NHL

GM Treliving mulls what's best for his Cup-contending Flames ahead of trade deadline

This season's Flames are having arguably the franchise's best season since Calgary won the Stanley Cup in 1989. So any moves Flames GM Brad Treliving does, or doesn't make, by Monday's deadline will be heavily analyzed.

'You can bring something in. It better be better than what you have'

With his Calgary Flames a Cup contender, GM Brad Treliving knows any moves he makes prior to Monday's trade deadline will be heavily scrutinized. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

This season's Flames are having arguably the franchise's best season since Calgary won the Stanley Cup in 1989.

Duking it out with the San Jose Sharks atop the Western Conference, the Flames are on pace to open the playoffs with home-ice advantage for the first time since 2006.

So any moves Flames general manager Brad Treliving does, or doesn't make, by Monday's deadline will be heavily analyzed.

"There's always pressure and scrutiny," Treliving told media Wednesday in Calgary. "You guys do a good job of that.

"One thing that shouldn't be lost here is we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but we're in a good spot based upon the group that's been here to date. Let's not lose sight of that.

"If we can help ourselves at a cost that makes sense, we're not taking out young core players ... for a quick fix or a quick rental player. If there's something there we think can help this team, we're certainly going to try our best to do that."

The GM also doesn't want to mess with a chemistry that has worked to this point in the season.

"With players, they all want 'yeah, go get us a player, but it shouldn't really cut into my ice time,"' Treliving said. "You have to manage that. That's where mix and chemistry come into play. Yeah, you can bring something in. It better be better than what you have or it better be doing a job where the job description is open right now."

Calgary doesn't have prominent job vacancies, however. Any additions may be for insurance against injury given Calgary's heavy schedule until the end of the regular season. The Flames will play a game almost every second day until April 6.

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Minus defencemen Mike Stone (arm blood clot) and Juuso Valimaki (high ankle sprain) since the third week of November, it was thought Calgary's blue line might require trade-deadline tending.

But Stone skated with the Flames, albeit wearing a yellow non-contact jersey, on Wednesday. Valimaki has played nine AHL games with the Stockton Heat since he was assigned there prior to the all-star break.

Neither are expected back in the Flames lineup immediately. But the duo have been out so long — a combined 63 man games — that their eventual reintegration would feel like adding assets for Treliving.

"What it does do is give us more depth," Treliving said. "It goes a little bit into the equation of what we may do."

Three of Calgary's current top six defencemen are 22, 22 and 21 years of age. Treliving gave reasons for and against injecting more experience into the blue line.

Mike Stone, right, appears close to returning to the Calgary Flames defence after sitting out since November with a blood clot in his arm. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

"Playoff games, if we're fortunate enough to get there, experience matters," he acknowledged. "Just because a guy has a bunch of years in the league doesn't necessarily mean he's better than what you've got here."

"It speaks well to the depth of our defence with how young they are. But we're cognizant these are young guys that haven't played a playoff game and those are all things we've got to weigh."

While it's difficult to say which goaltender would start in the post-season, David Rittich and Mike Smith have been an effective tandem that hasn't given the Flames reason to go shopping for replacements.

Ranked No. 2 in the NHL in goalscoring behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary's third and fourth lines have produced lately to take pressure off the top trio of to Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm.

Not so much a trade-deadline question as a season-long one, winger James Neal has underperformed with just five goals in 55 games. Signed to a five-year, US$28.75-million contract last summer, Neal was toiling on Calgary's third line before an upper-body injury knocked him out of the lineup last week.

Neal won't play before next week, when he'll be re-evaluated, Treliving said.

"We expect James back. Certainly it's not a season-ending thing where we feel we're not going to have use of the player at some point," the GM said. "In that regard, it doesn't really change things. We're still looking to see if there's ways to help ourselves."

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