The Flames and Matthew Tkachuk agreed on an entry-level contract earlier this week, making the 18-year-old St. Louis product part of the organization for several years.
But because of his age, when he was born and some quirks in the CBA, Tkachuk’s deal gives the Flames a huge amount of flexibility – in regards to the tiny possibility that he’s not a National Hockey League player for the balance of the 2016-17 season.
First thing to note, the CBA’s “slide rule.”
The gist? If you sign at 18, your deal can slide twice (as long as you don’t play in 10+ NHL regular season and/or playoff games in a given year). If you sign at 19, it can slide once. And age in terms of the CBA slide rule refers to how old a player is on September 15. In Tkachuk’s case, he’ll be 18 on September 15 and he turns 19 in December.
His December birthday is important based on how the Canadian Hockey League determines ages. Since Tkachuk turns 19 before the end of this calendar year (he’s a 1997 birthday), the 2016-17 season is considered his “19 year old season.” But since he turns 20 next December, the 2017-18 season would be his 20-year-old (overage) year in the Ontario Hockey League, and he’d be eligible to join the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat for that season. And since under the CBA he’d be considered a 19-year-old player contractually, his deal would slide – unless he was playing in the NHL already – while he was playing in the AHL.
Long story short, Tkachuk’s age and birthday gives the Flames a ton of options with him. (It’s very similar to the situation 2013 first round pick Emile Poirier was in, since he too is a December birthday.)
- For 2016-17, it’s either the NHL or the OHL for him. His contract runs if he plays 10+ games in the NHL.
- For 2017-18, he’d be eligible to play in the NHL, the AHL or the OHL, and if his contract hadn’t already started to run from the season prior, his deal would slide if he was in the AHL or OHL.
That said, I’m reasonably sure the internal hope within the Flames organization is Tkachuk that makes the NHL roster out of camp. We’ll find out when Flames training camp kicks off in September.