Sometimes waiting is the smartest move a person can make. In terms of a contract for Calgary Flames first round selection Juuso Valimaki, waiting was probably the best thing Brad Treliving could do. Over the past week or so, a flurry of signings has effectively set the market for Valimaki’s contract. In particular, two contracts have all but cemented the bonuses that Valimaki will receive.
The Flames selected Valimaki in the first round, in the middle of a sequence where five defensemen were taken consecutively:
- Tampa Bay selected Cal Foote at 14th overall
- Vegas selected Erik Brannstrom at 15th overall
- Calgary selected Valimaki at 16th overall
- Toronto selected Timothy Liljegren at 17th overall
- Boston selected Urho Vaakanainen at 18th overall
Brannstrom and Liljegren have already signed their entry-level contracts with their new clubs, which provide some strong indicators of what Valimaki’s contract will look like. Both Brannstrom and Liljegren received the rookie maximum base salary of $925,000. Brannstrom, selected before Valimaki, reportedly received $450,000 in performance bonuses while Liljegren, selected after Valimaki, received $400,000. Thus, a probable contract for Valimaki will probably land somewhere around a $925,000 base salary with $425,000 in performance bonuses.
In addition, the Flames could give themselves a tremendous amount of future flexibility by signing Valimaki prior to the end of 2017. As an October 1998 birthday, Valimaki is considered to be 18 years old (for the purposes of defining his contract signing age) until the end of 2017 because he was 18 as of Sept. 15. Under the CBA, if a player is 18 when they sign their entry-level contract then that deal can “slide” twice – the deal’s start date gets pushed back a season unless they play 10 NHL games.
Because he was drafted from a Canadian Hockey League team (with a CHL contract) – we originally thought he was still Finland property, but have since confirmed with a few sources that he’s free and clear of European ties – Valimaki has to return to the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans for 2017-18 (unless he cracks the Flames roster, which is extremely unlikely). But with two years of slides available, Valimaki could play in the American Hockey League in 2018-19 – he’s eligible to do that since he’d turn 20 before the end of 2018 – and his contract would slide a year unless he played 10 NHL games. It’s basically a free season of pro development time for a player that could be NHL ready reasonably quickly (and in a contractual system that rewards teams for managing those low cap hit development years well).
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