On Friday, the Calgary Flames bought out Michael Stone. The move was the sixth buyout conducted by general manager Brad Treliving since joining the Flames. But while the number of buyouts sounds daunting, the circumstances surrounding them are all fairly varied.
Originally acquired in a trade with Colorado in 2013, O’Brien had a rather blah 2013-14 season with just three assists in 45 games before being booted to the AHL. With a $2 million cap hit, it didn’t take much thought before Treliving cut ties and bought him out in the summer of 2014 rather than having a big ticket veteran clogging up the AHL for another season.
This one is sort of defensible. During Treliving’s first summer as GM (2014), he signed Raymond to a three year deal with a $3.15 million cap hit. Raymond was coming off a one year deal with Toronto where he had 19 goals and 45 points, and the concept was that signing Raymond would buy the Flames’ prospects some time.
During Raymond’s first season in Calgary, rookie Johnny Gaudreau had as many goals (24) as Raymond had points (23). The following season Raymond continued to slide down the rotation as Sam Bennett joined the team full-time, resulting in Raymond being demoted to the AHL midway through the year. As with O’Brien, it didn’t make much sense to have Raymond spend the final season of his deal in the AHL so he was bought out.
A third round pick back in 2008 (when Darryl Sutter was GM), Bouma broke into the NHL and became a regular during Jay Feaster’s regime. During Brad Treliving’s first season, Bouma exploded for 16 goals and 34 points – playing primarily on a line with Mikael Backlund and David Jones and with a personal five-on-five shooting percentage of 16.4%. He signed a three year deal with a $2.2 million cap hit and had five goals over his next two (injury-filled) seasons combined.
Faced with an expensive depth player, Treliving bought him out in the summer of 2017 (and probably vowed to avoid giving a big raise to anybody who played with Backlund during a breakout season).
This one’s pretty simple: Carolina was likely going to buy Murphy out, but instead threw him into a trade with Calgary where the Flames were getting Eddie Lack to back up Mike Smith in the summer of 2017. Since the Flames likely have better cashflow than Carolina did, the logic was likely “You want Lack? Well, take Murphy, too.” Murphy was a Flame for less than a day.
Coming off a few lengthy playoff runs, the Flames targeted Brouwer in free agency and gave him a four year deal with a $4.5 million cap hit – surely this gritty veteran could help put the team over the top with his veteran grittiness. Unfortunately, Brouwer never really fit with the team’s skill players.
After back-to-back seasons playing in the bottom six and putting up 20-ish points, Treliving pulled the ripcord and bought out the final two sesons.
- O’Brien was a problem that Treliving inherited.
- Murphy was a player thrown into a trade that made some sense (and his buyout wasn’t that substantial all things considered).
- Raymond was a decent enough bet, except that the young players that he was meant to buy time for suddenly lapped him and made him superfluous. (This is arguably what happened with Stone, too.)
- Bouma was Treliving misjudging what was making a player successful – we’ve discussed the “Backlund bump” here extensively, and that’s what it was.
- Brouwer was a bad fit, as Treliving overpaid for an attribute (veteran grit!) and then had to watch as Brouwer’s playing style and age caught up with him and relegated him to the bottom six.
Overpaying for grit is a problematic tendency that we’ve seen crop up with Treliving a few times during his tenure – Brouwer, Deryk Engelland and James Neal so far – and hopefully his buyouts and the Lucic trade will temper that tendency a bit.