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Brad Treliving’s first year in review, Part III: Free agency

Once again looking back at Brad Treliving's first season as general manager. Today is part three of four, and we're reviewing signings and re-signings.

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Hello again! We're back at it today, still looking at Brad Treliving's first season as GM. First day was the draft, second was trades.

Free Agency

Re-signings…

Date Player Length AAV
July 3 Paul Byron 1 year $600,000
July 12 Ben Hanowski 1 year $850,050
July 22 Joe Colborne 2 years $1,275,000
July 24 Joni Ortio 2 years $600,000
July 26 Mark Cundari 1 year $660,000
August 27 Lance Bouma 1 year $775,000

Another common mistake by any team is the failure to assess current value. Useful players can slip into free agency and find a new home where they will flourish.

Treliving’s re-signings were initially safe and cheap. He retained guys like Paul Byron, Joe Colborne, and Lance Bouma, who have seen improvements from 2013-14. He kept them on board cheaply for short-term, patiently waiting to see if they would be able to further grow as players. While this seems like a good approach, it presents current day problems.

Top Six Forward Lance Bouma has grown as a penalty killer and shown some offensive flair, provided that he is with Mikael Backlund. This takes away from Backlund’s value, and adds to Bouma’s, which will be a problem considering both of them are RFAs for the upcoming offseason.

With Bouma’s newfound status as #gritchart champion, it will be hard to argue for a reasonable length and value, considering that it was only through Backlund’s invisible guidance that he grew into a 16 goal scorer. While I do think that Bouma is still a useful player, it is more important to reward Backlund for his work than Bouma, especially considering TSFLB isn’t likely to do much better than this season.

Colborne is also a problem. His 2013-14 season wasn’t the greatest, but it was mostly credited to growing pains from playing his first full NHL season on a rebuilding team. His 2014-15 campaign has shown little growth in some areas, and his atrocious playoff performance accentuates those concerns. While he is still young, it is worth wondering whether or not he will continue to grow or if he will be a hanger-on for 2015-16.

Byron’s contract is less of an issue, but still needs to be scrutinized. Mighty Mouse and his unlucky breakaways can be used against him, which could force him away from the team. Despite his embarrassing one-on-ones, Byron is probably the leader on the team for breakaway chances, which highlights the fact that he is a sneaky good possession driver.

Like I said at the beginning, assessing current value is important, and letting Byron walk would be a mistake. Lowballing him based on his current contract is a dangerous game to play, and it’s one the Flames won’t likely win.

Switching to other matters, Treliving did do a good job with AHL prospects. While Ben Hanowski isn’t likely to crack the team, I still believe that re-signing him was a smart move by Treliving. Maybe it was to save face for the Iginla trade, but Hanowski still looked like a good option for the bottom six, and he still does to some extent. It will be interesting to see if the Flames consider picking him up for one more year.

Joni Ortio’s contract also helps with the future of the Flames. His two-way status expires after this year, allowing him to join the franchise in net for 2015-16. With Ramo’s current contract status unknown, Treliving played it safe with Ortio’s contract, allowing him to develop a bit more until he was ready to be in the NHL. From his limited appearances this year, we can rest easy knowing that there is security in the pipes. Thank you, Turku, Finland.

…and releases
Player New team
Shane O'Brien Florida Panthers
Mike Cammalleri New Jersey Devils
Ben Street Colorado Avalanche
Blair Jones Philadelphia Flyers
Joey MacDonald Montreal Canadiens
Chris Butler St. Louis Blues
Derek Smith ZSC Lions
TJ Galiardi Winnipeg Jets

There’s not much to analyze here, really because most of these moves were clear-cut choices. There was no real reason to re-sign any of these players, considering that most of them were fringe NHLers anyways. Treliving played the addition-by-subtraction game by releasing Chris Butler and buying out Shane O’Brien.

Re-signing Cammalleri was never an option, as it was quite clear that he was going to leave anyways. Not trading him away was a mistake made by the previous administration, and Treliving would have no hope of re-signing him. Besides Cammy, the most productive player out of this lot was Chris Butler, who tallied nine points in 33 games with the Blues.

Signings
Date Player Length AAV
May 12 David Wolf 1 year $975,000
July 1 Mason Raymond 3 years $3,150,000
July 1 Jonas Hiller 2 years $4,500,000
July 1 Deryk Engelland 3 years $2,900,000
August 23 Devin Setoguchi 1 year $750,000
September 5th Corey Potter 1 year $700,000
October 6th Raphael Diaz 1 year $700,000

David Wolf was a purely Burke move, but not necessarily a bad one. He had been linked to the Maple Leafs while Burke was GM there, and he finally went through with the deal with the Flames. The German had been a physical, slightly skilled forward in the DEL, and there were questions whether he would adapt to the North American game.

His time in Adirondack silenced the doubters, as he was able to continue his physical play while turning down the goon factor and producing points. His short stint with the Flames, including a playoff game, raised intrigue, and it would not be surprising to see him playing in the organization again next year.

When Canada Day struck, NHL fans everywhere were glued to their TVs waiting for the latest of Free Agent Frenzy. The Flames cashed in early, signing Mason Raymond and Jonas Hiller. MayRay had been brought in to replace Cammalleri, but has failed to live up to the hype. He fell quickly from first-line winger to third-line replacement, mostly due to injuries and being outplayed by one Johnny Gaudreau.

However, he hasn't been completely awful, still producing at a normal rate considering his career. The only concern is his three-year contract. If he continues to be the same-old injury plagued, streaky Raymond, it becomes harder to justify the length and money.

Jonas Hiller’s signing has proved invaluable to the Flames. His play in net is a key reason that the Flames actually made the playoffs and advanced past the first round. Not that it’s hard to replace Reto Berra and Joey MacDonald, but it was a good move to ensure stability in net while transitioning to Joni Ortio and Jon Gilles. While he has been sporadic at times, he has also been lights-out, and it's comforting to know that he's here for at least one more year.

The beginning of NHL free agency was a promising time for Flames fans. There was plenty on the market to choose from, including plenty of defencemen. Unfortunately, we picked Deryk Engelland.

The possession anchor was definitely not the right choice for the Flames in any regards. If you care to, you can look back at all of the M&G recaps, stat recaps, or pretty much any article and watch the seething anger flow out of your screen and ooze all over your desk. Why did he replace Giordano on the first pairing? We’ll never really know.

Thankfully, Treliving also tied up Raphael Diaz to a one-year contract on the eve of the regular season thanks to a productive training camp. A secret possession player, Diaz has been given the shortest possible end of the stick, playing around the same ice times per night as Brandon Bollig. Not really the best use of his talents, and it’s unfortunate that the wrong free agent pickup will stick around longer.

Corey Potter and Devin Setoguchi were more or less failed reclamation projects. At the very least, they were cheap to come by, and we’ll never see them again. Remember when they tried to jumpstart Setoguchi by giving him powerplay time? Or Corey Potter playing the first two games of the Vancouver series? Let’s never do that again.

Up Next:

In the thrilling conclusion, we'll take a look at all the other stuff that didn't quite fit in the first three categories, and look at what might be on the Flames' horizon. Coming soon (tomorrow)!