New Flames GM prepares for historic draft
CALGARY – New Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has the highest draft pick in team history to work with Friday in Philadelphia.
At No. 4, it will be the earliest Calgary calls out the name of their first selection in their 33 years, unless Treliving trades the pick of course.
“Yeah, there’s scenarios. We’re not there yet,” he said Monday in Calgary.
“A lot of those scenarios of move ups and move downs, it really doesn’t happen until the draft floor or shortly before. The biggest thing is bracing for all the different scenarios. If we pick four, we’re happy there too. This isn’t something where we feel we have to move from four.
“There’s a lot of pain to get a top-five pick. So all of a sudden to say we’re going to do something else, it would have to be significant.”
The Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980. For trivia lovers, the Atlanta Flames’ highest draft picks were Tom Lysiak second overall in 1973 and Jacques Richard also at No. 2 in 1972.
Treliving was named Calgary’s new GM in April after he spent seven years as an assistant GM of the Phoenix Coyotes. He and the Flames’ scouting staff head Tuesday to Philadelphia for the 2014 NHL entry draft at Wells Fargo Center.
The first round is Friday followed by the remaining six rounds Saturday.
Of the five seasons Calgary hasn’t made the playoffs, the first four were considered underachievements. The most recent was accepted by fans as an overdue rebuilding year. At 35-40-7, the Flames finished second-last in the Western Conference.
But patience in professional sports is generally short. With the draft quickly followed by the start of unrestricted free agency July 1, and the Flames holding a boatload of cap space, Treliving’s opening moves with the Flames will be scrutinized.
“Although there’s a lot of excitement around the draft and obviously July first, those aren’t the only two days to build your team,” Treliving said. “This is just the start of it. I wouldn’t categorize it as putting my stamp on it.
“I’m excited about now is the time we can be aggressive and be creative to get better. This is all about getting better. It starts with the draft and the picks we can make and we’ll see what other things we can do both around the draft and leading into free agency.”
Calgary hit it out of the park choosing forward Sean Monahan at No. 6 last year when Jay Feaster was GM. As a 19-year-old rookie, Monahan scored 22 goals and was a regular in the lineup.
Treliving says that was a surprise. While he expects names called early Friday to be in the NHL next season, he’s not relying on it in Calgary’s case.
“Our focus isn’t getting somebody who is going to jump in in October,” he said. “That’s not a priority. If it happens, great. Ours is who is going to be the best player for the next 10 Octobers.”
The consensus top prospects are Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Eckblad, Kingston Frontenacs forward Sam Bennett, Kootenay Ice captain Sam Reinhart, Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl, Oshawa Generals left-winger Michael Dal Colle and Finnish left-winger Kasperi Kapanen.
Reinhart has family ties to the Flames as father Paul was a defenceman with the club for most of his career and brother Max is a Flames prospect.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last several weeks with a number of the young men,” Treliving said. “We’ve poked, we’ve prodded.
“I feel comfortable with the homework that’s been done. You’re dealing with 17- and 18-year-old young men. As much work as you put into it, there is some risk always.”
The Flames currently own five picks in the first three rounds, including the 34th, 54th, 64th and 83rd choices. Calgary doesn’t have any in the fourth or fifth and has one each of the sixth and the seventh rounds.
Hockey operations president Brian Burke served as interim GM after firing Feaster in December. Burke acquired another second-round pick (54th) from Colorado for goaltender Reto Berra as well as an extra third-rounder (83rd) from Pittsburgh for Lee Stempniak in March.
Treliving is grateful for the additional second-rounder. He can either get a quality player with it, add it to a package deal to move around the draft order or even acquire an NHL player straight up for it.
“Second-round picks are the currency now and it’s hard to get them,” Treliving explained.
“Each day you get closer to the draft, the currency raises in terms of what those are worth. It’s not just a second-round pick. It has a name now. You’ve done your work. Not only are you picking 38th or 46th, but you’re picking Jones or Smith or whatever the name is that’s around there.”
The 2014-15 salary cap is projected to be around $71 million with a minimum of about $52 million. The Flames are buyers as they’re currently under the cap floor, according to Capgeek.com.
Calgary needs reinforcements at centre and Treliving is also on the lookout for a defenceman with a right-handed shot.
The GM said “talks continue” with pending unrestricted free agent Mike Cammalleri, but Treliving didn’t have any signings to report Monday.
Treliving also announced that Ryan Huska is new head coach of their American Hockey League affiliate in Glens Falls, N.Y. Huska was head coach of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets for the last seven seasons.
Calgary is also searching for a new goaltending coach with the departure of Clint Malarchuk.