For the last number of years, many Calgary Flames fans have pointed to the summer of 2017 as an important one. The Flames are set to see a number of contracts drop off the books at the end of this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to have a lot of cash to play with.
Calgary has a number of important contract extensions to figure out over the next eight months or so, but two stand out more than the rest.
I know, I know, the season isn’t even 10 games old yet and here I am talking about boring contract stuff for next season already. In this salary cap day and age, though, I feel like it’s never too early to look ahead. As it stands now, the Flames have 12 contracts set to come off the books at the end of this season, as illustrated by NHLNumbers below.
Some of the names above have no-brainer futures; I don’t think any of us see Calgary re-signing Wideman or Grossmann, for instance. For a good number of players, though, the Flames have tough choices to make and some interesting negotiations looming on the horizon. We’re going to focus on the two most important cases.
While we’ll definitely be writing more in depth about many of these players in the coming weeks and months, I thought it would be good to at the very least put these on the radar.
Bennett’s situation is a unique one because of the way he entered the league. After sitting out most of the 2014-15 season with a shoulder injury suffered in training camp, Bennett eventually made his debut with the Flames in game 82 of the regular season. After appearing in all 11 of the team’s playoff games, Bennett ended up burning the first year of his entry-level contract in his rookie season.
Because of those odd circumstances, Bennett will be ready for his second contract after just two full seasons in the league as opposed to three. From a comparable standpoint, it’s tough to find a lot of guys in similar situations.
The first name that comes to mind is his teammate Johnny Gaudreau, as he also signed his second deal after just two years in the league. The problem there, though, is Bennett’s points are unlikely to be in the same stratosphere as Gaudreau’s this season and they certainly weren’t last year. There aren’t a lot of easy roads to go down, here.
What might be more telling than anything else is what the Edmonton Oilers decide to do with the guy taken one pick before Bennett in 2014 in Leon Draisaitl. Similar to Bennett, but for different reasons, Draisaitl had the first year of his entry-level deal burnt without playing a full year in the NHL. It’s not a perfect comparison, but below is a breakdown of their career points (including playoffs), not including this season.
Knowing how similar the situation are for Bennett and Draisaitl, it might not be a bad move for the former to wait until the latter signs. While Draisaitl’s numbers are slightly better than Bennett’s, there’s a decent chance the two deals will end up looking somewhat similar.
Contract ballpark: As we mentioned, this one is tough. Due to a lack of obvious comparable deals, any number I throw out there is going to involve a fair amount of guesswork. I think there’s a good chance this comes in with a shorter term than either of the big RFA deals signed this past summer, so I wonder if four years between $3.5 and $4.5 million per might be in the vicinity.
The chatter around Elliott is a whole lot more positive in recent days than it was through his first three starts of the season. But what has been on the radar ever since Calgary acquired Elliott in June is the fact he’s playing on an expiring contract. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Elliott’s case is much different than Bennett’s and as such carries with it different circumstances.
First and foremost, the Flames need to decide whether or not they believe there is a fit beyond this year for Elliott. I would lean towards the answer being yes, mainly because Calgary gave up a fairly significant asset to acquire him at the draft. On that same token, because Elliott has far more control than Bennett does, he still has to decide whether he sees a long term fit with the Flames, too.
But, for sake of this conversation, let’s pretend there is mutual interest in agreeing to a deal beyond this season. What would a new deal look like, then? Well, to try to answer that question, we have to make another assumption. This time, we have to assume Elliott’s numbers this season will follow, or stay close to, the trend he’s set over the last five years.
While his start to the season wasn’t stellar, Elliott has bounced back very nicely in his last two games. As I wrote about over the weekend, I’m confident Elliott is on course to have another solid season with numbers similar to the ones he posted with St. Louis. If that does end up being the case, the guy is going to be in line for a nice payday.
Below is a look at aggregate save percentage totals over the last five years both overall and at even strength (minimum 5,000 minutes). As you can see, Elliott is a top five goalie by both measures.
Now, in most of those cases, it’s important to note Elliott has played fewer minutes than his counterparts listed, but that doesn’t take away from his impressive work. The fact he’s never played a true number one workload of 60+ games in a season might hurt Elliott’s worth a little but not enough to negate the big raise he’s in line for.
Contract ballpark: Considering what other number one goaltenders are getting paid right now, it’s not a stretch to think Elliott’s cap hit of $2.5 million right now might end up doubling, if not more. Talbot just signed a new deal that carries a $4.167 million AAV and Elliott’s numbers are better and he’s carried a larger workload. If guys like Schneider and Rask are at $6 million and above, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Elliott would be in the $5 or $5.5 million range on, say, a three-year deal.