Brad Treliving’s Worst Free Agent Recruits As Calgary Flames General Manager

With the upcoming arrival of the new NHL, the news surrounding free agents is dwindling. All the big names are gone and the remaining players are looking for teams to sign up. The Calgary Flames caused a stir in free agency by adding Nazem Kadri, and it’s not over yet.

Earlier in the month, we looked at Managing Director Brad Treliving’s body of work on the trading front, assessing his best deals as well as his worst trading mishaps. Now, we’re down to Treliving’s best and worst free agent signings. We took a look at the bright side earlier in the week with his best free agent signings, so now is the time to break down his worst free agent signings.

The Flames’ failed free agent signings

Free agency hasn’t exactly been kind to Treliving over the years, as most of his big signings have turned into disasters almost immediately. This earned him a reputation among the fan base as someone who makes more mistakes than good decisions when free agency comes up.

He certainly had some successes over the years when it came to free agents, but his misses are what most people remember because he had some big ones. Let’s take a look into the past.

July 1, 2014 – F Mason Raymond (3 years, $3.15 million AAV)

Treliving’s first summer with the team has been a busy one. With the Flames in a full rebuild, veteran help was needed at every position, especially forward Treliving came out and signed Mason Raymond to a three-year contract.

At the time, Raymond was just 28 and had just finished a 45-point season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. All told, it seemed like a solid signing for a rebuilding side that was desperately short of veteran talent up front. I think it’s fair to say that most people were on board with this move when Treliving made it. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

Raymond would struggle right away in his first season in Calgary, managing to play just 57 games due to injury while posting just 23 points. In the playoffs, his struggles would continue, posting just two assists in eight playoff games. The following season, things went from bad to worse. On the eve of the 2015-16 season, Raymond cleared waivers and was sent to the AHL. Not a big sign in just his second season as Flame.

That year, Raymond played just 29 games for the Flames, posting a meager five points. He was again placed on a waiver at the end of the season and was eventually bought out with one year remaining on his contract.

In what seemed like a solid decision at the time, Raymond simply never found his footing in Calgary and only managed 28 points in Calgary. In the end, they preferred to pay him not to play for them.

July 1, 2015 – G Karri Ramo (1 year, $3.8 million AAV)

The signing of Kari Ramo during the 2015 free agency period came as a bit of a surprise, as most expected the Flames to let their former goaltender walk this offseason. Instead, Treliving went back and brought the veteran back on a one-year deal. Needless to say, that was a mistake and he should have stuck to his original plan.

Ramo had posted decent albeit average results in his previous two seasons in Calgary, posting a .911 save percentage and 2.63 GAA in 74 games from 2013 to 2015. With Jonas Hiller still around and youngster Joni Ortio set to make the jump to the NHL, Treliving created a crowded situation by bringing Ramo back as well.

Even before the start of the 2015-16 season, the move was already causing ripple effects that would come back to haunt Treliving. With the Flames inexplicably carrying their three goaltenders into the season, Treliving was forced to place Paul Byron on waivers. Byron was of course claimed by the Canadiens and very quickly became a key player for them in their last six.

Meanwhile, Ramo would post his worst results as a Flame in 2015-2016, playing 37 games and posting a .909 save percentage and just 17 wins. Unsurprisingly, the Flames would finish 27th in the NHL that season. Ramo left for free agency after the season and hasn’t played in the NHL since. Treliving would have done better to let Ramo walk in the 2015 offseason, but at least the contract was only for one year.

July 1, 2016 – F Troy Brouwer (4 yrs, $4.5m AAV)

You knew this one would show up here. It was Treliving’s first big swing in free agency after signing Michael Frolik in 2015, and it really couldn’t have been worse. From the moment this deal was announced, it felt like a huge mistake.

Troy Brouwer was 31 when he signed this contract and had just finished a year in which he posted only 39 points, his lowest total since the 2011-12 season. Based on those facts alone, handing Brouwer an $18 million, four-year deal seemed like a bad move before he even stepped on the ice as Flame. At the time, that was the highest average annual value (AAV) Treliving had given away in free agency with the Flames.

Unsurprisingly, Brouwer’s time in Calgary was a disaster. In his first season with the team, he only scored 25 points, not being the solution to the team’s right wing problems in the top six. In the playoffs, he had two assists in four games. The following year was even worse, as he only collected 22 points. At this point, it appeared that Brouwer’s career was coming to an end just two years into his contract.

I mean, check out his regularized adjusted plus-minus chart (RAPM) from the 2017-18 season courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.com. Truly remarkable stuff.

After the 2017-18 season, Brouwer was bought out just two years after signing his big deal with the Flames. The upcoming 2022-23 season will be the first since being bought out that he won’t count in the Flames cap. End of an era.

This is arguably the worst free agent signing of Treliving’s tenure with the Flames, because literally nothing went right. For his other mistakes made during free agency, you could at least see the merit of the signing and understand why they made sense at the time, but Brouwer’s signing didn’t make sense from day one, if not before. first day.

July 2, 2018 – F James Neal (5 years, $5.75m AAV)

Like Brouwer’s signing, James Neal’s signing will forever be mentioned as one of Treliving’s worst free agent moves. This one was an absolute disaster for a plethora of reasons. That said, there was at least more reason to believe in this deal than Brouwer’s when it was first announced.

Coming into the 2018 off-season, Neal was one of the best wingers available on the market. The Flames, on the other hand, had a huge need for scoring wingers. It seemed like a perfect match at the time. Neal had just completed a 25-goal year with the Vegas Golden Knights and had scored at least 20 goals in his previous 10 NHL seasons.

Treliving gave him a whopping five-year, $28.75 million deal. The total dollar value is the third highest distributed by Treliving in free agency behind only Jacob Markstrom and most recently Kadri. Neal’s incredible consistency throughout his career made the heavyweight term and AAV acceptable at the time, as it seemed like a good bet that he could help the Flames with their goalscoring even for a few years. Unfortunately, that was not the case at all.

His first season in Calgary is truly legendary for all the wrong reasons. Neal went from scoring 20 goals in 10 straight seasons to just seven in 63 games for the Flames in 2018-19. In the playoffs, he was even worse, scoring zero in four games and being scratched for a must-see fifth game.

The WAR percentile timeline below is courtesy of JFreshHockey shows how dramatic his fall from grace was as soon as he became a Flame.

Along with his lackluster play, it was also reported that he wasn’t well liked in the Flames’ room and didn’t fit in at all with the rest of the roster. As if his game wasn’t bad enough already, his complete lack of chemistry with the rest of the roster was the nail in the coffin. He would be shipped off from Edmonton for Milan Lucic in a terrible contract swap deal just a year into his five-year deal.

In what seemed like a good bet at the time, Neal never made it to Calgary on or off the ice. His production dropped shockingly upon his arrival, and the Flames were forced to trade him for the buyout-proof Lucic contract that still plagues the team to this day.

You can’t win them all

It’s no secret that Treliving had some pretty big blunders in free agency, with some of his mistakes causing ripple effects that are still being felt to this day. You can’t blame him for trying to fix his team through free agency, but being cautious is definitely not something he’s known for when it comes to free agency.

Three of the four names on this list have been signed to fixed-term contracts by Treliving, but none have made it past the two-year mark as Flames. In total, the four players had six more combined seasons in the NHL after leaving the Flames via buyout, trade or free agency.

That said, Treliving seems to have learned its lesson lately as its last big blunder dates back to 2018 with the signing of Neal. Since that mistake, he’s been more careful where he spends his money and he’s had a lot more success in free agency. Hoping it stays that way for a long time.


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