At long last, Sean Monahan has signed his second NHL contract. It’s a big one, too; with $44.625 million coming his way over the next seven years, he’s one of the highest paid players on the Calgary Flames.
He’s not the highest paid player per year – that honour goes to Mark Giordano and his $6.75 million cap hit, for now (clock’s ticking, Johnny) – but for now, he’s usurped the title of highest paid forward from Troy Brouwer.
Monahan will take up $6.375 million on the cap for the next seven seasons. He just edges out fellow 2013 draft pick Nathan MacKinnon, who he’s incredibly comparable to. That sets a tone. Gone is the entry-level contract; now it’s time to get serious.
Not that he’s had too many problems with that in his first three years.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling Monahan’s entry-level time bad by any means. When trading Jarome Iginla signalled the start of the rebuild, Monahan himself was the tangible evidence of that.
After years of needing a number one centre, suddenly, the Flames had someone who could finally one day fit that bill – right when their greatest offensive player was gone. Who was he supposed to work with? His rookie year already saw him fifth in team scoring. He most frequently lined up alongside Joe Colborne and Jiri Hudler: the former, a player who ultimately couldn’t keep up with his developmental pace; the latter, someone who helped in the beginning, and yet finds himself still without a contract today.
When Gaudreau came on board, the Flames already had Monahan to take hold of the saviour title. They already had Monahan for him to eventually line up beside. Gaudreau got that luxury; Monahan had to start it off.
So really, that was the start to Monahan’s legacy. But we’re itching to get past the rebuild mark. A sixth overall draft pick is nice, but if it happens again next year, it’s an indication of failure. The Flames need to move on, and Monahan needs to be one of the guys leading the charge.
Not that he should have any problems with that. He was second in team scoring this past season: seven points up on Giordano in one less game played. At this point in time, he’s primed more for offensive situations. The defensive zone is still something of a question mark, but we don’t know how much of that is Monahan and how much of that was Bob Hartley; we’ll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, it’s going to be hard to criticize him if he keeps hitting the 60-point mark. (He should probably step noticeably above that a couple of times, too; that would be nice.) But now, it’s no longer a pleasant surprise or a bonus when he does: it’s a requirement.
(Maybe not in the strictest sense of the word, but with a raised salary come raised expectations. That’s the nature of being a big money player.)
But legacies aren’t really found in rebuilds. The 2014-15 season may be an exception, but other than that fun, unexpected run, the most recent years of Flames history aren’t going to be particularly fond ones to look back on. Nobody reminisces about rebuilds. Nobody reminisces about losing.
If Monahan is a major player in officially pulling the Flames away from the rebuild stage to the status of contenders – and he should be – then that’s what he’ll be judged on. Success or failure (and at this point, with a productive offseason and young core formed, there’s no real reason to think it won’t be a success in the near future), this is one of the key moments of his career we’ll one day look back on.
Hopefully, it’ll end with placing his name up there amongst some of the best Flames to ever wear the jersey – because he has the potential to be just that. He’ll be 22 to start next season, entering his fourth year in the NHL, under just his second NHL coach. There’s a lot of growing left to do, but based on where he’s started, we’re probably going to end up happy.
A seven-year, $6.375 million AAV contract says those are the expectations for him. Now, it’s up to him to match them. And there’s no reason to think he can’t.