Monahan - Should he Stay or Should he Go?

Steve Macfarlane
October 18 2013 08:54AM

 

 

Only one thing is certain as debate continues over whether Sean Monahan stays with the Flames past his ninth game or heads back to junior to resume his role as captain of the Ottawa 67s - whatever the Calgary Flames braintrust decides, it will be based on Monahan’s development as a hockey player, and not the team’s financial bottom line. It will have nothing to do with a contract that is at least three years away from being negotiated.

All this talk about sending him back to junior just to avoid burning the first year of his entry-level deal is utter nonsense.

The Flames ownership group is willing to spend to the salary cap ceiling every season. They have only two contracts costing more than $5 million at the moment, and one of those comes off the books this summer.

There’s no reason to look at Monahan as anything but a future cornerstone for the franchise. If the team keeps him and has to shell out big money three years from now instead of four, five, or six, they’ll do it happily — the same way they’ll gladly pay top dollar for T.J. Brodie’s services in two years after inking him to a more affordable bridge deal this offseason.

Money is not an issue. A member of the organization confirmed as much to me this week.

Monahan becoming a money player is the only concern. Hockey is the sole factor in the club’s consideration of what to do with their impressive asset. They will do whatever they believe to be in the best interests of Monahan’s continued development as a key piece of the franchise's future.

That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to stick around this year, though. If general manager Jay Feaster and president of hockey operations Brian Burke — in consultation with their coaching staff — decide that another year dominating at the junior level is better for Monahan in the long run, they won’t hesitate to ship him back to the nation’s capital despite his early success on the scoresheet in the NHL so far.

Early Season Returns

There’s no doubt the sixth-overall draft pick is a long-term keeper. He already looks the part of a professional.

Earning points in the first five games and netting goals in his last four prior to both of those streaks coming to an end in Anaheim Wednesday night, Monahan’s hot start to the season seems to indicate that he can contribute.

Advanced stats don’t necessarily support sustainability right away, but history dictates the kid is pretty clutch when needed most. However, some doubts may finally be creeping in.

The thrill of making the roster out of training camp is wearing off, the travel is getting tougher, and so are the opponents — which means Monahan’s production is bound to level off.

He played a little more than 15 minutes against the Ducks and didn’t take a single faceoff in the dying minutes of the third period with his team trailing by a goal. It was clear head coach Bob Hartley decided to shelter his prospect. That’s all normal for a teenager trying to jump to the NHL from the junior ranks.

These are valuable teaching opportunities at the game’s highest level. There will be plenty more to come this week as we approach the nine-game threshold.

The Ingredients for Success as a Young Player

Strength, intelligence, maturity, skill, mental toughness. physical endurance. Each of these assets contributes to the evaluation of whether or not a young player can hack it in the NHL early on.

At 6-foot-2, 185 lb., Monahan has the physical attributes to withstand a yearlong beating with the big boys. His skill and on-ice intelligence are obvious, as is the maturity he displays in front of and away from the media. He is a young leader in the making.

If he sticks, there will be some serious ups and downs in both his play and the team’s performance. The organization has to decide quickly whether or not he has the mental toughness to withstand the highs and lows of a full season on a potentially struggling squad, without having his confidence and development affected.

There’s also the Sven Baertschi Syndrome to consider. His early success in a brief appearance two seasons ago led to a sense of entitlement for the young Swiss playmaker, and he didn’t work hard enough to duplicate the results last year. He’s come around a little more recently, in part because of his pairing with Monahan. If you chalk up Baertschi’s struggles to mild immaturity, you probably don’t believe that will be an issue with Monahan.

The Decision Within the Decision

If the Flames do keep Monahan for the duration of the season, it doesn’t mean he won’t have a chance to wear the Maple Leaf across his chest at the world junior tournament come Christmas.

Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Brett Connolly, and the Ducks’ Devante Smith-Pelly are a couple of the most recent players to be loaned toe the world junior cause by their NHL clubs.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman didn’t see it as a step back for Connolly.

"It's important for these young guys to play in these big events in pressure games. They make you better,” Yzerman told the St. Petersburg Times at the time. “We still want him here, but what's best for Brett Connolly in the long run is best for us all. I'm confident this is the right thing for him."

The Flames will do the same thing for Monahan’s development, regardless of how it affects the business side of things.

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Former Calgary Sun Flames beat writer who has covered the team for a decade. Opinionated but reasonable, except when it comes to buffets. Follow him on Twitter at @MacfarlaneHKY
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#51 Sean Bennett
October 18 2013, 12:21PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Money is not an issue. A member of the organization confirmed as much to me this week.

Here's the thing - it's not about money, it's about efficiency of spending. The NHL is an efficiency contest under a salary cap - the better value you get out of your players, the better your roster, the more chance you have of winning.

So, in essence, if the Flames keep Monahan this year, they are trading his cheap 18 year old season for a cheap 21 year old season due to the restrictions of the entry-level deal under this CBA. And 21/22 year old Sean Monahan at $1.77M is almost certainly going to be a much better deal than an 18/19 year old Monahan. There's also a much bigger chance the Flames could be competitive in three years time, at which point extra cap space will be a more pressing concern.

Of course, this one decision in and of itself isn't enough to determine the Flames budgetary position down the road. But it's little issues like this that can build incremental value (or expense).

If the Flames determine that his development would be accelerated to a non-trivial degree by sticking around and he'll be a better player both sooner and long-term by staying with the team, then so be it. But for me it's not about whether the club will be able to afford him in general down the road - it's the efficiency of their spending that is the issue.

Yes, this will most definitely be an issue, as around the same time we will have a plethora of other young stars to sign. lol, if only we had that problem.

Yeesh, it's only one guy and we have no other big contracts after this season. If you think that the Flames are a Stanley Cup contender when Monahan turns 22, and they will have tremendous problems not exceeding the salary cap (which will be in excess of 70 million by then), then I can see the validity of your argument. Otherwise, it's a lot of hand-wringing for no reason.

p.s. Monahan is also 11 months older than others drafted before him like Mackinnon and Barkov.

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#52 Johnny Be Gaudreau
October 18 2013, 12:26PM
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@Greg

Yes. If a player plays 40 games it means that it counts as a full accrued season and therefore one year off those required for him to play and become a UFA.

SO a RFA at 18 year old playing 40+ games can become a UFA at 25 versus a RFA at 20/21 cannot become a UFA until 27. I believe it's 7 "accrued seasons" in order to be considered a UFA.

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#53 Johnny Be Gaudreau
October 18 2013, 12:33PM
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SoCalFlamesFan wrote:

I'm not sure if i have read this anywhere: If he were kept up from the OHL could he be sent to the AHL now he's 19?

No. the agreement with the CHL is that because he was drafted into the OHL he has to go back to his junior team I believe. The reason being that the CHL doesn't want the NHL poaching their talent and progressively weakening their league and thus the development of the junior aged players.

Whereas in Pat Sieloff's case. He was not drafted by Windsor, instead he played USHL hockey prior to going there. So the Flames could put him right into the AHL.

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#54 Parallex
October 18 2013, 01:32PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

They had third liners (Versteeg) on 3.5 million dollar contracts, a 7+ million dollar defenceman (Campbell), etc. For every good value contract, they seemed to have a poor value one as well. I also don't think you can structure your salary with the premise that your team is going to land big name free agents - especially not now that cap circumvention has been reduced.

It's better to have and not need then need and not have.

In my mind now that cap circumvention has been reduced it makes managing the cap even more important and they way to go about efficiently managing you cap is not to accelerate the timeline upon which your cost controlled guys get paid.

A cheap 18/19 Year old Sean Monahan is almost certainly not going to make a significantly positive difference to the fortunes of the 2013/2014 Calgary Flames but a cheap 21/22 year old Sean Monahan might make a difference to the 2016/2017 Calgary Flames.

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#55 coachedpotatoe
October 18 2013, 04:15PM
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What's best for his development? Playing in the OHL where he will likely dominate and have stats that are out of this world or playing and practicing everyday against men; for my money the later. Also the Flames could and should release him for the WJC's so they can compare him.

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#56 Johnny Be Gaudreau
October 18 2013, 04:18PM
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@piscera.infada

Exactly. I completely agree. Some kids develop slower than others too. Like Gio. Who knows Keegan Kanzig could turn into the next big deal defenseman or he could turn into the next over sized WHL drafted defenceman that is a typical product of the "meat market" that it is.

but you don't really know until you give the kid a chance.

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#57 negrilcowboy
October 18 2013, 04:43PM
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Johnny Be Gaudreau wrote:

I stand corrected. Thanks!

How is it that Sieloff is able to go to the AHL this season and Monahan is not then? I thought it was something to do with how CHL players are drafted or not drafted.

Are you sure about Sault Greyhounds? According to HockeyDB he played for the USHL dev team? It doesnt' say anything about him being drafted by Sault. And if that is the case say he was drafted never reported and instead played USHL hockey for 2 years. He still goes down as being a Free agent, no?

This sport is so CONFUSING!! :)

seiloff refused to report and was committed to playing ncaa hockey, toiled in the ushl until the windsor spitfires pulled off a mega deal. he suddenly wanted to develop in the windsor system under bobby boughner. it is amazing how 3 franchises in the o, winsor,london and kitchener seem to skirt the chl rules every year. the exception being the spits were caught after back to back mem cup appearances. seiloff was 6th round, 171 th overall to sault ste marie.

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#58 Jeff In Lethbridge
October 19 2013, 04:30PM
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loudogYYC wrote:

90% of the season has yet to be played, Monahan was drafted just 4 months ago and we're in year 1 of a rebuild.

If the Flames can't be patient now, it doesn't bode well for the future when Monahan, Beartschi and all other prospects become established pros with above average NHL salaries. He would probably do ok if he stayed up, but there's no sense in putting 1 players interest ahead of the teams. They already did that with Iginla and it didn't work as wanted. I say send him down after 9.

why send him down? not surei understand you on the why part. is it because of ELC management? or you think it will delay or hurt his development? or he will develop better over the next year in the CHL?? he brings no value in the nhl this year? I am just trying to wrap my head around the send him back idea... seems the two main arguments to send him back are 1 - ELC wizzardry 2 - his development suffers in the NHL

please help me better grasp this send him back ideas...

thanks

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#59 Jeff In Lethbridge
October 19 2013, 04:36PM
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@Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

my guess is that he (&every other rookie) will have sheltered minutes his first full year or 2, or 3.

his minutes will be sheltered this year and if he goes back to jr his minutes will be sheltered next year.

will anotther year in jrs mean he doesnt need sheltering his rookie year? if so send him now dont let him play anymore!!!! :-D

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#60 Greg
October 18 2013, 12:17PM
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One other thought: the 9 game decision isn't the only point you have to make the call of what's best for his development. If they go past 9 games and burn an ELC year, there's nothing stopping them from sending him back to junior should the next ~10 games go horribly wrong. You just have to think through what that says to the player and how it impacts his development (although I suspect they'd react to that better than just getting held back by a 9 game rule).

I'd read somewhere there's another "40 game" clause where the season then counts as an "accrued year" towards FA eligibility? So maybe you burn a cheap ELC year, but you still retain his rights longer? Can anyone comment on that?

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#61 SoCalFlamesFan
October 18 2013, 12:30PM
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I'm not sure if i have read this anywhere: If he were kept up from the OHL could he be sent to the AHL now he's 19?

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#62 Parallex
October 18 2013, 01:01PM
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@Greg

But that's the thing... we're not a long way from having to worry about that, we're just three games away from having to make a choice that may affect it.

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#63 Parallex
October 18 2013, 01:39PM
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Purple Hazze wrote:

Actually if the Hawks didn't have Brian Campbell signed to that horrible contract it wouldn't have mattered if Kane/Towes were on ELC's or not.

Brian Campbell's contract is the reason the Hawks had to dismantle their 2010 cup team. If the Flames can avoid those types of contracts once they start to become competitive it won't matter what year Monahan's ELC expires.

But almost no team (no team with money anyways) completely avoids those types of contracts. IMO we can't expect perfection from any front office (to say nothing of this front office... this is Feaster and Burke we're talking about here). In other words that's a big honking "If". :)

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#64 @TACOcurt
October 18 2013, 03:18PM
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I have flip flopped a few times on which direction Monahan should go. I am now back to sending him down. sure he won't be playing against nhl caliber competition but we kind of have an idea at what we have. A-the benefit is he will (should) be bigger and stronger as a starter next year. B-he will get to be on gold medal junior team and maybe build some chemistry with poirer.C- it will save his elc (frankly I don't care when we pay him) D- most importantly we are not making the playoffs with or without Monahan so with him out of the line up this gives the organization to let colburne play better minutes, bring up some of the kids fromm abby and actually see what knight or horack or Reinhardt actually have and what they can contribute to the team.

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#65 calgary candle
October 18 2013, 04:13PM
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Greg wrote:

I agree the future looks much brighter than in years past, but I think we have to assume a non-trivial number of our current prospects won't pan out. Excluding the blue-chip guys (Brodie, Monahan, Baertschi), I would be surprised if we got more than 2 quality NHLers at each position out of the guys you listed.

Here's who I think have shown through prospect camp, or college play or major junior performance that they can play in the NHL:

Wotherspoon, Sieloff, Ramage, Knight, Arnold, Hanowski, Agostino, Klimchuk, Berra, Gillies. There are also several maybes: Jooris, Colborne, Ferlund.

If you read this posting I'm curious which ones you disagree with? I have 12 rather than six.

That seems like the basis of an extremely strong core which you add in the three blue chips you listed.

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#66 Johnny Be Gaudreau
October 18 2013, 04:13PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

Seiloff was actually a 6th round pick of the sault greyhounds, however expressed he would not show. windsor executed a lopsided deal with the hounds in which jack campbell was traded for the rights to seiloff as well as numerous numerous picks. a huge coup for boogie,jonesy and staff as seiloff was poised to play ncaa puck. this trade and other impropreities lead to the spits being investigated and found guilty of violations. the london knights rule the ohl, the hunters must have pics of commiss branche doin something. examine the london rosters it would be the only place for monzie to develop. without my old buddie brian kilrea coaching the 67s sending the kid back is a step backwards.

I stand corrected. Thanks!

How is it that Sieloff is able to go to the AHL this season and Monahan is not then? I thought it was something to do with how CHL players are drafted or not drafted.

Are you sure about Sault Greyhounds? According to HockeyDB he played for the USHL dev team? It doesnt' say anything about him being drafted by Sault. And if that is the case say he was drafted never reported and instead played USHL hockey for 2 years. He still goes down as being a Free agent, no?

This sport is so CONFUSING!! :)

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#67 coachedpotatoe
October 18 2013, 04:45PM
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The other factor not discussed much at this point is how close is Stajan to returning and will this factor into the decision? As it sits it could be argued that Monahan is our second best center behind Backs.Do we envision Street, Backs,Colborne and one of Horak/Knight/Jooris or Rhino as our centers for an extended period? For me I have to say he stays.

What about what else is going on in Flames land. The Heat play tonight and Granlund is going to play. Lots of college kids playing to, I was looking at the NCAA schedule and if our college kids perform to expectations then we won't see to many as Flames this year as the Frozen 4 is April 10-12th and the Flames season ends soon after unless there is a miracle.

I'm hoping there is some plan to see some of the other prospects up in Calgary. Who on the big club would not have to clear waivers to make room? After looking at the NHL agreement I think the only ones are Sven and Colborne.

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#68 Parallex
October 18 2013, 08:08PM
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@Jeff In Lethbridge

It`s not the only thing, it`s the main thing but not the only thing. He is not a fully formed adult NHL player... there are things he should get better at and he`s just as able to work on those things at the OHL level on someone else`s dime. He`s not going to be hurt by being sent down but we might be hurt by keeping him up.

I`m not a kid who opens his presents before Christmas for lack of patience. Good things come to those who wait and we`re all better served waiting.

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#69 loudogYYC
October 19 2013, 04:51PM
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@Jeff In Lethbridge

I talked about being patient, that's basically my argument. So far he has shown promise, not dominance. Actually he's never shown dominance at any level yet, so why are we in a rush to keep him in the NHL when he has a chance of becoming dominant in the OHL/WJC/Memorial Cup.

ELC management is important, as we can't predict who will earn what in the future, but by now it's pretty clear that cap flexibility is as important as having the money to spend in the first place. Have a look at Philadelphia, Toronto and shortly Edmonton. They have the cash to spend, but not the permission per se, they shot themselves in the foot by not being patient and it reeks of poor management.

Make more sense?

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