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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Calgary has two main priorities between now and training camp

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).

GP CF% Rank P60 Rank OZS%
144 56.6 3rd 1.88 81st 40.0

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.

  • FL🔥MES

    The only possible trade senario that I could see the Sens possibly interested in is a player for player swap – Tkachuk for Valimaki. Not saying I would do it but I think that’s what it might take – not a package of underperforming and unproven players.

      • FL🔥MES

        I don’t know. I think it might be a pretty fair trade where both teams lose in one way but win in another. I don’t think you can argue the point that we need more functional toughness in the lineup. Tkachuk would bring size, nastiness and skill. It all boils down to what the long-term plans for the Flames are on D.

        • Baalzamon

          Yes, but the Flames would also lose a much needed young defenseman. Quite aside from the fact that I 100% believe that Valimaki is straight-up a better prospect than Brady Tkachuk, trading a defenseman for a winger is rarely a good idea even when one has a surplus of defensemen (which the Flames really no longer do).

          Look at it this way: if the Flames trade Valimaki who is going to play first pair defense when Giordano is gone? Hanifin and… uh… Andersson, I guess? And Andersson is a great prospect, but he is not tracking as a first pair defenseman. And even if he is, that’s 0 insurance. Both those guys have to make it or the team is completely screwed, no matter how good you think Brady is.

          You’d be opening up a far bigger hole on the blueline than you’d be plugging up up front.

  • BringtheFire 2.O

    Sign Hanifin first then turn the attention to locking Tkachuk long term. Would love to see both of these guys on the team for the next 8+years. The future is here and the time is now. Dead weight gone, Brouwer and Stajan are no more. Now if WW and his absurd comments would go away all would be great in Flames nation.

  • The Beej

    @Steinberg.

    No no no.

    Hanifin needs to be signed first. You always sign the smaller contract and pending RFA first.

    Edmonton made the same mistake by signing Mcdavid first and that signing likely inflated the Draisatl contract.

    Edmonton does not manage their cap well. Treliving could stand to improve.

    Even if it is only a small amount they can add up and force good players out and force bad decisions on personel. Managing the cap is important if we want to establish a decent window of contention.

  • TheWheeze

    One of my priorities involves a more imaginative choice of music played at the Dome, instead of the tired, cliche’d, shopworn, recycled, overused, predictable, groan inducing, repetitive choices now in play. Make an effort. Wheeze is a music lover. He cares.