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Flames Deal Buys Time, but Future Still Uncertain

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Within a span of a few minutes late Friday night, Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving went from scapegoat to star in this city.

He was criticized for gambling on Johnny Gaudreau. Watched helplessly as the playmaking winger left the Flames for the greener pastures of … Ohio.

He was condemned when Matthew Tkachuk’s decision not to sign a long-term deal with the franchise became public a week later.

But Saturday morning’s vibe check among the Calgary Flames masses was completely flipped. They’re flipping out over Treliving’s trade, which brings Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and prospect Cole Schwindt to Calgary, along with a first-round pick in 2025.

“You can crawl into the fetal position and suck your thumb. Or you can deal with it,” Treliving said via Zoom on Saturday while talking about the circumstances of the deal.

“What we tried to do is deal with it.”

He did that in a way few might have expected. Huberdeau was still in negotiations with the Panthers on a long-term deal. That possibility is something Treliving has reached out to Huberdeau’s camp about – but there are no guarantees in place. The same goes for Weegar, who Treliving said they see as a top defenceman.

Few who have seen him play would argue against it. Weegar ate up minutes with the Panthers last season and has tremendous underlying numbers to back up the eye test. He can play either side of the blueline and gives the Calgary Flames great options on a back end that now boasts Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Weegar, Oliver Kylington (RFA) and Nikita Zadorov. When all are healthy and signed, it could be the deepest back end in the NHL.

Up front, Huberdeau is every bit as good as Gaudreau. With 115 points last year, he tied Gaudreau for second in NHL scoring. His skills should set centre Elias Lindholm up for another strong year. Whoever rides shotgun will also benefit the way Tkachuk thrived with Gaudreau on his flank.

For this season, the trade is a huge success – especially given the circumstances around it.

Leverage is key for any NHL deal. The Flames had very little of that.

“I think everybody understands the challenges of trading a player on a one-year contract,” Treliving said of Tkachuk’s impending arbitration hearing and short list of teams he’d be willing to sign with. “We were given a limited number of teams to deal with.”

Treliving suggested the reported list was incorrect, but clearly the Panthers were on it. His parents are building a home down there, and – like Gaudreau – it seems proximity to family has become a priority during the pandemic.

Despite the early fanfare over salvaging the situation, Treliving’s popularity could plunge again later this season. Both Huberdeau and Weeger are entering the final year of their contract and can become unrestricted free agents next summer. We just watched how that played out with Gaudreau. And as attractive as both would be to any other contending team at the NHL trade deadline, if the Calgary Flames are contenders to win the division again and make some noise in the playoffs, can they really going to flip these two players at the deadline?

There could be some very difficult decisions to come. It all depends on what the players do on the ice in the coming months.

Treliving bought the team – and himself – some time.

Extension negotiations will come. But he’s confident they’ve done everything they can to find some positivity at the end of what’s been a brutal couple of weeks.

“It’s early. This is not 24 hours old. Let’s let everyone take a deep breath and we’ll get at that at the appropriate time,” Treliving said of extension talks.

“The objective of any deal is to secure the best – I hate referring to players as assets – but to secure the very best deal available to us. This, to me, it wasn’t close in terms of what was available to us on the marketplace. Once those names became things we thought were real, we pursued that path.

“We didn’t choose this path. We feel we were able to deal with it the best way given the circumstances.”

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