Mark Giordano: The New Deal


Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving says the team’s number one priority this summer is securing a contract extension for captain Mark Giordano. Turning 32 in October, Giordano is Calgary’s best player and has entered the very top tier of defencemen in this league. But what truly is fair when it comes to Gio’s next contract? While it’s not FDR’s nation shaping plan during the Great Depression, The New Deal for the captain is as significant a negotiation the Flames have had in quite some time.

Because Giordano has taken such an odd career path, this contract negotiation is similarly strange. A late bloomer to begin with, Giordano has enjoyed his two best seasons by far at the ages of 30 and 31. Because of that, the Flames are likely approaching a new deal with caution knowing that it won’t kick in until Giordano is 33 years old. 

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But Calgary can only be cautious to a point. Not only has Giordano been their most important player on the ice the last two years, he’s also their captain and the leader of a young team. While we can all debate the importance of intangibles and locker room culture, it’s fair to say that Giordano has been instrumental in getting rid of the general malaise that existed in prior years.

If Gio is a few years younger, this contract is far more black and white. It’s also more cut and dried if we saw signs that he was tailing off as he moves deeper into his 30’s, but in this case that’s just the opposite. There’s no doubt this is as fascinating a negotiation as the Flames have maybe ever had.

Contract comparables

Mark Giordano and Zdeno Chara aren’t really comparable as hockey players, other than they’re both really good defencemen. When trying to find comparable contract situations to Giordano’s, however, Chara is the one that most fits the bill.

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The more recent contract extensions signed by defencemen are a little more difficult to apply here. PK Subban signed an eight year, $72 million deal last August, but his new contract kicked in at the age of 26. That’s a seven year gap between him and Giordano, which makes the entire scope of Subban’s contract less applicable here.

More applicable is Johnny Boychuk, who signed a seven year, $42 million extension with the Islanders earlier this season. In terms of age, Boychuk is far closer since he’ll start his new contract as a late 31-year-old. Giordano is a better player, so you can possibly extrapolate contract terms by using Boychuk as a benchmark.

But I like Chara as a comparable, and I’ll tell you why. Chara signed his seven year, $45.5 million contract at the age of 33 and it took effect one year later. The ages match up, which is nice when trying to frame the conversation, but lots of other things match up as well.

It’s fair to say that Giordano has entered the same realm that Chara was in just a few years ago. That territory consists of the very best blueliners in the world. On top of that, Giordano means just as much to his team now as Chara did then, both on the ice and off.

If this was three years ago, Boychuk is your better comparison. But knowing what Giordano has done the last two seasons, the best contract for us to use as a potential blueprint is Chara’s. Yes, NHL economics have changed in the last five years, which is why any comparison is meant only as a guideline. Chara got seven years, though, let’s not forget that.

Idealism vs. Realism

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I think many Flames fans would like to see Giordano given a deal as a show of thanks. He’s meant so much to this organization and has worked so hard throughout his career, rewarding him with a seven or eight year deal might be viewed upon favourably. I think it’s important to inject a steady dose of pragmatism to the proceedings, though.

This is still a business, and Calgary still has millions of dollars coming on their cap in the next couple of years. Extensions to players like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Mikael Backlund aren’t going to come cheap. Sometimes in business, you have to be a little more cold.

Does Treliving need to employ Frank Underwood tactics of throwing people in front of moving trains? Mmm, probably not. However, keeping the facts very clear will be helpful as Calgary settles on a number for their captain.

By no means do I think the Flames should be lowballing Giordano here. He deserves to get paid, and he deserves to be taken care of with a longer term deal. But to go all out on an eight year max deal doesn’t make a lot of sense in the long run, even if it does knock the cap hit down a little bit.

Treliving has shown in his small amount of time on the job that he doesn’t just throw term around. TJ Brodie’s extension is the most significant deal signed under his watch, and it’s not as if that contract saw the player hitting the jackpot. In fact, Brodie’s five year deal is the longest one signed under Treliving. In most cases, that’s a positive thing, and that applies here as well.

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Coming to terms

So let’s get to the skinny. Giordano is going to sign an extension with Calgary and he’s going to remain this team’s captain for quite some time. But, realistically, what is this new contract going to look like? We won’t know for sure, but I think we have the tools to at the very least paint a rather lifelike picture.

Using Chara’s deal, and to a lesser extent Boychuk’s, as a guideline, I think coming to a term length of six years sounds reasonable. Why not seven like the other two? Well, Chara has a Norris which gives him a slight boost, and Boychuk is slightly younger which makes it easier to sign a deal of that length. Six years carries Giordano to the age of 39, and there’s a good chance he’ll still be playing at that point.

For me, six years at $48 million sounds like a pretty realistic figure. That gives Gio an average annual value of $8 million, which is fair. Yes, Subban is at $9 million, but he’s won a Norris, is younger, and still has a crazy high ceiling. But that proposed deal is still a big payday with solid long term security.

Of course, a deal like that isn’t perfect for the Flames. I’m sure they’d much rather do a two year deal at an even higher cap hit, but we all know that’s likely not in the cards. $48 million over six years is fair for both sides. It’s around market value for Giordano, without factoring any UFA overpayment. For Calgary, they’re paying an important player what he’s worth, but not going to overboard on the loyalty side of it.

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Feel free to extoll my virtues or laugh in my face depending on how close I am come July or August.

  • Love Gio and what he means to the team, but 6 years at $8M is too high a price to pay. I would try to do 5 year deal for $35M and front load the contract so he’ll make $8M/year the first two or three years then scale down progressively at year 4 and 5. Gio is probably not going to be the player he is today at age 37 and 38 so paying him $4M or $5M at that point is better for the team. If he has deteriorated so to the point where a buyout needs to happen, then it would be lot cheaper for the team. Mind you, I don’t know if the buyout is based on AAV or value remaining on the contract.

    Just make more sense to pay players more for their productive years rather than the same through out the term of the contract. Especially when he is getting up there in age and north of 30.

    • BurningSensation

      Staggered or not, I agree with your term/years: 7m x 5 years is bang-on for a guy who is that important to the team, but who will be 33 when the contract kicks in.

      This way, he’s 38 for the next deal and while I think he’ll still be able to play at that age, it almost certainly won’t be at the level he’s at now. I think Gio can stay at his current level for 3 more seasons, until he’s 36. That means he’d be slowing down during the last 2 years of the deal and that’s the ‘reward’ part of the contract.

      Please though, no NTC. Things change.

      • supra steve

        So you want to pay him $35mil over 5 years = $7mil AAV. That’s not unreasonable (well it IS, but you know what I mean).

        My wish would be $28.5mil over 3 years = $9.5mil AAV. Over a 3 year deal you could even give him that NTC for the first 2 years if he values that, perhaps knocking a bit off his yearly take.

        Result is that Gio gets PAID his money. Also, the Flames have the freedom to resign him at a lower AAV after those first 2 years…opening up cap space for their young stars who will be eating up an ever expanding portion of the cap by that time. Cap room is not as big an issue in the next few years as it will be in the years that follow. Pay him sooner rather than later to solve future problems.

    • The problem is, the player has a ton of leverage here. Two straight Norris quality seasons and he’s basically been singled out as the biggest reason the team has turned things around the last couple of years.

      Remember, front loading a deal doesn’t affect the cap whatsoever. The cap hit is the average salary over the course of the deal, so his cap hit will be the same at the end as it was at the front.

      Because he has the leverage, he’s not going to take the short term deal, and while he might make some concessions on dollars, he is still going to get paid. His age will factor into the length of the deal, but that’s really about it.

      • Two straight Norris calibre seasons that were cut substantially short by injury. There’s a difference.

        Chara defined durable and he was the best player available that year. Arguably the best July 1 UFA signing in the past decade and likely the best defenceman of his era (Lidstrom being from the previous one).

        He’ll get paid, and he should, but Chara money is a mistake, even taking into account the difference in the cap when Chara signed the deal.

  • OKG

    I think the argument could be made with how Chara’s declined this year, that giving Gio a Chara contract is simply irresponsible. Especially with the cap potentially not going up in the next few years.

    5 years @ 6.3 million would be how I think the Flames should go. I think that’s very fair for both sides.

    If Gio stays healthy, he’ll have a new contract at the end of this one.

    Otherwise if Gio’s agent is stuck on a 8m+ AAV – we have to look to moving Gio, as terrible as that sounds, he’s a true #1D that could get us a very good young return from an older team looking to truly contend. Hampus Lindholm for Gio, if the Ducks lose game 7?

    I’d prefer not to move Gio, but moreso I’d prefer not to handicap the Flames for the next 6 years. Remember how much Bouwmeester’s big contract held us back?

  • beloch

    This is an absolutely pivotal contract. It’s shape is going to directly influence contracts for Monahan, Gaudreau, Hudler, and Bennett.

    Giordano has earned a hefty contract, but if it’s too hefty the cap is going to come crushing down on the Flames as the team’s other stars demand similar numbers. I’m sure Giordano appreciates this more than anyone else. If he holds out for every last cent he can get, it may sabotage his chances of hoisting the cup as a Flame.

  • supra steve

    I’m all for overpaying, on a shorter term deal. If you need to go to 9 or 10mil per year for a 3 year deal, that may alleviate future cap needs. Thoughts?