Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving had made it no secret: it’s a priority of his organization to lock up team captain Mark Giordano before he hits the unrestricted free agent market next summer.
Though he was always effective, Giordano is the rare late-blooming superstar. Over the past few seasons, Giordano has blossomed from being a bona fide top pairing player, to a Norris-caliber 1A defenseman for the Flames.
It’s not going to be cheap to extend him, and indeed, Giordano’s camp is opening negotiations with an eight-year, $72 million ask ($9 million annual average value) according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. Kypreos’ report isn’t the first we’ve heard of it, it corroborates a report from last week by typically dogged TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
A Big Ticket
A $9 million annual ticket for Giordano would represent a significant raise over his current deal (which carries a cap-hit just a hair over $4 million), but based on the market price of a bluechip 1A defenseman’s unrestricted seasons, that’s about right.
If we think about the other elite defenders who’ve signed big deals that purchase unrestricted seasons well into their 30s recently, we have to think of P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber. The thing about those comparables, however, is that for a variety of reasons – whether it’s a now illegally front loaded contract structure, or the buying out of restricted seasons – their contracts carry an artificially lowered annual average value.
The Flames won’t have that luxury in dealing with Giordano, but if we look at the actual salaries that Weber, Suter, and Subban will take home in their early 30s, you can why see Giordano’s camp would be looking for this sort of valuation:
|Age-31||$8 million||$12 million||$9 million|
|Age-32||$8 million||$12 million||$9 million|
|Age-33||UFA||$6 million||$9 million|
|Age-34||$6 million||$9 million|
|Age-35||$6 million||$9 million|
So while a $9 million ticket for Giordano may give you a tough case of sticker shock, it’s actually roughly market value for a player of Giordano’s caliber during these years of his career.
Obviously Calgary has a lot of balls in the air in terms of long-term salary cap commitments. Cornerstone pieces Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan will see their entry-level contracts expire the same summer as Giordano’s, and Sam Bennett’s ELC (who may be the best of Calgary’s young pieces) will expire the subsequent year. So the Flames have to tread carefully here from a cap management perspective.
The other key angle here is Giordano’s age.
Because of his non-traditional development path, Giordano became an elite player very late in the typical career arc. As a result, the Flames aren’t buying the unrestricted years through his late 20s, meaning this is a deal for a player who will be aging rapidly – perhaps into his very late 30s – throughout the course of his next deal. There’s risk of declining performance on a very expensive contract.
Giordano will be 32 in the first year of his next deal, and it would seem to me that the Flames would be wise to do whatever they can possibly do to keep the term of his contract down. If that means signing him to a four or five year deal with an annual average value in the neighbourhood of $11 million to $12 million, that’s the poison pill you have to swallow…