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Flames GM Treliving approaches deadline with caution

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames have put first-year general manager Brad Treliving in a bit of a jam.

In just the second season of a full-on rebuild, the upstart Flames are pushing for a Stanley Cup Playoffs spot in the Western Conference, limiting the GM from declaring his team as full-on buyers or sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2.

"We're making up new terminology," Treliving told "We're in a stage here where the play of our team has put us in a position that you'd like to help. You'd like to be able to help for our stretch drive. Having said that, you also want to be careful and cautious of the type of … whether it be young players, young prospects, draft picks … that you expose in a situation like this. We're like everybody else. We're listening."

Deadlocked at 68 points with the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, Treliving's Flames are one point behind the Minnesota Wild for the second of two wild-card spots in the West and ninth overall in the conference with a 32-23-4 record. But while the Flames sit just three points behind the Vancouver Canucks for second in the Pacific Division, they're only five points up on both the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche with 20 games remaining.

And while exceeding expectations in an inherited rebuild has delighted Treliving, it's also given him reason to pause with the deadline looming. He might not have planned to see his team pushing for the postseason at this point in the season when hired nearly 11 months ago.

"No question this team has overachieved from where if you would've asked me last April, but there's always been a belief here, just in the group that we had, there was a spirit to this group," Treliving said. "Part of our culture here is to overachieve. To date we've done those things, but we haven't accomplished anything in February.

"We have not accomplished the goal at this point, but we put ourselves in the mix. We've made these next six, seven weeks important, meaningful and exciting for our group.

"Where we're at right now … we're right in a playoff fight. When you're in those types of situations you want to help to do some things that can help your chances to get in. It's repetitive, but it all comes down to a cost analysis. What's the cost of these things?"

It's the group Treliving is mindful of.

And if costs don't fall in line to his liking, Treliving might be content with being a bystander.

"It's not a foregone conclusion that we do anything," Treliving said. "You have to be very careful this time of the year. There's excitement around it. There's the desire to help your team, but you can't lose focus on the bigger picture here, and that's we don't intend to impact our organization moving forward for something that may or may not help us in the short term.

"If we get to the deadline and do nothing, part of that is the belief in the group that we have here."

Adding or subtracting is up for debate.

Expensive rentals, however, aren't.

"We do want to help our team, but it won't be at the expense of a long-term vision here," he said. "When we look at A-type assets -- first-round picks, top young prospects -- we just don't have that appetite. Our base isn't such right now that we can start moving those out the door for what amounts to a potential solution in terms of players on expiring contracts or pending UFAs.

"I talk about A-assets, that's just a non-starter for us. If there's a market that we can do things outside of that group of players or picks or prospects, we'll be happily ready to see if there's a fit for us. Those to me are just things as an organization we don't have an appetite for."

There's an appetite for the playoffs, though, a place Calgary hasn't been since the 2008-09 season.

Balancing that with a long-range plan has been Treliving's task up to now, and will include up to what he projects to be a tough deadline to read.

"You win a game and you can exhale for a day, and you lose a game and you wonder if you're ever going to win again," Treliving said. "Teams are judging on a daily basis of whether they're going to be in or if they're going to be out and how that affects which player may or may not be available.

"You're a weekend from being fourth and a weekend away from being 12th. Outside a couple teams in the West, every team is right in the mix. You talk to a manager on Monday and he's feeling great. We're all the same way. You lose one and the world's coming to an end. You win one and you're able to breathe that day. It's tight. It's tight."

It's tight.

It's tough.

But there's plenty of time left on the clock too for Treliving and his 29 counterparts.

"As much as we think we're right up on the deadline, in hockey days, there's still lots of time left," he said. "There's lots of games to be played between now and the deadline and that will impact how much business gets done."

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