If Brad Treliving was anything like he is now back when he was in school, he probably pretended not to hear his teachers say “pencils down” at the end of exams. As general manager of the Calgary Flames, he’s frequently stated he doesn’t need to have everybody signed until the season begins and his actions have backed that up.

Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane remain unsigned. Since he’s been a GM, Treliving has re-signed nine restricted free agents in mid August… or later.

Lance Bouma (Aug. 27, 2014)

At the time, Bouma was coming off a one year, two way “show me” deal. He ended up spending the entire 2013-14 season as a bottom six NHLer and it was unclear precisely what he would become. The 2014 negotiation wasn’t terribly contentious – he signed a one year, one way $775,000 deal (and then tripled his goal production) – and the wait was more of a product of Treliving spending his first summer figuring out the Flames’ organizational needs.

Micheal Ferland (Sept. 10, 2015)

Ferland’s wait-and-see deal was fairly similar to Bouma’s situation. Ferland had finished off his entry level deal with a great flourish, working his way into the NHL and playing a key role in the Flames’ 2015 playoff run. But at the time of the negotiation, he had 26 NHL games (and zero full NHL seasons) on his resume and it was a bit of a challenge to project his development. (The Flames were also working on an extension for captain Mark Giordano during that summer, so Ferland slid down the priority list a bit.) Ferland ended up signing a two year, one way deal with an $825,000 cap hit.

Tyler Wotherspoon (Aug. 16, 2016)

Wotherspoon’s ELC ended and he had all of 26 NHL games under his belt – via call-ups in each of his three pro seasons. He had established himself as a decent depth player, but he hadn’t really blown the doors off at the NHL level. With an unclear path forward and a small sample size, he ended up getting a one year, two way deal at league minimum ($625,000) with a high AHL salary.

Sean Monahan (Aug. 19, 2016)

Coming off an impressive ELC performance that saw him force his way into a first line gig, Monahan was arguably the first big test of Treliving’s mettle as a manager. Coming off three 20+ goal seasons and back-to-back 60+ point campaigns, Monahan had been established as very good. After some prolonged negotiations, Monahan signed a seven year deal with a $6.375 million cap hit.

Johnny Gaudreau (Oct. 10, 2016)

The Monahan negotiation was tough, but you could point to some recently-signed deals for centers and go “Yeah, something like that would make sense for Monahan.” (Nathan MacKinnon and Mark Scheifele signed the month prior.) But Gaudreau was a bit of a unicorn – a player with a small sample size, flashes of brilliance and likely untapped potential. With no clear market comparables, Treliving dug his heels in and eventually managed to hammer out a six year, $6.75 million AAV deal on the eve of the regular season. (Scuttlebutt is that Gaudreau balked at missing games and told his agent to take the deal that was on the table.)

Brett Kulak (Aug. 28, 2017)

Coming off his ELC, Kulak had played 30 NHL games split across three seasons. He hadn’t score a goal yet, but had increased the length of his NHL stints in each season. Like Wotherspoon, he was given a one year, two way deal with a league minimum NHL salary ($650,000) and a high AHL rate on a “show me” basis.

Wotherspoon, again (Sept. 5, 2017)

A year after waiting for a “show me” deal, Wotherspoon had four additional NHL outings and suddenly the Flames had a trio of younger defenders knocking on the door in Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki. Kulak was also there and had a little bit more dynamism in his game. Wotherspoon got another “show me” deal with a league minimum NHL salary.

Sam Bennett (Sept. 6, 2017)

Coming off his ELC, Bennett had two full NHL seasons under his belt (and two pretty good playoff appearances) but it was unclear what precisely he was at the big league level. Was he a 30-point guy or a 40-point guy? (Or neither?) He ended up signing a two year deal with a $1.95 million AAV as a longer term “show me” pact.

Noah Hanifin (Aug. 30, 2018)

Coming off his ELC (and a trade with the Hurricanes) after three full NHL seasons, Hanifin’s delay was more a matter of Treliving having a few different things on his plate to hammer out – Elias Lindholm also needed a deal. Hanifin ended up inking a six year deal with a $4.95 million cap hit.

Let’s break it down

The players here fall into two general groups:

  • Players where it’s clear that they’re quite good. (Monahan, Gaudreau and Hanifin.)
  • Players where it’s not clear how good they are yet. (Everybody else.)

The other common denominator? The nine August/September/October signings by Treliving were all RFAs without arbitration rights. Heck, Gaudreau couldn’t even be given an offer sheet. In these situations, the player really doesn’t have any leverage besides waiting – the same thing the GM can do. And when the season looms and the only available option to the player is missing camp, games and paycheques, typically something tends to give.

Neither Tkachuk or Mangiapane had arbitration rights this summer. It’s obvious that Tkachuk is a gamer after three full NHL seasons, but like with Monahan it seems like Treliving (and every other GM with a significant RFA) is waiting for a clear market to emerge. Mangiapane, on the other hand, falls into the other category – he’ll get a short term “show me” deal as he continues to establish himself.