Mark Giordano: The New Deal

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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.


  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • BurningSensation

    A six year $48M deal would be perfect, as the last two years are the ‘overpay’ that compensates Gio for delivering extraordinary value on his last two seasons.

    Trade him? I mean sure, I guess. If you hate winning hockey games that is.

    • piscera.infada

      The contract cannot vary more than 35% year-to-year, and the final year of the contract must be within 50% of the first year.

      I had previously suggested a 5 year deal: 8, 8, 6, 6, 5. AAV of 6.6 million over 5 years, takes him to his 37 year-old season.

      Might be the best you’re going to be able to do, and even that may not get it done. It depends how much Giordano would push the money envelope. I would prefer not to go over 5 years, but I fear it might be necessary.

    • supra steve

      But what does a back-diving deal gain you? Perhaps makes it easier to trade him in the later years, but otherwise it’s still a 5 year $7million AAV deal.

      • piscera.infada

        It makes a trade easier with teams with an internal cap-structure. I would imagine some players also like more money up-front, but I get what you’re saying.

      • supra steve

        But it does hurt us after 3 years. They average the yearly amount and that is what gives you the AAV. AAV = the cap hit. So the cap hit over the full six years of this proposal is $7mil for each of those 6 years of this proposal.

        On the other hand if you can sign Gio to a 3 year deal for $9-10per year, you have an AAV of $9-10, then you resign him to a less generous deal on the next 3 year deal–leaving more cap room for Gaudreau Bennett, Mony, etc in the later years. That would be preferable, if you can come to a short term number that Gio is happy with.

        Sure he might prefer a longer deal (like Pat has stated), but reality is…there has to be a short term number that will make him want to sign a shorter deal…and that benefits the club.

        • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

          just so you dont get me wrong, im all for paying gio big. But the last thing the flames need down the road is a bad contract. I would rather trade himnow than have a problem later. It would have to be a hell of a good deal tho.

  • Parallex

    That contract proposal would… not be prudent.

    Okey so let’s use Chara as the comp, they line-up well enough in terms of age and importence. Here are some factors to consider…

    A: Chara when he signed his extension had demonstrated more durability then Gio,

    B: Chara’s play really dropped off this past season (so that’s a red flag on term) to the extent that he wasn’t worth his contract (IMO)

    C: Chara is a different player then Gio, yes they are/were both great d-men but it’s easier to find players “like” Gio then it is players like Chara. Every GM in the League would have paid through the nose for Chara at the time, while I have no doubt Gio would attract attention from league front offices it’d be no where near what Chara would have garnered.

    I love Gio as much as the next fan but we have to be reasonable while also being fair to him.

    • BurningSensation

      I think that Chara’s frame and style naturally lends itself to a longer shelf life. Gio has to play like a peeved-off wolverine to be effective. Which he always does, but that takes its toll vs say a guy like Lidstrom or someone as large as Chara who can take 1 stride for every 4 Gio takes and has a wingspan the size of a 747.

    • Unfortunately, the Flames don’t really have the ability to be fully prudent here. Low balling the guy that you’ve heralded as the single largest reason for your turnaround doesn’t really sync up.

      It’s a tough situation for the team, because his age makes this not ideal. But if you want to take steps forward the next few seasons, it’s going to be with Gio in your lineup. And I don’t think you’re going to have Gio in your lineup if you don’t pay him what he’s truly worth. Right now, Norris quality guys get $8 million on the open market. Could it be slightly down from that? Maybe, but not a lot.

      • Parallex

        Pat, I think you overstate his leverage. He’s not a UFA, he’s a guy heading into his last year… that’s team leverage not player leverage, he’s also on the older side (more team leverage) and frequently injured (yet more team leverage).

        Norris quality guys get $8 million… that’s close to right I think. Yet, Giordano despite being Norris quality has never garnered a Norris nomination. The reason for that being injuries… he has a hard time staying healthy. The last time he played a full 82 game season was 2010-2011 (Lockout year aside he’s played about 75% of games) that is something you have to factor in. Personally I’d be comfortable with 6.5M for 5 years… I think that’s fair for all parties concerned, it protects the Flames in case of injury/decline and still gives him enough money that several generations of Giordano’s can be very well off.

  • hulkingloooooob

    I say give him a choice. one of the following:

    3 years @ 9
    4 years @ 8
    5 years @ 7
    6 years @ 6
    or
    7 years @ 5

    ???

    main point being term comes at a cost.

    front end load the contracts as you see fit, with our other big guns contract timings taken into consideration.

    can’t wait to see him playing again!
    especially with that hugely improved D we start next season with (fingers crossed).

    • hulkingloooooob

      of course this part of the discussion comes after we ask him to take a pay cut for the greater good. i mean come on, tell me the guy needs another 5 million on top of all this, not to mention what he’s already made. how do you even spend 100 million dollars? besides, the story plays out amazingly in 5 years when we win a cup and his trajectory from unknown to captain and MVP of a cup winning team sure looks good. plus he gets to live his hockey life out in one hockey town. family first I say.

  • Greg

    Pat, I think those are great comparables. But I think you have to look no further than what’s happened with the Bruins this year to know that Chara contract would be uber-bad news for the flames. It’s one thing to sign up for that risk when you are pushing to win multiple cups over the next 5 years, whole other story when you are still hoping to become a contender in that time span. Treleving might because it helps for now and a typical GM isn’t around for that long anyway, but it would be a poison pill for the flames. Everyone clamouring to throw money at him and “reward” him now will be offering to help him pack in 5 years.

    Also, Chara signed that before the cap-recapture era. That was common practice to just assume he could retire at 39 if things go bad or get bought out cheap, but now it would absolutely destroy a franchise if they got a huge multimillion dollar cap-recapture penalty for a player not even on their roster anymore.

    On top of that, no one is assuming the cap is going up 7-10% a year anymore to bail you out of a bad long term deal.

    Would Gio be able to get that from a desperate team on the UFA market? Quite possibly. But as much as I love the guy, I sure as hell hope the flames aren’t the team to give it to him. I think you are right about the ranges though, I just hope it’s more 6×6 or 5×7. Above that, I think you’ve got to cut bait and trade hi. Next year to keep improving the team longer term.

  • Greg

    Pat, I think those are great comparables. But I think you have to look no further than what’s happened with the Bruins this year to know that Chara contract would be uber-bad news for the flames. It’s one thing to sign up for that risk when you are pushing to win multiple cups over the next 5 years, whole other story when you are still hoping to become a contender in that time span. Treleving might because it helps for now and a typical GM isn’t around for that long anyway, but it would be a poison pill for the flames. Everyone clamouring to throw money at him and “reward” him now will be offering to help him pack in 5 years.

    Also, Chara signed that before the cap-recapture era. That was common practice to just assume he could retire at 39 if things go bad or get bought out cheap, but now it would absolutely destroy a franchise if they got a huge multimillion dollar cap-recapture penalty for a player not even on their roster anymore.

    On top of that, no one is assuming the cap is going up 7-10% a year anymore to bail you out of a bad long term deal.

    Would Gio be able to get that from a desperate team on the UFA market? Quite possibly. But as much as I love the guy, I sure as hell hope the flames aren’t the team to give it to him. I think you are right about the ranges though, I just hope it’s more 6×6 or 5×7. Above that, I think you’ve got to cut bait and trade hi. Next year to keep improving the team longer term.

    • Everyone clamouring to throw money at him and “reward” him now will be offering to help him pack in 5 years.

      My contract proposal isn’t one that is to reward him, it’s one that will keep him with the Flames. Fact is, Gio has the leverage and the Flames aren’t in a position to let him go.

      Would Gio be able to get that from a desperate team on the UFA market? Quite possibly. But as much as I love the guy, I sure as hell hope the flames aren’t the team to give it to him. I think you are right about the ranges though, I just hope it’s more 6×6 or 5×7. Above that, I think you’ve got to cut bait and trade hi. Next year to keep improving the team longer term.

      The problem here is that the Flames aren’t going to take steps forward the next few years without him in the lineup. Because of that, they’re in a position where they’re going to have to give him what he deserves. Being overly prudent isn’t really an option.

      • Greg

        I don’t want to discount his importance to the team, but the flames did (bizarrely) have a better record without him, and got to the 2nd round. It would suck to lose him, but life would go on, and while it might be better with a 34 year old Gio at $8m, it’ll be much much worse with a 38, 39, and 40 year old $8M Gio.

        If he was 26 I’d be all for it. But at this age you have to be wary and consider what you could replace him with on that contract. Say a $5M and $4m dollar defencemen instead of him and a $1M dollar defencemen who most definitely won’t pick up the slack as he degrades.

        This could be 1 of those contracts that teams fall all over themselves to sign but is immediately untradeable before the ink dries.

  • RKD

    I would front load the deal for a few years until you need to give the younger forwards larger deals. Give Gio big dough now when he’s still playing at a high level. If he drops off sooner than later, which I doubt then paying him a lot it will make the contract look worse in the long run. Gio will be asking north of $8 million because of his offensive and defensive play. He’s vastly superior than most defencemen in the league, he’s in elite territory.

  • Burnward

    Do teams in the NHL pull the baseball contract trick of offering long term deals while under the rookie salary? Its incredibly common in baseball (see Mike Trout, Even Longoria, etc…).

    The Gio deal comes back to cap management. The three kids (Bennet, Gaudreau, Monahan) should be offered 6-9 year deals at 5mm/season – assuming that length is allowed. Maybe you front weight the payments year 1.

    This essentially buys them out of the rookie deals and locks up everyone through their peak years at below market rates – assuming they all become real players. By waiting, you could be in a situation of 8mm+ per year for each of them. There is risk, but its incredibly common cap management in baseball. Security for life in exchange for below market deal and enough time later to get another big contract in the late 20’s

    Anyways, I haven’t heard any discussion of this scenario and was looking for criticism.

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      Baseball doesn’t have a cap. You can spend what you want and then pay a “luxury tax” if you spend over $189M then you pay the “luxury tax” as a sort of fine.

  • Cofred24

    We need to sign Gio for whatever he wants. In my opinion he’s one of the best defenseman in the whole league. This is in all aspects of the game. He’s got the physical, skill, scoring, play-making, game-saving, and leadership abilities that many defenseman lack in this league. He’s a perfect fit for the flames especially when it comes down to leadership, great captain. In my opinion if gio didn’t get injured he would have been a Norris trophy candidate.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Paying for the assumption that he will continue to produce and play at the elite level he is at right now, is foolish in my opinion.

    You have to play hardball with him. Anything else would be detrimental.

  • I think you are overstating his leverage Pat.

    I think he wants to stay in Calgary. Doesn’t mean a huge home town discount but I also don’t think he holds them over the coals.

    Something like a 6 year deal at an average of 6.5-7/year front loaded.

    Year 1,2 – 8.5m
    Year 3-5 – 6m
    Year 6 – 4m

    This is win/win to me.

  • OKG

    Because of his age, I would think a term of 5 years at the most, between 6-8 million.

    I think 7 million over 5 years is fair, anymore would put this team in cap hell.

  • piscera.infada

    A bit off topic, but there was a discussion on the Fan this morning about Minnesota’s impending cap-crunch this offseason. Apparently reports are that they would shop Jared Spurgeon to make room for extensions for Huala, Granlund, and Dumba in the next calendar year. They also need to sign Dubnyk this offseason.

    Would Spurgeon be a good target? What would it take to get him? He’s a 25 year-old right handed top-4 everyday defenseman, making $2.66 million for the next year. It would be a good low-risk signing, and you might be able to do it for a prospect and a pick. Pretty decent possession numbers on him too, but you wonder if that’s more the team than him. Thoughts?

    • Rockmorton65

      Don’t know about that one. He would definitely be an improvement in our 2nd pairing but he is probably hitting his ceiling as a #4. Russell to me is a #4 & to get Russell to improve, we need to pony up & get a #3 to anchor that 2nd pairing so we can cut Brodano loose 20 minutes a game.

      Granlund & a 2nd would probably get their attention.

      • TheRealPoc

        Could not agree more. I really think Russell’s suspect underlying numbers are a function of playing with an erratic partner in Wideman (and that’s being kinda generous). Russell could be a really good #4, but I think that requires partnering him with a stud #3.

        Not worried about the bottom pairing – between Schlemko’s probable return, Diaz’s availability if they want him, bargain buys come July and the internal competition between Wotherspoon, Morrison and Culkin, you should be able to easily ice a cost-effective 3rd pairing that doesn’t get slaughtered a la Engelland-whomever he plays with. So in that regard, you only need to focus on acquiring a legit #3. Easier said than done, but at least it’s more of a touch-up to the blueline, rather than a complete overhaul.

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      What is is that some fans do not understand when the Flames management says they need to get bigger/heavier? Spugeon is a tiny mite….Burke says the team must get bigger…case in point the Ducks toyed/pushed the Flames around with ease…..

  • BurningSensation

    Pat hits this right on the nose, Giordano has all the leverage as the Flames need him WAY more than he needs the Flames.

    He wants to be here, he’s earned the $, stop trying to moneypuck the situation.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    The goal is to win, and I bet Gio and the flames are on the same page. It is true that he needs to get paid though too. I would give him something like 10 mil per for 3 years. Sign the young guys to 1 or 2 year bridge deals and then renegotiate more age/production appropriate cap hits afterwards. Everyone still gets their money, just the timing of it allows the team to fill out their roster more competatively and keep the players they need.
    I would be dissapointed with a 6 year, 8 mil contract – thats a boat anchor in the future, probably starting right when this team is a serious contender.

  • Rockmorton65

    I thought I read recently that, under the new CBA, if the term is longer than five years, the AAV is calculated using a 5 year term. A 7 year/42 million contract would carry a cap hit of 8.4 mil, not 6. I seem to remember reading that it was implemented to prevent teams from circumventing the cap with “Kovalchuk” type deals. You know, signing a guy to a 100 million/20 year contract to get a 5 mil cap hit.

    Can anyone can confirm this?

    • piscera.infada

      I can’t find anything in the CBA regarding this. The biggest thing is that a 7-or-more year contract brings cap-recapture into the fold. Considering Gio’s age, that’s something you have to think about.