, Treliving still deserves credit for calling the Hart Trophy finalist's name back in 2016.
Grabbing the second-generation power forward was not an outside-the-box move, but the Flames easily could've picked the less-impactful Clayton Keller or a bust like Alex Nylander — who went with the eighth overall pick.
Tkachuk has the second-most points of any player in the 2016 draft class behind just Auston Matthews. He provided the Flames with a 104-point season that earned him down-ballot Hart Trophy and Selke Trophy votes in his last year in Calgary.
At the moment, he looks like a franchise player. Unless you're picking first overall in a draft with a Connor McDavid, Connor Bedard, or Matthews type, those aren't easy to find.
4. Signed Rasmus Andersson to a six-year $27.3 million contract
Andersson isn't a superstar, but he's led the Flames in ice time for two straight seasons, compiling 99 points in that time. Treliving signed the Swede to this contract before he'd put up 20 points in an NHL season — or skated 20 minutes a night.
That leap of faith was handsomely rewarded. If the Flames wanted to trade Andersson today, the top-pair right-shot defenceman would net them a king's ransom — especially considering his AAV of $4.65 million. Calgary probably has no interest in moving Andersson, but that's an indication of how team-friendly this deal is.
Betting on a player to grow into his contract can be a dicey proposition, but this time it paid off for Treliving and the Flames.
5. Traded Tyler Pitlick, Emil Heineman, a conditional first-round pick and fifth-round pick to Canadiens for Tyler Toffoli
At the time, this seemed like a pretty big package for a guy in the midst of a middling season for the Montreal Canadiens, but Treliving ultimately got an excellent deal here.
For two-and-a-half years of Toffoli with a budget-friendly $4.25 million AAV, all the Flames had to give up was a fourth-liner (Pitlick), a prospect who was producing less than half a point per game in the Swedish elite league (Heineman), and a couple of picks.
We don't know what will become of the fifth-rounder, which comes in 2025, but the first-rounder was used on Filip Mesar — a 168-pound winger who failed to produce a point-per-game season in the OHL in 2022-23.
Toffoli has delivered on expectations since joining the Flames, producing 45 goals in 119 games. He led the Flames with a career-high 73 points in 2022-23.
Brad Treliving's worst moves as Flames' GM
1. Signed Troy Brouwer to a four-year, $18 million contract
When Brouwer came to the Flames, his production had been extremely consistent for more than half a decade. Between 2009-10 and 2015-16, he scored between 17 and 25 goals and collected between 33 and 43 points each season.
That's the player he'd shown himself to be, and entering his age-31 season, decline seemed likely in the near term — especially considering his bruising style of play.
Despite his low-ceiling, low-floor, profile, Treliving and the Flames were seduced by Brouwer's recent playoff run with the St. Louis Blues that saw him score eight goals and produce 13 points in 20 games. He also had a Stanley Cup run on his resume from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks.
None of that winning pedigree mattered in Calgary, as his play fell off a cliff and he managed just 19 goals in 150 games with the Flames before getting bought out.
2. Signed James Neal to a five-year $28.75 million contract
While Neal was coming off a 25-goal season when he signed this deal, he was heading into his age-31 season. This term looked problematic for a winger who had cracked 50 points in one of his previous four seasons.
The former 40-goal man only lasted a year in Calgary and put up just seven goals and 12 assists. Although the Flames were able to get off of his contract after 2018-19, they were only able to do so by adding Milan Lucic, who made $24 million over the next four seasons to produce 83 goals over 283 games and skate just 12:32 per night.
To add insult to injury, Neal was productive for the rival Edmonton Oilers in 2019-20, scoring 19 goals in 55 games.
3. Traded a first-round pick and two second-round picks to Islanders for Travis Hamonic
This move appeared to be far from egregious at the time — especially considering Hamonic's reasonable $3.857-million cap hit — but it clearly overvalued the stay-at-home defenceman.
Hamonic's tenure in Calgary was fine, but he produced almost nothing offensively and his possession metrics were negative relative to the Flames' average in all three of his seasons with the team.
The draft picks the Flames dished out made an impact for the New York Islanders, as they were able to acquire a player more dynamic than Hamonic in Noah Dobson with the first-rounder. Dobson has produced 100 points over the past two seasons and currently serves as New York's power-play quarterback.
One of the second-round picks also became Samuel Bolduc, who reached the NHL for the first time in 2022-23 after an AHL season that earned him a trip to the league's All-Star Classic.
His story has yet to be written, but it's possible the Islanders end up with two valuable defenders out of this deal.
4. Signed Blake Coleman to a six-year $29.4 million contract
Inking Coleman to a deal like this was a classic example of overpaying for grit and a winning resume.
Coleman made notable contributions to two Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he's ultimately a bottom-six forward with penalty-killing utility. He came to Calgary with a career-high of 36 points and paying almost $5 million for a player of his calibre didn't make much sense.
Overvaluing players who have been a part of team success is an easy trap to fall into, and it appears that's what happened to Treliving here — as it did with Brouwer.
There are three more years left on this deal, but considering Coleman turns 32 in November, this contract is unlikely to age well.
5. Traded Sam Bennett and a sixth-round pick to Panthers for Emil Heineman and a second-round pick
Bennett never became what the Flames hoped he'd be when they picked him fourth overall, but he's been a valuable player for the Panthers. His antics during this current playoff run aside, Bennett has grown into a top-six forward for a team competing for the Stanley Cup.
That makes the return in this deal look awfully unimpressive. Heineman doesn't seem like a top-tier prospect and he's already left town. The second-round pick became Topi Ronni, who The Athletic ranked seventh in a Flames prospect pool they're not high on.
Bennett may never have blossomed in Calgary — and the Flames couldn't have gotten a massive package for him at the time of this deal — but this is still a rough outcome.