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Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving watches the action during a team scrimmage game in Calgary on July 24, 2020.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Though it certainly wasn’t the off-season that the Calgary Flames general manager was hoping for – those involve parades, and they aren’t generally held for NHL teams that exit the playoffs after the second round – as far as Brad Treliving is concerned, he did his job.

During a six-day period in July, Treliving stared down potential disaster. First, 40-goal scorer Johnny Gaudreau took less money to sign as an unrestricted free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets; and second, when 42-goal scorer, Matthew Tkachuk, informed Calgary he wouldn’t be signing an extension with the team entering the final year of his own deal.

As far as double whammies go, this had the potential to gut this iteration of the Flames, one that was good enough to produce 50 wins and the second-best regular season in team history, before falling to the Edmonton Oilers in five games in the Western Conference semi-final.

Through it all, though, Treliving stuck to his guns, refusing to wave the white flag. Instead he went to work – some might say he used a magic wand – and emerged with his team, on paper, looking just as well equipped to plan another assault on Lord Stanley’s promised land this season.

“The emotion is disappointment initially, but then you know, that’s the job,” Treliving said. “The job is you face challenging situations and it’s your job to deal with them.”

Entering his ninth season as an NHL GM – all spent with the Flames – it can be argued that the stoical 53-year-old dealt with the situation he found himself in as well – or better – than anyone could have reasonably expected. Though he lost Gaudreau for nothing as a UFA, he quickly turned his attention to maximizing the return for Tkachuk, and accommodating the winger’s wishes to be traded to one of a small handful of U.S.-based teams with which he was open to signing a long-term extension.

“He’s a hell of a player, a top player,” Treliving said of Tkachuk. “So that’s a big asset for us … there’s challenges with what, you know, his contract was. He had one year left. But he’s still a really good player and you try to work the market as best you possibly can.”

As it happens, the Florida Panthers were working through their own contractual quandaries with left winger Jonathan Huberdeau and defenceman MacKenzie Weegar both entering the final years of their own deals. Florida was one of the destinations that Tkachuk and his agent, Craig Oster of Newport Sports, had indicated they would be open to signing with, and so, once the Panthers had thrown in a conditional 2025 first-round pick and prospect Cole Schwindt, a deal was reached.

While the deal helped fill some of the holes left by Gaudreau and Tkachuk – Huberdeau tied Gaudreau for second in NHL scoring with 115 points last year, while Weegar chipped in with 44 from the blueline – Treliving didn’t yet know if either would be open to staying in Calgary long term. Worse, he was potentially opening himself up to another situation where, like Gaudreau, the players could leave for nothing at the end of the year.

But a quick business trip to Montreal to sell Huberdeau on his organization over dinner seemed to do the trick – the winger promptly signed an eight-year, US$84-million extension less than two weeks after the trade. And while Weegar, who projects as a top-pair defenceman for the Flames, remains unsigned, Treliving says that both sides “are really engaged” in trying to get something done soon.

“When we evaluated it, we looked at it said, ‘Okay, the guys at the top of the food chain are Jonathan and MacKenzie coming our way. We think they’re top-end players. We want to sign them. That’s our intent. That’s our whole goal.’”

Given that Treliving had identified upgrading the top-four defence as one of his two big priorities heading into the off-season – before the Gaudreau/Tkachuk bombshell landed on his doorstep – the acquisition of Weegar certainly beefs up the Flames rearguard in front of Vézina Trophy finalist Jacob Markstrom.

The other area of concern for the Calgary GM was down the middle of the ice. While Elias Lindholm enjoyed a breakout season for the Flames centring Gaudreau and Tkachuk, registering career highs in both goals (42) and points (82), Calgary’s offence was arguably too top heavy, with that top line accounting for 42.3 per cent of the team’s regular-season goals.

So when Nazem Kadri hit the market early in free agency, Treliving naturally reached out to him to express interest. However, with everything going on with the team’s own free agents, he also admitted to the newly minted Stanley Cup champion that he couldn’t do anything until he had resolved what was happening closer to home, as well as finding the cap space to sign the former Toronto Maple Leafs pivot.

As a long-time admirer of Kadri, and as someone who had tried unsuccessfully to trade for the centre before the Leafs traded him to the Avalanche in 2019, Treliving decided to roll the dice for a player who averaged almost a point a game for Colorado in this year’s playoffs.

After trading long-time Flame Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens to open up cap space, the Flames promptly inked Kadri to a seven-year, US$49-million deal.

As both head coach Darryl Sutter and Treliving like to say, you can never have too many Stanley Cup champions on your roster, and they’ve made good on that promise with the signing of Kadri to complement the likes of Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman, Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis.

Having been rebuffed by Kadri in the past, Treliving can see the positives of where his team is now, in that it has become a destination of choice for free agents who are prioritizing winning as much as dollars and cents.

“He’s a real competitive guy so that makes you feel good that he feels that the team is in a position that they can have that success,” he says. “Now we’ve got to go out and prove him right.”

After reawakening the Battle of Alberta in last year’s playoffs, and achieving just the second best-of-seven series victory since finishing one win short of the Stanley Cup in 2004, the Flames and their GM are certainly entitled to feel hopeful heading into the new season.

But as diligent as Treliving and his staff have been, drawing plaudits from fans and fellow executives alike for the Summer of Brad – as some media have coined it – the Penticton, B.C., native knows that the real work starts now.

“The summer is the summer,” Treliving said. “We haven’t done anything now. … We’re excited about the people that have joined us. But now we’ve got to worry about the next step is building a team and seeing how all the pieces fit.”