This time a week ago, the Calgary Flames were nowhere near as good as they are now. What looked like what was going to be a routine draft ended up being anything but, and it changed the course of the entire franchise. General Manager Brad Treliving didn't slow the roll when it came to free agency at all.
When the Anaheim Ducks eliminated the Flames in five games in the second round of the playoffs, the Flames looked at three areas they needed to prioritize:
- Right wingers
Defence was addressed at the draft with the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton, the right side was addressed at the start of free agency with Michael Frolik, and goaltending was addressed by retaining Karri Ramo. In all three cases, Treliving got exactly the guy he wanted.
He also added Derek Grant, a big centre who can play either wing, and traded Max Reinhart. Grant adds depth and will get a chance in camp, while Reinhart was moved for a fourth round pick in order to give him a chance elsewhere.
Treliving: "We didn't cast a big net. If Michael (Frolik) wasn't going to come our way, it wasn't going down to Plan B or Plan C." #Flames— Randy Sportak (@SUNRandySportak) July 1, 2015
Frolik was the best option for the Flames, and Treliving knew it. The fact that he got him at such an affordable deal - five years, $4.3 million per, which will take Frolik until he's 32 - just makes this even better.
Treliving described Frolik as a "swiss army knife," stressing that not only can he bounce all over the lineup, but he plays the game well. "He's one of those unheralded guys who does a lot of heavy lifting and doesn't get the accolades," Treliving said. "He does a lot of heavy lifting in some of the areas that aren't so sexy that help you win game."
Translation: Frolik is a good possession player, and has been for years.
The five-year term isn't a concern for Treliving, as according to him, Frolik keeps himself in great shape - and he said they've been watching him for years, so he should know - and what makes him so good at the game shouldn't be going anywhere in the foreseeable future. At 27 years old, he fits right in with the age group the Flames want.
Frolik has some decent size at 6'1 and 198 lbs., but he's not exactly a big guy. According to Treliving, though, he plays a big man's game. "Playing big doesn't necessarily mean you have to be 6'6," Treliving said. "You can play a heavy game, a strong game - and today's game is so much about small space, compete areas, and I think [Frolik] is excellent in those type of areas." Frolik is the kind of guy who earns his coach's trust, and takes on responsibilities. He plays with a heavy stick, emerges from battles with the puck, and takes away opponents' time and space.
Treliving had some interesting thoughts on lineup composition in regards to signing Frolik. For one thing, there aren't necessarily top six forwards; he believes in a top nine group, with a dependable fourth line with responsibilities. Frolik no doubt fits in that top nine group.
He also said the NHL is a "league of pairs". He didn't mention any names to go with Frolik, so this is pure speculation on my part, but: Mikael Backlund is exactly the kind of player Treliving was talking about in regards to players who are largely unheralded, but do the heavy lifting.
A Backlund-Frolik pairing could be deadly in that sense. They're about the same age - Frolik is just 13 months older - and play a similar game. As the Flames progress, Backlund and Frolik could end up being their shutdown combination; better yet, one that can put up points, too.
He's also reportedly an excellent teammate, a good guy, and someone who shouldn't have any problems fitting in with the rest of the Flames.
With the signing of Ramo, the Flames now have three goalies on one-way deals who would all require waivers to start next season. With Ramo in addition to Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio, the Flames' goaltending is stabilized, and has a lot of options going forward. Treliving did stress, after all, that he now has three capable goalies that can win games.
According to Treliving, if you don't have a Carey Price or a Henrik Lundqvist - and the Flames do not - then you need more than one goalie. The Hiller-Ramo tandem paid dividends for the Flames last season, bringing them from league-worst goaltending to league average. Goaltending alone didn't necessarily win the Flames a lot of games, but it didn't cost them any, either, and a large part of that has to do with carrying two quality goaltenders throughout the year.
While he does now have three to work between, Treliving doesn't envision having all three throughout the next season. Something will have to happen on that front. In the meantime, though, the Flames have three goaltenders they're all big fans of.
On the future
The Flames are a team that can attract free agents now. Frolik was the number one guy they wanted, and they got him. The addition of Hamilton to the defence core sends a message to the league: the Flames are ready to compete. They're a good, young team willing to add what it takes, and when it comes down to it, players are ultimately looking to win.
The Flames have a very young group, and some of their best players are their youngest. The rebuild may not be over yet, but major steps to make Calgary competitive have taken place over the past week.
Treliving phrased it as having a story to tell. When you add players, you're contributing to that story. The Flames have retained Karri Ramo, and added Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik.
So the story? They want to win, and they're well on their way.