With the future of his three biggest stars in question, Brad Treliving felt comfortable setting the record straight on one of them Monday.
Asked if a rumour suggesting Matthew Tkachuk wanted a trade was accurate, the Flames GM chuckled at the source.
“You know where that came from?” asked Treliving of recent speculation offered up by former Flames defenceman Shane O’Brien, who told Sirius XM’s Steve Kouleas, “I heard Tkachuk wants out of Calgary.”
“There’s nothing to it,” added Treliving in a phone call Monday.
Treliving wasn’t nearly as forthcoming when asked about Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano.
Sportsnet has learned the Flames and Gaudreau’s agent, Lewis Gross, have started talks with an eye on a possible contract extension past next season.
Gaudreau reiterated in his season-ending Zoom call he’d like to sign with the Flames long-term, which he is eligible to do July 28 – the same day the 27-year-old has a no-trade clause that kicks in, limiting the number of teams the Flames could trade him to in the final year of his deal to five clubs of his choosing.
Thus, there’s a school of thought suggesting the Flames either need to extend him or trade him before that date.
Treliving wouldn’t delve into the Gaudreau situation, but did address the notion that someone from his core group of underachieving players needs to be traded this summer to effect significant change.
“You can stand on the rooftop and say, ‘We want to change,’ but it takes two to tango for that too – you need to find a dance partner,” said Treliving, who has touched base with colleagues around the league to gauge interest in a raft of his players coming off disappointing seasons.
“I’m certainly open to exploring any avenue available to make our team better. We didn’t meet the expectations we had of our team, so we’ve got to look at how we can make it better.”
One player likely on his way out is Giordano, who is the prime candidate to be snapped up by Seattle in next week’s expansion draft.
The loss of the team’s top defender certainly won’t make the Flames a more competitive club. Quite the contrary. But does it make any sense to pay the sort of ransom the Kraken would be looking for to avoid ending Giordano’s storybook run in Calgary, where he is beloved as a captain and community leader?
Giordano is well aware he won’t be protected ahead of defencemen Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, saying at his exit interviews he would have to have some “adult conversations” with Treliving leading up to the submission of protected lists this Saturday.
Those chats have been ongoing.
“I’m not going to get into any of those conversations — those are between Gio and I,” said Treliving, who is in a tough spot having to either lose his best defenceman or pay upwards of a first- or second-rounder to keep him.
“As we get towards putting in lists and all the rest of it we communicate to our guys the way we normally would. Him and I have had a lot of conversations. We’ll see where everything goes here in the next little bit. I’ve kept Gio apprised of stuff and we talk often. That’s not anything new. With the expansion stuff, we’ll see how all that plays out. Sometimes you’ve got to make tough calls.”
Indeed, this will require one of the toughest, given Giordano’s age (37) and all he’s meant to the team and city.
Seattle will name its roster with great fanfare July 21. It’s likely Giordano will be front and centre that day.
In other business, Treliving confirmed he has re-signed assistant GMs Craig Conroy, Brad Pascall and Chris Snow. On Monday he named his head coach in Stockton, Mitch Love.
“That job is a development job and I think he’s going to do really well at it because of his personality and attention to detail and his ability to communicate and connect with guys,” said Treliving, who recalls Love from his junior and minor league hockey days when the undersized winger was well-respected for many things, including his fearlessness in fighting players much bigger than him.
“He’s demanding. He’s got an ‘it’ factor.”
Love has also spent time coaching Canada’s Under-17 and Under-18 teams, as well as the country’s last two world junior team entries where he worked with Flames first-rounders Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier. Both youngsters will play for the 37-year-old Love this season.
Treliving is still hard at work trying to sign one more experienced forward to satisfy the league’s expansion requirements for exposed players.
The expectation is that player will be rugged winger Brett Ritchie, a camp addition last year at the league minimum, who became a favourite of Darryl Sutter’s.