FN Mailbag – July 5 (Part 2)


Part 1 from this mailbag can be found here

This time around we’re talking about what kind of expectations we should have for the Flames, both in terms of individual players and team as a whole, going into next year. The issue of some big, upcoming contracts comes up too… 

We’ll lead with this because another potential datapoint was added recently. The signing of Vladamir Tarasenko at $7.5M for eight years is a big arrow in the Flames kids’ agents. There is added ammo in the contracts of Brandon Saad (6 years, 6M per year) and Ryan O’Reilly ( years, 7.5M per year), both of whom were also high priifle restricted free agents.

Previously, the high water mark for these deals tended to be around the $6M per year mark. That’s what both taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle commanded from the years after being team leading scorers for that club. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s second contracts were also in that ballpark ($6.3M per year).

The new deals signed this summer suggest the starting price for both Monahan and Gaudreau will start at $6M and go up from there. It will depend, in part, on their performance this coming season; a step back may lower he price some, while a step forward will raise it. Let’s say, for now, they’ll come in around $6.5M long term for each.

This is really tough to guess, in part because not every player improves in a clean, stepwise fashion and in part because we can’t be sure what their circumstances will be next year. My guess is their possession game will improve as a consequence of an improved blueline (they spent a lot of time with Wideman and Russell last year, which sunk their corsi against rates).

According to work done by Eric Tulsky, NHL forward’s corsi tends to peak pretty early in their 20’s and then plateaus in the mid-20’s. Both Gaudreau and Monahan are starting to step into their peak seasons and I think they’ll get a bump in the quality of their teammates. I’m hoping they are not only team leaders in terms of relative corsi, but they start to drive positive possession in an absolute sense as well (i.e.; 50% or better). 

I don’t think Hamilton’s number influences Giordano’s negotiation in a direct sense in that the two players aren’t really comparable (one is a young RFA, the other pending UFA). That said, Hamilton’s signing does a couple of things that indirectly affects the Giordano talks:

1.) It takes up cap space. An NHL roster is a zero sum game in a cap league – the more money one guy gets, the less can be dedicated to another guy. Hamilton’s deal adds another big ticket to the Flames blueline, making it slightly more difficult to budget for that line item.

2.) It gives the Flames slightly more leverage. Previously the idea of losing Giordano for any reason was unconscionable given the other options on the roster (outside of TJ Brodie). Hamilton, given his ability and age, firms up the Flames depth to the degree that they don’t have to be as intimidated by the thought of losing Giordano.

That said, We all know the org loves the player and is going to work hard to find a way to get him signed.

I looked at potential trade partners for Dennis Wideman a few months ago and Buffalo came up as one of the options. Nothing has changed since then; the Sabres still only boast 5 NHL defenders and only one of them is over 25 years old (Josh Gorges). 

If BUF can’t land a couple more established guys in free agency, there’s no doubt they’ll be looking for something in a trade. Their planned plunge down the standings is over, so they’ll be desperate to be find a guy who can help them be competitive club again.

The Sabres also have a lot of cap space left (north of $16M), so absorbing Wideman’s deal wouldn’t be an issue.

I don’t think the Flames are necessarily banking on Gillies being an NHL starter down the road (that would be premature), but they have definitely been careful about signing any established guys to any long-term deals. I am almost certain they are holding out to see how both he and Ortio perform in their roles this season so they can start planning around one of them moving forward.

Goalies tend to take longer to make it to the big league, in part because a goalie’s development path is much, much tougher than a skater’s. At the very least, we can expect Gillies to spend one season in the AHL and how he performs there will dictate what happens with him next year. If he’s as good as we think he is, I wouldn’t expect to see Gillies in the AHL past the age of 23 though.

This happens at the draft sometimes. A highly ranked kid gets the scarlet letter for whatever reason and falls down the ranks. 

Which isn’t too say NHL teams are always wrong when it happens. For example, Kirill Kabanov fell to the third round in 2010 despite being considered one of the best pure talents in the draft that year. He’s currently plying his trade in the Swedish after failing to make a dent in the AHL.

In Kylington’s case, his early rankings were pumped by his noteworthy 16-17 year old season, where he appeared in 32 games for Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League. It’s remarkably rare for kids that young to play in the pro game at all, never mind to play semi-regularly. Typically, only the most elite players get to add that feat to their resumes.

Unfortunately, Kylington fell prey to those high expectations heading into this season. Instead of taking a firm step forward and cementing himself as an elite prospect, he struggled and bounced between the two Swedish pro league tiers. When you add in less than noteworthy performances at the top prospect tournaments and rumours of an attitude of entitlement in combine interviews, you have the perfect recipe for a falling draft stock.

I tackled this a bit at the onset of my Big Gainers series – teams become true contenders when they hit the 52% corsi threshold. That’s the point where a team has a better than 70% chance of making the post season. All of the modern Stanley Cup winners have had corsi rates at or above that number (except the Pittsburgh Penguins and only because they spent half a season under Michel Therrien before trading up to Paul Bylsma).

Calgary would have to improve their corsi by 8 points (from around 44% to 52%), which is jump that has never been accomplished in the modern era by any team in a single season. That said, the Blackhawks improved by nearly 10 points over the course of two seasons, so it’s not impossible that Calgary could be contenders by 2016-17 if everything breaks right for them.

I’ll look at this in greater detail when I conclude the Big Gainers series. 

(WAG meaning “wild ass guess”) 

Though I suspect the team isn’t going to score quite so easily or win quite as many come-from-behind and OT games, I do expect their possession to improve markedly in response to Treliving’s tremendous off-season. How much will depend on factors like injuries, internal player improvement and if the Flames coaching staff can re-jig the system to focus more on keeping the puck and less on collapsing in the d-zone and counter-punching.

As result, I’ll guess the Flames are going to legitimately contend for a playoff spot in the West next year, without the need for horseshoes and miracles. Let’s say 7th in the West.

  • Omega4

    Hey Kent,

    My apologies if you have already addressed this in the previous mailbag, but what are your thoughts on how the Flames goalie situation shakes down this season? Do you think Hiller or Ramo will be moved by the end of the summer?

  • Omega4

    I don’t think Hamilton’s contract directly affects Giordano’s, I agree, but I do believe it sets a precedent for Monahan and Gaudreau. I’ve said before that Gaudreau, in particular, will have a difficult time making the case that he should be paid more than Hamilton.

    Regardless, that Saad contract is crazy. He’s a good player, but 6 per? No wonder the Blackhawks had to trade him.

  • Omega4

    Buffalo was my guess for Wideman too and had hoped for Hiller as well. Buffalo can part with some prospects and/or draft picks. One prospect I really like is Justin Bailey. Now that they traded my favorite target (Zadorov) they probably wouldn’t want to deal a young close to ready def prospect like McCabe.

  • CofRed4Life

    I agree with all of your points, especially about Gio’s contract. It’s not worth comparing the 2, since they’re in such different phases, but it does decrease the amount of money management can spend on Gio. I’m still banking on him signing between $7.5 and $8 million.

        • Howedy

          I don’t mind $7-8 million if the term is 4 years or less. If the deal is longer, he better be giving back some significant yearly $ avg in exchange for the additional term.

        • Howedy

          Price is not a huge deal as Gio is worth 8-9 mill honestly. But if he wants that for more then 4-5 years, I say we need to trade him. You can’t expect him to be still a norris candidate at the age of 37-40. I would be fine with 8.5 for 4 years.

        • piscera.infada

          You don’t let him walk, ever. If you’re not going to come to an agreement on a contract, you trade him, and you trade him early.

          Frankly, I might be a lot more frugal than many on this site, but if I was Treliving I’m trying to keep his cap-hit between 6.5 and 7.5 million (7.5 is the highest I would go), and keep the term to 5 years (that makes him 38 at the end of the contract). Work the contract at 9, 9, 7, 5, 5, and it conforms to all CBA outlined contract rules, and keeps the contract to a total cap-hit if 7 million. [As an aside, and in a perfect world, I think this is a higher cap-hit than I’d like, but you surely can’t sign him for less.]

          We can sing “kumbaya” all we want about Gio’s age not being a factor, and that he “may not regress due to age”. However, the list of players that have regressed in their mid-to-late-thirties is much, much, larger than the list that hasn’t (which is near microscopic, given how the league has changed in the last ten, or so years). If you want this team to be a perennial “contender” for years you can’t be paying a defenseman (who will likely rapidly slide down your depth chart) 7, 8, 9 million dollars when he’s 39 or 40.

          I know Treliving knows this, and I suspect Giordano and his representation knows it too.

          • KiLLKiND

            Personally I think lots of you are forgetting how much the cap will go up. 8-9 mil is affordable now, and Canada’s dollar will go up which will greatly increase the cap along with the year to year revenues. We could be looking at a much larger cap in the next few years and by year 6 Giordano he will be getting overpaid, but maybe not as badly killing the salary cap as many of you believe.

            from what I’ve seen lots of elite D men age not too as poory as forwards Lidstrom, Chara, Bouwmeester…. Compound that with Gio being among the best conditioned players in the league and. he will probably still be a great 4th until he is 37-38. Is this worth locking up providing great Leadership who seems to have great chemistry with all the young guys. I remember Jorris’ first goal this year Gio told him before the faceoff to go down and Gio would get him the puck. That’s exactly what happened and Jooris was able to finish off the breakaway.

            As far trading him unless it’s completely unreasonable I think we would be best off sigining him his agent probably told him to come out swinging. The question is really how much will he come down to help win a cup. We all know he deserves that kind of money for how has played, the only problem is the cap and he will know that our young players will be getting raises in a few years.

          • piscera.infada

            First off, the cap going up is an assumption, and almost a fallacious one. The Canadian dollar rebounding is one issue unto itself. Secondarily, we have no real idea what effect expansion will have on the cap, but it’s safe to say it won’t increase it. Finally, the NHLPA is already complaining about the cap increasing as disproportionate increases to the cap relative to league revenue negatively impacts the amount of money they claw back on escrow.

            To your second point; as I said, we can sing “kumbaya” or wax-poetic, or whatever you want to call it about “Gio aging well”. Lidstrom was a freak, and he didn’t play overly physical, Chara has hit that wall, and Bouwmeester has begun to lose a step (and he’s only 31), Pronger, as well succumbed to injury, Chelios played in the “hooking and holding era” where you didn’t need to be as fleet of foot as you do today. What I’m saying is, I tend to bet on players not being outliers when it comes to age related regression–if Gio’s still a beast at 39, then awesome, he bucked the trend, but if he doesn’t, you’re paying for it, and that will hurt.

            All in all though, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I hope we sign Giordano, I really do hope we can make it work. However, I definitely stop short of backing up the Brinks truck, and offering him long term. As I said above, I honestly believe Giordano and his representation know all of this, and I agree the 8-year, 9 million per deal is just the starting point. However, if we want this team to be truly competitive in a couple of years, you have to sign Giordano to a smart deal where the risk is mitigated as much as possible. If you can’t do that, you sell him to the highest bidder–it may hurt in the short-term, but the long-term benefits could be just as impactful as 36, 37, 38 year old Giordano, and potentially moreso.

          • KiLLKiND

            He won’t accept any less than at least a 6 year deal which would take him until he is 37. Unless we can overpay him for a short contract and see if we can resign him after that to a more managable contract, I don’t us being able to sign him. He is due to be paid big and he knows a few teams would be more than willing to pay that much for him. The problem is no return will be worth what we lose while Bennett, Monahan, and Gaudreau are on cheap contracts.

            In the long run it will be maximizing our assets hopefully but if we can’t guarantee the next Ekblad, Hanifin, or Seth Jones we might not have what it takes to compete for the Stanley cup. To be the best team in the league you need the best players in the league Giordano is definitely among the top defencemen in the league. Not signing him because isn’t effectively using our assets.

            What’s the point of trading star players just to have future star players if you want to compete for the cup in a few years? We need him to win the cup and maybe it means in a few years we will have to have more players taking paycuts so our captain remains the highest paid player on the team I feel confident Treiving can convince enough players to take minor paycuts to make it work/ having more players that are young with ELC’s.

            We have lots of young players that are on the cusp of being NHL ready. David Jones, Wideman, Raymond, Engelland, and Bollig will be coming of the books in place of younger cheaper players that we drafted. Giordano should stay even if he can’t maintain his elite level of play, if we win the cup wouldn’t that make it worth it? If you could provide a reasonable trade scenario that provides everything Gio does I would be all for it. But nothing you get in return could do that unless you straight up trade him for Ekblad which they won’t and shouldn’t do.

          • piscera.infada

            A six-year deal doesn’t take him to 37. He will be 32 just before next season starts, and 33 just before his next deal kicks in. Therefore, a six-year deal takes him until he’s 39.

            I’m also not arguing Giordano is an elite NHL defenseman as I type this. However, I know he hasn’t played more than 64 games since 2010-11, and I know projecting professional athletes past 35 years of age is a fool’s errand.

            Again, at no point am I saying “don’t get a deal worked out”. I’m also not saying anything even remotely close to “he’s not important”, or he “hasn’t been good for the young players”. Pragmatically though, if you want to be winning Stanley Cups (note: plural), you can’t be paying your 4 or 5 defenseman way above market rate for that spot on the depth chart (I’ll admit, maybe he’s still a top-2 defenseman in years 4, 5, 6 of that deal, but I have my doubts). Remember, not only do we have to sign Monahan, Gaudreau next year, and Bennett the year after, but if you sign Giordano for 6 years, you’re going to need to fit in Brodie and Hamilton extensions into that framework, as well as any other players that potentially prove to be core-pieces. So sure, Jones, Engelland, Bollig, Wideman, Smid, will all be off the books by then, but you have to replace those players, and simply saying “all players on their ELC” is extremely short-sighted.

            So, with all of that, on a six-year deal that pays Giordano until he’s 39 years-old, what is the cap-hit you’re looking for?

          • piscera.infada

            That’s actually the exact deal I proposed a few weeks ago. If Treliving could get that I’d be ecstatic, but I have a feeling he’ll want a little more up-front, which is why I started at 9 million and worked down from there (with less term, obviously).

          • Zarny

            LOL…Gio has arguably been the best D in the NHL over the last 2 years and you think he’ll sign for a cap hit under $7M?

            Pass whatever you are smoking.

            Try more like 6 years/50M.

          • piscera.infada

            No, not going to happen. But if it comes to a trade how about an AB exchange: Gio & Engelland for Hall & Yakupov? Solves lots of problems. Gio’s the Best Player of the trade and Engelland provides toughness and protection for your young, small stars. Hall & Yakupov(maybe) scoring wingers, leadership issues solved for Oilers and hope Flames have other D coming up to fill the voids.

            As for the contract, I’m expecting/hoping for something like: 8,8,6.4,6.4,5.12,5.12 for an AAV of $6.5mm.

          • CofRed4Life

            Because he turns 33 when the new contract season starts, a 6 year deal would really have his final season be his 38th year…he would only turn 39 that following October.

            Kinda nitpickey but at that age, one year can make a world of difference. I would not be at all comfortable signing Gio through 39 (contingency plans aside), a little more through 38 though ideally, 5 years as it would worry me a lot less. Obviously there is little-to-no chance that he signs for less than 5 years.

            It’s risky no matter what but at least Gio is a multi-faceted defenseman, making it more likely that he can still contribute effectively in different areas as certain skills decline. Hartley has said that he’s never encountered a player who works harder than Gio so at least we can rest assured he will likely do whatever he can to stay on top for as long as possible.

          • CofRed4Life

            You lost me at ” he would only turn 39 in October”…..

            The Flames biggest challenge over this contract is not Gio…it will be his p___k agent Rich Winter. The Flames would be very fortunate to get a 5 year deal somewhere between $7.5 – 8M/yr front loaded in accordance with CBA rules.

        • CofRed4Life

          I’m much more worried about the term than the $$$. I don’t want it to become a Chara type deal. If we can ink him in for 5 years or fewer I’d be happy. If he’s still good for a couple years after that, we can sign another deal for much cheaper. I think a reasonable 5 year deal would be $37.5 million, paid as follows:

          9,9,7,7,5.5 for an annual cap hit of $7.5 million

          Whether or not that’s what happens, and if Gio would accept it is another thing.

  • CofRed4Life

    I just hope that Treliving can work his magic with Monahan’s and Gaudreau’s contracts. Brandon saad’s contract is really scary/ridiculous as he had 52 points last year, while both Monahan/gaudreau did better with 61/64 points respectively. Taylor Hall signed his 7 year 6 mill per deal after recording 53 points in 63 games so i’m hoping that’s closer to where we sign our kids at compared to 6.5-7 that they could potentially ask for.

    Still hurts to say this, but with all these deals coming through the pipeline in 1 season, I think its time to play hard ball with gio and seriously consider trading him if him and his agent stick to their guns and want a high pay/long term deal. Any deal that is even close to the 8 year 9 mill they are asking is a franchise killer and would derail us in 3 years time.

  • Howedy

    Would like a 3 team trade between Calgary, St Louis and Buffalo. Wideman to Buf, Berglund to Cgy and whatever to STL. Berglund and Backlund have good history and chemistry together. Move Backlund to Lw and add Frolik to that line!
    With a current top 4 with Gio, Brodie, Hamilton and Russell Wideman is expandeble. Sign Schlemko and we have a lot of opitions for the 5-6 spots.I believe that Nakladal can be a steady option as well.

  • Howedy

    Here’s how it’ll happen: gio gets big bucks for 3 years then the cap hit falls for the rest of his deal. Monny and jonny each get two year bridge deals equal to Hamilton. Once they are up for renewal they can sign for more money as smid, wideman, engelland, staj and bollig are all off the books. Whole lot of money to play with then.

    • piscera.infada

      I’m pretty sure under the new CBA, Cap hit can not “fall” during a contract. If you pay Gio 72 mill for 8 years, the cap hit will be 9 mill for all 8 years. You can not make the cap hit 12 mill for the first few years and 5 mill for the rest.

      • piscera.infada

        Truth. Additionally–as a function of bringing the cap-hit down–you can’t decrease salary more than 30% of the previous year’s salary year-to-year, and the final year cannot be 50% less than the first year.

        • piscera.infada

          um… I think you’re getting confused with Salary and cap hit. And as piscera.infada noted for the salary rules, the last year of a contract can not be less than 50% of the first year. Just to clarify, Cap hit has to be equal for every year of the contract, actual salary can fluctuate but still has rules.

  • Howedy

    Gios value is not only in playing but in mentoring the young batch of D. You’re kidding yourself if you think Brodie’s rise was not due to Gio. That is priceless… Pay him! If you need convincing just look north.

  • piscera.infada

    I would be shocked if Giordano gets less than $40 million for his next contract, and I expect at least 5 years of term.

    I’m not opposed to the idea of trading him, providing Treliving can find a good value deal. I’m not sure what that would be. Maybe the Islanders feel like contender this year. They just had a good draft. Would they be willing to do a deal around a player like Michael Dal Colle +?

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    I think Gio is a good player, and worth a good payraise but he IS a coulda-shoulda won something but didn’t. I hope all the speculation about his demands are wrong.

    When all the sentimentality of gio out lone hero is over, He will decline and if he is truly asking term and 9 mil per he is not the captain I thought he was. Just like Iginla was at the end he will become an albatross. And just like the other captain, Calgary muddled through without Gio and has enough leadership to replace him if need be.

  • piscera.infada

    To me, this Gio contract really sets the stage for upcoming negotiations.

    If Treliving can get him signed to a reasonable, more team-friendly contract that still pays him fairly, it sets a precedent.

    The team captain, while probably able to attain more on the open market, lowers his demands a bit to stay in Calgary and allow the team greater cap flexibility to put together a winner. It’s entirely possible…this is Gio’s team and you have to think that he would love nothing more than to see this through.

    Then when the Monahan, Gaudreau, etc. come up for signing, the example has been set by Gio + Brodie who are paid well but kept the team in mind. I don’t pretend to think that this has some great effect all of the time but I think it might given this particular group of players and team dynamic. Get paid but don’t try to squeeze the team for everything you can. I certainly don’t expect a player to do that but I think we’ve created a situation where it is now entirely possible.

    Which is why I’ve been okay with some decisions that have been made that might not otherwise be the best strategic choice – ie: Bennett burning a year. The organization has worked really hard to establish an identity and reputation, part of which being the Flames organization treats you well and people enjoy playing there. By all accounts, it’s been working…the lineup is full of unselfish players who do whatever the team needs them to, it’s been often stated how close the team is / how well they support each other / how much fun they are having, and the mantra of “always earned, never given” is pretty reasonably executed. Of course, this only has an effect because the team is on the upswing, play an exciting style, and have a strong foundation in place. Still, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we can finally sign some in demand UFA’s without breaking the bank.

    Honestly, I think the Gio contract gets done like that…and if not, I hope Treliving sticks to his guns and looks to trade him. If you blow this negotiation, you’re asking for a world of hurt in the future. Based on what Treliving has done so far, I’m not really worried. Imagine that, having trust in your GM?!

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    I also wish people would ease up on the 9 million thing. It’s not like it came from Gio’s mouth…and you always start negotiations asking for more than you expect to receive. For all we know, Gio could easily have told his agent, “Get me as much as you can but make sure it gets done with Calgary.” You don’t let the team know that you are willing to be reasonable so that you ensure you get the maximum being reasonable.

    If he ends up actually holding out for the monster contract, so be it. If he values the extra money over being a Flame, that’s totally his call and I for one wouldn’t hold it against him. I just have sneaking suspicion that Gio isn’t going to let a few million stand in the way. We shall see.

    Also, I imagine Treviling’s pragmatic approach to signings and his vigilance to cap considerations has not gone unnoticed. With Dougie now on the team, Gio is in less of a position to play hardball as before if he wants to stay in Calgary. Anyways, Calgary isn’t cheap…Treliving has just had a knack of signing the last few contracts at reasonable rates that are fair but also considered wins for the team. I’m hoping for the same.