Steinberg’s Slant: The best of both worlds

A baseball player holding a bat on a field

It’s not often you get to have your cake and eat it too. But for the Calgary Flames, their approach to the 2015 trade deadline allows them just that luxury. The Flames made two moves leading up this year’s deadline, and while neither upgraded the team in the immediacy, their overall approach was an important one to take. As a result, Calgary gets to enjoy a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

So how did they do that? In my eyes, it’s pretty simple. On the one hand, the Flames didn’t mortgage their future by paying exorbitant prices for quick fixes. On the other, they stockpiled more assets going forward while making a pair of deals they felt needed to happen. All the while, this was done with one simple message: the playoffs are still within reach, so go get the job done with the group that has gotten this far.

From an outside perspective, I guess you could say Calgary played the role of the traditional “seller” at this year’s deadline. They traded Curtis Glencross to Washington and Sven Baertschi to Vancouver, getting only draft picks in return. But those two deals happened as much out of necessity as anything else.

It became clear a few weeks ago that a parting of the ways between Glencross and the Flames was the likely way to go. He was admittedly frustrated with his role, and the two sides were on different pages when it came to a contract extension. In Baertschi’s case, the organization was told the player wasn’t keen on returning at the end of his expiring contract, so they made a quick pivot and brought an asset back in return. Both moves seemingly needed to happen, and they did.

I understand those who were slightly frustrated to see the team not bring in any help to address what’s happening right now. Seeing your team in the teeth of a playoff battle, and knowing team captain Mark Giordano is done for the season, it’s only natural to think about making some immediate upgrades. But knowing the asking prices that defined the deadline market, the Flames made the right call to pass.

Don’t get me wrong; I firmly believed General Manager Brad Treliving tried to give his team a boost in the now. But when you take a look at what names like Keith Yandle, Braydon Coburn, Antoine Vermette and Chris Stewart brought their former teams in return, I understand why he pumped the brakes. For whatever reason, prices were astronomically high, and unless you’re truly a team that is a player or two away from winning a Cup, paying them this year didn’t make a ton of sense.

By not investing the future assets they would have needed to make some of these moves, Calgary also showed how important the long-term picture is. The Flames want to be a team who is a perennial, high-end contender for a number of seasons consecutively. Had they bought into this market, they would have potentially, if not likely, done damage to that trajectory. Is it better to keep on building for sustained success? Or is going all in for a short-term glory run with no guarantees the way to go? I lean towards the former each and every time.

It’s also important to point out that the Flames came away with pretty solid assets. Two more second round picks and an additional third rounder gives this team some trade chips come the summer time. Or it allows them to pick three more players who could possibly help this team a few years down the road. That’s nothing to scoff at, and it shows how important the whole pie is, as opposed to just one piece of it.

There’s one other thing to remember here, too. Even if you are frustrated seeing the team not upgrade for this season’s stretch drive, it’s not as if management has thrown in the towel. Yes, Calgary has traded Glencross, but that looked to be happening regardless of the situation the Flames were in. Otherwise, they kept things status quo at the NHL level.

You’re telling me the Flames couldn’t have gotten great value by trading established players like Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell, or Mikael Backlund? Of course they could have, but by doing that, they’d hurt their chances for right now. I doubt moves involving players like that were ever considered, because brass does want to see this team make the playoffs.

By sticking with the roster as it is right now, the message can be a positive one, too. That message would be “we believe in you, and we believe in this group.” In hearing from players the last couple of days, I would suggest that message has been received loud and clear.

In the end, the Flames decided not to pay through the nose for players that could help the roster for the stretch run. They made two trades they felt needed to happen, and got solid value in doing so. By doing so, and by not giving up on the group as it’s assembled right now, they kept one eye on the future and the other on right now. I truly believe Calgary got the best of both worlds at this year’s trade deadline.

Previous Flames Today: 04.03.15
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