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Juuso Valimaki’s entry-level contract should be pretty simple

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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  • JMK

    I was trying to get a gauge on how good Valimaki was in his time in Finland, and so compared him with Olli Maatta and Sami Vatenen. Purely looking at points and +/- stats though (FU20=Finland u20 league):

    Draft Year:
    Valimaki – WHL – GP 60 G 19 A 42 PTS 61 [+2]
    Maatta – OHL – GP 58 G 5 A 27 PTS 32 [+25]
    Vatanen – FU20 – GP 20 G 3 A 7 PTS 10 [-8]

    Draft Year -1
    Valimaki – WHL – GP 56 G 7 A 25 PTS 32 [-1]
    Maatta – FU20 – GP 19 G 2 A 6 PTS 8 [+3]
    Vatanen – FU18 – GP 26 G 7 A 25 PTS 32 [N/A]

    Draft Year -2
    Valimaki – FU20 – GP 44 G 5 A 15 PTS 20 [+22]
    Maatta – FU16 – GP 21 G 9 A 13 PTS 22 [N/A]
    Vatanen – FU16 – GP 4 G 5 A 3 PTS 8 [N/A]

    Draft Year -3
    Valimaki – FU18 GP 44 G 7 A 26 PTS 33 (“A”)

    As a disclaimer Valimaki was one of the oldest in his draft class, and both Maata and Vatanen were one of the youngest in theirs. So it might be more prudent to compare Valimaki’s stats to the year previous for the others. But still the stats look good. Valimaki was an assistant captain at u18 and putting up 0.75 ppg when Maata and Vatanen were still playing u16. Valimaki was putting up close to 0.5ppg u20 when Maata was putting up a similar rate, and Vatenen was dominating u18 with over 1ppg. And Maata’s first year in the OHL was pretty similar to Valimaki’s in the WHL.

    Pretty damn happy with this pick the more I see and hear about this guy.

    • JMK

      And final point is to compare Valimaki D -2 and Vatanen D, Valimaki was doing what Vatanen was (with a larger sample size and better +/- numbers) a year early (taking into account their draft ages).

  • Zalapski

    Here’s a question and I’m not saying he’s going to do this. Are there any d-men picked after the top 10 that have stepped into the NHL the year they were drafted? Like, in the modern era/last 15 years?

  • Newbietwo

    He is our Giordano ++ 2.0 he is even born the same month four years from now

    Brodie-Hamilton
    Valimaki-Hamonic
    Kylington-Anderson

    No matter how you change the names what is clear is our d is pretty set for years to come so we can no focus on drafting forwards with Ds in the second round

  • OYYC

    For what it’s worth, Bob McKenzie had Valimaki as the third ranked D-man after Heiskanen 3rd, and Makar 4th.
    McKenzie had Valimaki at 14, and Liljegren at 16.

    • Newbietwo

      The thing is we have seen the NHL swing from no for smaller players to where we are today and I think in some cases it is blinding many GMs when picking smaller D men.. When you look at Valimaki he seems to really be a complete prospect D wise and I can’t truly say that much for many of the first round D draft pics.. as second rounders Hague etc seems solid pics though

  • JMK

    Off topic but how many Flames prospects will be at WJC this year?
    Canada – Dube, Phillips?
    USA – Fox
    Finland – Valimaki, Tuuola?
    Sweden – Lindstrom?
    Slovakia – Ruzicka
    Could be a pretty interesting tournament for Flames fans – at least 4 with a potential for 3 more.

  • Puckhead

    Valimaki and Fox were silky smooth playing together at the prospect game. Poise is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Valimaki that game. He didn’t panic and his up ice vision was exceptional. As of now, I have him tentatively pegged to be a future 1st pairing defenseman for the Flames.