Virtual or not, this year’s locker clean-out was as revealing as any I can remember. After a mostly miserable 56-game season, Flames players were honest and open in their assessments, while general manager Brad Treliving admitted his roster isn’t good enough as currently constructed. It led to a number of interesting tidbits, with three in particular standing out to me.
Change is coming
“I feel it was a good team that underperformed,” Treliving told me on Thursday’s Big Show. “Now, is it good enough to get us to where we need to go? To me, the answer is no.”
Treliving has never been afraid to make changes to his roster, but it has always been under the umbrella of “making our team better”. But Treliving’s direct quote of “we have to make some changes to our team” is the first time this team’s architect has admitted modifications are a necessity. And, it’s pretty clear Treliving is talking about changes to his core group of players.
“Ultimately until a core group wins, there will always be those questions,” Treliving said. “As I look at our team right now, you know, I think probably for the first time since I’ve been here, we really have to look at that. I think we’re going to have some hard conversations about where we go with the group.”
Now comes the hard part. I think we all agree some sort of change is vital, even if there are differing opinions as to what extent. But few, if any, of Calgary’s assets are at peak value coming off a frustrating season, which raises the likelihood of making a bad trade. It’s something Treliving and the Flames will be very aware of as they attempt to make the change, or changes, anticipated this summer.
Johnny Gaudreau would like to re-sign
Following last summer’s exit from the bubble, Gaudreau stated his desire to stay in Calgary for the rest of his career. He also publicly refuted a long-held belief he wants to eventually play somewhere closer to home. Officially eligible to sign an extension later this summer, Gaudreau doubled down on those sentiments when asked about re-signing with the Flames long-term.
“If (Treliving) and the owners are happy with the way I’ve played here the past six, seven years, then it’s something we can figure out this upcoming summer,” Gaudreau said. “I would love to do that. I love the city of Calgary, I love playing here. I don’t think I’ve ever not once said I haven’t wanted to be here.
“The guys in the locker room are great and I’ve always enjoyed my time here. If that’s something that, you know, comes up this summer, it’s something I’d be very willing to do and try to get done.”
I don’t believe this is lip service from Gaudreau. Everything I’ve been led to believe over the last few months suggests Gaudreau and his family are keen to sign again in Calgary. Treliving confirmed as such on Thursday when he stated Johnny has expressed to him “his desire to be here.”
I know there are skeptics who suggest Johnny is just saying this because he has to or because it’s what he’s supposed to say. I don’t buy it. I’ve heard numerous players tiptoe around similar questions over the years and come nowhere close to what Gaudreau has said the last two off-seasons.
I’ve never understood the “Johnny wants to leave” narrative, myself, despite its persistence going back to his time at Boston College. He signed with the Flames in 2014 instead of going back for a senior year, which would have opened up his UFA loophole. He then signed a six-year extension two years later. And he’s now stated twice, on the record, he wants to stay in Calgary for the long run.
If you didn’t already, it’s probably time to take Johnny at face value.
Mark Giordano knows an expansion decision is coming
In what is becoming a rapidly growing elephant in the room, Giordano’s status for this summer’s expansion draft came up for the first time Thursday. The Flames have three spots they can use on four candidate defencemen: Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, and Rasmus Andersson. Turning 38 to start next season, the captain’s case to be protected is understandably in question.
“I guess we’ll circle back in the next couple weeks on that,” Giordano said after admitting he and Treliving broached the topic in their exit interview. “For me it’s pretty obvious as a player there’s going to be certain situations…we’re going to have to talk about. But as far as personally, I mean, I’ve been here my whole career and I love it here. Obviously I still want to be here next here.”
Reading between the lines, it feels like Giordano isn’t interested in being made vulnerable to Seattle. He also knows the decision is largely out of his hands. But this is a complicated one. Giordano is second all-time on the franchise list for games played, trailing only Jarome Iginla, and is going on a decade as captain. In saying that, Giordano understand this is a business, as does the general manager.
“Him and I have spoken about that, we’ll keep that internal for now,” Treliving said. “I’ve had the good fortune to be around good leaders in my career and I’d put him at the top of the list. But there is a business side of this and we’ll sit down as a group and make some decisions as we get closer to the expansion draft.”
It’s clear exposing Giordano is something the Flames have discussed. What that looks like remains to be seen, though. Maybe they work a side deal so the Kraken select someone else. Or maybe they roll the dice and actually leave Giordano vulnerable. It’s one of the biggest offseason stories to watch play out over the coming weeks and months.