Brad Treliving has been a busy man this offseason. Starting in April, the Flames’ general manager has gone to work reshaping his team in one of the busiest summers in recent memory. With August underway, Treliving’s work isn’t done. A few important tasks remain with two of them still looming large for the long-term outlook of the organization.
EXTEND MATTHEW TKACHUK
Tkachuk’s contract status doesn’t impact the team immediately because he’s signed for next season. In saying that, it’s my belief getting Tkachuk’s extension done is Calgary’s number one priority, even with a year left on his entry-level deal.
From the team’s perspective, putting this to bed prior to the start of the season is in their best interest. Tkachuk has progressed rapidly in his first two seasons and is already one of the league’s most complete wingers. Because I don’t see that levelling off anytime soon, Tkachuk only stands to gain more leverage if this negotiation carries over into the season.
Tkachuk’s five-on-five totals are extremely impressive. Charted below are his aggregate totals through two NHL seasons and where he ranks amongst forwards (courtesy Corisca).
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the only two forwards with superior shot rates to Tkachuk’s are a pair of Bruins: Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That’s pretty elite company and speaks to how mature Tkachuk’s game is this early in his career.
To be up over 56% with a negative offensive zone start ratio is notable, especially considering the caliber of opposition Tkachuk faces on a nightly basis. And, despite a defensively slanted role, his five-on-five scoring sits in the top third of NHL forwards.
Now, you might be wondering why Tkachuk would be eager to sign a deal prior to the start of the season, which is fair. If it’s such a good bet he’ll only better his negotiating position, why would Tkachuk want to sign right away?
Well, here’s what I know: Tkachuk is eager to sign long-term, thus cementing his spot as a leader going forward. As such, I think a fair contract offer gets the job done, even before the season starts. We all know Treliving is as tough as they come when negotiating contracts internally, but taking a hard line with Tkachuk might not be the right call.
We’re talking about a true core piece here, so a max eight-year deal is the best case scenario. Can they keep the cap hit under the team’s rumoured $6.75 million internal cap? There’s a decent chance the answer to that question is yes, and even if it’s not, pay that man.
SIGN NOAH HANIFIN
Hanifin is the last pressing issue that absolutely has to be dealt with prior to the start of the season (no offence Hunter Shinkaruk). Calgary’s newest defenceman remains a restricted free agent and the type of contract he ends up signing is an interesting conversation to have.
As we laid out last month, there’s a good argument to be made for a shorter and cheaper bridge deal. In a lot of ways, we still don’t know what the Flames have in Hanifin. Despite improving in each of his three seasons, Hanifin has just one year of playing top four minutes.
There’s a strong chance he continues along the same positive development path for the next few years, but there are no guarantees. A shorter deal seems to make sense for both sides. It gives Hanifin the chance to improve and hit it big in two or three years. For Calgary, it’s a safe bet that carries little risk and allows them to get a better book on what Hanifin’s ceiling will end up being.
In saying that, I get the thinking on the other side. When Nashville signed Roman Josi to a seven-year, $28 million deal five years ago, he was just 23 years old with two NHL seasons under his belt. It’s safe to say the Predators made out like bandits. With two years left at $4 million per, Josi’s is one of the best value contracts in the league.
Regardless, the Flames have to get this deal done in the next month or so. Hanifin is clearly one of the team’s four best defencemen and he seems earmarked to partner Travis Hamonic, at least to start the season. There’s no reason to think Calgary won’t get this done, but that doesn’t change how high a priority it is.