Brad Treliving’s list of best trades during his tenure as Calgary Flames general manager is impressive. However, as good as it is, that’s only the positive – there are many that fall into the negative.
When you have an aggressive mindset like Treliving when it comes to trading market, you are bound to get big gains as well as big losses. Treliving has seen its fair share of both. His trading history certainly isn’t as bad as some other GMs, but he still put up some stinks, whether through bad luck or poor judgment.
Let’s take a look at some of Treliving’s worst dealings during his tenure as GM of the Flames.
June 24, 2016 — Traded a 2nd in 2016 (Jordan Kyrou) and a 3rd in 2018 (conditions not met) to STL for G Brian Elliott
When we talk about poor trades being either bad judgment or bad luck, this one was a bit of both. The Flames had run with a duo of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller in 2015-16 with less than stellar results, so a change was clearly needed. Enter Brian Elliott.
The then 30-year-old veteran was coming off arguably the best season of his career, posting a .930 save percentage in 41 games for the Blues. With the veteran on the market, Treliving took a chance and sent a second-round pick as well as a third-round pick to St. Louis, hoping to fix the Flames’ goaltending issues.
Sure, Elliott was coming off a great season, but he’d never been an NHL starter before and had a career-high of just 55 games played since 2009-10. Giving up on that kind of capital project for a team in the middle of a rebuild was a huge risk. Needless to say it didn’t pay off.
Elliott posted a very modest .910 save percentage in the regular season over 49 games, but his playoff performance is all anyone will remember. Elliott imploded in the first round, posting an .880 save percentage over three games. The Flames would be swept in the first round, and Elliott would leave as a free agent after the season.
To make matters worse, the Blues would use the Flames’ second-round pick Jordan Kyrou, who has since established himself as a true NHL star at just 24 years old. There’s no way to say the Flames would have picked Kyrou had they kept the pick, but it certainly stings to see the Blues get Kyrou a star on the Flames’ pick in exchange for an average year of Elliott.
March 1, 2017 — Traded D Jyrki Jokipakka and a 2nd 2017 (Alex Formenton) for F Curtis Lazar and D Michael Kostka
Since being in Calgary, Treliving loves flipping project capital for disparate solutions. In particular, he’s done this for years to help solve the Flames’ problems at both goaltender and forward level. Curtis Lazar’s deal is a perfect example of this as he tried to make an acquisition of Hail Mary to meet the needs of right wing teams.
This trade was a mistake pretty much the second it was made. Lazar being a first-round pick in 2013 was the only reason he picked up a second-round pick from the Flames, as he hadn’t shown anything at the NHL level at the time. Lazar had posted just 36 points in 176 NHL games when the Flames traded him, so he was far from a guaranteed fix for teams’ problems on the wing.
This one was a huge bet from Treliving and Treliving’s risky bet would unsurprisingly fail as Lazar would end up playing just 70 games in Calgary over three seasons, picking up just 15 points. He would leave in the summer of 2018 as a free agent.
Meanwhile, trading a second-round pick would come back to bite Treliving once won as the Senators use the Flames’ pick on Alex Formenton. Formenton has since become a full-time NHL player for the Senators and, at 22, is just beginning his career.
June 24, 2017 — Traded a 1st 2018 (Noah Dobson), a 2nd 2018 (Ruslan Iskhakov) and a 2nd 2019 (Samuel Bolduc) for D Travis Hamonic and a 4th 2019 (Lucas Feuk)
Almost exactly two years to the day after making one of his best trades with the Flames in picking up Dougie Hamilton in 2015, Treliving came out and made one of his worst in 2017 in a nearly identical deal. With Travis Hamonic looking to move west and the Flames needing help on defense, Treliving recreated Hamilton’s trade by sending three draft picks to the Islanders for Travis Hamonic.
The deal seemed like a risk from the start, as Hamonic was already 27 and coming off a brutal season with the Islanders in which he missed 23 games through injury. Like the previous two deals on this list, Treliving decided to swap tentative capital while the Flames were still rebuilding. Trading mid-round picks is one thing, but shipping an unprotected first-round pick when your team finished fifth just two years ago is a questionable call.
Needless to say, that came back to bite him in a big way, as the Flames would fall in 2017-18 and miss the playoffs finishing 20th in the NHL. Treliving was very lucky as the Islanders wouldn’t land a lottery pick with the Flames’ pick and would instead end up picking 12th overall where they would pick Noah Dobson.
Dobson has since become a full-time top-four defenseman at just 22 years old and recently posted a career-high 51 points in 2021-22. Meanwhile, Hamonic only spent three seasons in Calgary, with 2018-19 being his only decent season as a Flame. He would leave as a free agent in 2020 after skipping the 2020 bubble playoffs. The use of the fourth-round pick on Lucas Feuk removed any chance of redemption.
That said, things could have been much worse and that’s saying a lot considering how things turned out. As we now know, the 21st-place Hurricanes would earn the second pick in the draft to earn the right to draft Andrei Svechnikov.
Had the Flames lost their final game of the season to Vegas, they would have finished 21st and thus earned the second overall pick that would have been traded to the Islanders. To this day, why Treliving didn’t protect the first-round pick he sent to the Islanders remains a mystery.
October 1, 2018 — Traded Dr. Brett Kulak for Dr. Rinat Valiev and Dr. Matt Taormina
A rather inconsequential deal at the time, this one just seemed to get worse and worse each year for the Flames and Treliving. When it was done, it looked like a one-time deal trading some AHL players for each other. Four years later, the trade has become much more than that.
The day before the deal, Brett Kulak cleared the waivers and with no roster spot due to veterans like Dalton Prout and Michael Stone, the Flames shipped the 24-year-old 2012 fourth-round pick to Montreal for a few AHLers in 32 Matt Taormina, 25, and Rinat Valiev, 25. Taormina was a career AHL player, but Valiev was a third-round pick in 2014, so he at least had an edge.
That said, Valiev had only recorded 12 NHL games at the time, while Kulak had played 101 NHL games when he was traded. Needless to say, Kulak still had a fair amount of NHL upside and was coming off a season that saw him play 71 games for the Flames as a regular on the blue line.
Ultimately, Taormina would play one season with the Stockton Heat before retiring in 2019, while Valiev played two seasons with the Heat before also retiring in 2020. Kulak meanwhile continued his progression and became a full-time NHL player with the Canadiens and has since become one of the NHL’s most underrated defensemen, now on a four-year, $11 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
It may have seemed like just a throwaway affair from a player who had just cleared waivers at the time, but the signs were there that Kulak could be a dependable and solid NHL player for years to come. . Giving it up for next to nothing because of veterans like Prout and Stone taking roster spots was a mistake then and is now.
March 16, 2022 — Traded a 2nd in 2022 (David Goyette), a 3rd in 2023 and a 7th in 2024 for F Calle Jarnkrok
It may seem a bit difficult to list here, but the way things have unfolded after this deal was struck seems like a pretty massive overpayment and loss for Treliving. There’s certainly a lot of bad luck in this deal, but that’s the nature of the NHL’s rental business.
As the Flames entered the deadline as full contenders for the Cup, Treliving paid for what was seen as the last missing piece in the Flames’ attacking group on Calle Jarnkrok. The deal seemed like a good choice at the time, which made the high cost acceptable, but it just didn’t work out at all. Jarnkrok didn’t gel at all during his short time with the Flames, which caused the price to sting to acquire him.
He scored just one goal and eight points in 29 games with the Flames, with his only goal coming in the Flames’ final game of the season. For some reason, that just didn’t work out for Jarnkrok in Calgary and he would leave as a free agent after the season, making him a pure hire.
In the end, Treliving gave up valuable draft capital in a second- and third-round pick for just 29 games from Jarnkrok. The Kraken have since selected David Goyette, who had 73 points in 66 OHL games last season as the second-round pick, and the Flames will be third next year. Time will tell if this deal looks even worse for the Flames, but if the past is any indicator, the trade in second-round picks hasn’t gone down well for Treliving.
Bad luck and bad judgment
As many good deals Treliving has made, it has also made just as many mistakes. It’s simply the art of being a general manager in professional sports. Treliving’s main flaw over the years has been the repeated mistake of sending stopgap capital for disparate short-term solutions.
Sure, he’s had bad luck with teams that seem to nail all the top picks he trades, but that serves as a warning when it comes to tossing out draft picks for solutions that won’t last. Thankfully, Treliving’s worst trading days appear to be behind it, as most of its worst trades took place a few years ago.