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'HOW CAN WE GET BETTER'

Flames assistant GM Brad Pascall says the team's single-minded focus over the next 72 hours - and beyond - revolves around that simple mantra

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / calgaryflames.com

VANCOUVER - By now, Brad Pascall must feel like an extra in Seinfeld's fifth season, when a down-in-the-dumps George Costanza makes a startling revelation. 

"If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right," a reclusive Jerry so brutally reminds. 

Chicken salad or tuna on toast?

It is, after all, the most appropriate summary of the annual NHL Draft news cycle. 

That nothing is ever certain.

"Expect it to be busy? It's slow. Expect it to be slow? It gets crazy," laughed Pascall, the Flames' fifth-year assistant GM, from the team's headquarters in downtown Vancouver. 

As much as the draft is about selecting the next wave of future NHL stars, the Flames have developed a reputation as some of the biggest movers and shakers.

Last year, and without a first-round choice to parlay as a possible bargaining chip, GM Brad Treliving and the team's brain trust turned Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox into Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin on Night 1 of the annual showcase. 

In 2017 Travis Hamonic - along with a fourth-round pick - landed in Calgary for a trio of picks, including the aforementioned first-rounder the Flames were without in 2018. 

From Brian Elliott, Hamilton, and Brandon Bollig the year before, the Flames have been one of the most active teams on the trade front in all five of Treliving's years in the GM role. 

As for what will transpire between now and Friday's first round is anyone's guess, especially with so much of the future financial landscape in limbo. 

 

 

The salary cap is expected to fall somewhere between $81 and 83 million next season, but that figure is still very much a projection until the GM's formally meet here in Vancouver on Thursday. 

Until then, the trade activity around the league is heating up, with several teams already pressed against the cap clearing space to accommodate younger, more cost-effective players in the system. 

The Winnipeg Jets trading 24-year-old defenceman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers and the San Jose acquiring a pair of draft picks for stay-at-home veteran blueliner Justin Braun are the two most recent examples. 

And, with Erik Karlsson signing a monstrous eight-year, $92-million extension to remain with those very same Sharks, there appears to be a market off the blueline. 

"There's no question we've been at the front of the news the past few drafts," Pascall said, "but, I can tell you, that in itself is not a priority for Brad. 

"For everyone in the management group - and Brad, especially - we're always talking about how we can get better. If there's something that pops up over the next few days where we can, we'll definitely look at that.

"We're happy with the team we have. We had a really good season last year - a really, really good season - but there isn't a single one of us in our organization that doesn't feel that we have to be a lot better next year. 

"And we're going to takes all the right steps to ensure that, starting here at the draft."

That doesn't necessarily mean a trade - let alone the kind of blockbuster move that sent shockwaves around the draft floor one year ago - but it certainly does open the possibility. 

Meantime, the Flames enter Friday's first round with five picks to work with, including a first (26th), third, fourth, fifth and seventh-round selection over the two-day event. 

 

 

"There are some good players available in this draft, and there are some really, really good players available in the first round, especially," Pascall said. "So, yes, we're excited about having that pick. 

"The option to take a player that we would be proud to put a Flames jersey on, a player that would make a significant impact on our organizational depth, is terrific.

"So, there's lots to consider - beginning with who that player would be."

The Flames touched down in Vancouver on Tuesday night and began their final set of meetings on Wednesday, shortly before Pascall chatted with Flames.com

There's a buzz of activity around the hotel, where the vast majority of clubs are staying. And, as Pascall said, with all 31 GM's and their entire management team assembled in one setting along the beautiful Pacific seawall, "ideas come out."

"Brad is on the phone constantly talking to other teams," Pascall said. "We'll do anything to make our roster better.

"Of course, there are so limitations to that, but we'll definitely go down with a fight to ensure that we can do it."

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