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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.

      • The GREAT WW

        Nope; goaltending is next offseason.
        Even though I don’t think that Baby Byng will be anywhere as good as Byng, we need to get the Byng Brothers together…..

        WW

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            I don’t see Brady waiting another 3 years playing NCAA. There is too much risk. The risk of injury, the risk of not excelling each year and seeing his stock drop. I know some players have been known to wait out the process to be UFA… but I don’t see it in this case. There could be some backdoor negotiations that are taking place under the guise that he will not sign with Ottawa….but 3 years seems like a long wait for players that have dreamed about playing in the NHL since they were kids.

        • Off the wall

          Ok Walt, I’m in. But doesn’t Baby Byng need to make a decision soon? Like within the next two days?
          If Treliving can pull this off, it would be a miracle!

          • Cfan in Van

            I think an easier deal would be to wait until he decides. If he goes back to school, OTT sees the value of their pick dropping significantly due to chance of staying all 4 years, and Byng would probably want to sign long-term to extend the “Brother Years” in Calgary… I could be wrong, but I think the Sens would be gambling huge if they make a trade before the college decision is final.

        • Al Rain

          I remember when we had a Reinhart and I was keen for the Flames to collect all 3 of them. So at a gut level I understand the want, but other than the novelty is there any real good reason to have brothers on the same team? I get that Brady looks like a pretty sharp player, but other than that what’s the need?

          • Avalain

            Honestly, no. There isn’t really a good reason unless the brothers play like the Sedins. Personally, I am not convinced that Brady is worth what some people seem to be interested in trading for him. I get that Matt says that his brother is the stronger and meaner one, but looking at his actual stats I’d say that his hockey sense is nowhere near his brother. He’s not going to be Byng 2.0; he might be a Byng 0.5.

          • oilcanboyd

            Avalain, they won’t be playing like the Sedins for sure, more like Brent and Duane Sutter with the NY Islanders. Duane was on 4 Stanley Cup teams, while Brent joined the Islanders for their 4th Cup. Sedins zero Cups!

      • buts

        I agree OTW. Giving the backup job to Rittich or Gillies is a huge mistake at will cost what looks to be a great lineup a playoff run. Goaltending is thee most important position on the team.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I don’t get the hate on for Backlund. I am sure you have your reasons and this post won’t provide you with the ahaaa moment but here goes.
          Backlund was a late bloomer but has become one of the best 2 way players in the league. His skating is elite, he has one of the hardest shots on the team which has not always been the case. The improvements in this part of his game demonstrate how much he works on his game in the off season.

          He has become the team’s top defensive forward but he has so much more to offer. If you watch him in OT with Johnny there is magic. He is a more complete center than Monny but lacks the finish but would he lack the finish if he was Johnny’s center with favorable OZ starts and match ups. He has far too many dimensions to his game for this to be a bad contract. If you want to see how his game has evolved look at his International career where the Swedish national team showed him very little love…but now he is a key leader as demonstrated by his captaincy resulting in winning a gold medal at the WHC.

          Whether you want to admit it or not….. he is more than the by-product of being Tkachuk’s linemate. No matter how you slice it he is a huge asset to this team and the heir apparent to becoming the Assistant captain.

          • StajansFinalPaycheck 3.5

            Very well written. There are not an abundance of Backlund jerseys in the stands but this team is better with him than without him. Walters dislike for Backlund is huge but in my opinion unjustified.

  • 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.

  • everton fc

    The Sens need a goalie, they need to dump salary, and they need to maximize Karlsson’s value now. The Sens are in a good place with draft picks, after next summer. They lack a first, in 2019, but are stacked for 2020 & 2021.

    They also need to ice a team that can compete, or their fanbase – already dwindling – will continue to stay away from home games.

    Players we have that seem good fits for the Sens, in my opinion;

    Kulak. Bennett. Andersson. Kylington. One of Gillies/Rittich/Parsons. Maybe Stone, but only if the Sens move Karlsson and give Mark Stone what he wants.

    I’d not move Bennett for Brady Tkachuk. I’d love to see them on the same line! The Sens won’t take our Stone, unless we eat some cap. Kulak’s contract and potential are one of the better fits. Andersson’s another who fits the path the Sens need to be on, for the future, but we won’t be moving him. Kylington may also be a good fit, for the Sens…

    So… Would our 2019 1st and Kulak and Kylington, for Brady, a 3rd, and a prospect, get it done? (I, too, feel Brady was drafted too high…)

    • supra steve

      When did “I feel Brady was drafted too high” become a good reason to drastically under estimate his value to the Sens?
      Think about what it would have taken to pry Sam Bennett out of CGY in the summer of 2014. Would it have been more than a mid to late 2015 1st plus a 3rd pairing D man with upside plus a B level D prospect for Bennett plus a 3rd plus a prospect? Yes it would have been a lot more.
      I can’t tell you what Brady will amount to at the NHL level, but I will tell you his current value to OTT is a LOT higher than what you have proposed. They gave up a real chance of drafting in the top of next year’s draft to pick Brady in 2018, they have a lot invested in this player.

      • everton fc

        Good points. I guess I just don’t think Brady Tkachuk is worth Bennett. (Crazy that we felt Lazar was worth a 2nd). I don’t think Brady is worth what the Sens will be asking. But someone will probably think differently, if he goes back to school, and the Sens feel he may walk. We shall see.

        I simply hope we don’t give up on Bennett, just yet.

        • supra steve

          Bennett may end up being worth more than Brady, but 4 years into his career, I am still waiting for him to prove it…and I’m hoping he hasn’t already shown us his true final worth as a player. Currently, I would value Brady a lot higher than I do Bennett, if I were the GM in OTT.

      • Totally agree. They just drafted him at 4. That AND they chose to use their one first round pick on him forfeiting next years in the trade to col iirc. It’d take more than Bennett, decent prospect. The optics would be horrible for the OTT fans to trade their blue chip prospect for b or c package.

    • super6646

      “So… Would our 2019 1st and Kulak and Kylington, for Brady, a 3rd, and a prospect, get it done?”

      First off, I really don’t want to trade our 1st round pick. Secondly, no way the sens do this as Brady could be their best LW and they wouldn’t do that for what could be a meh 1st and a 3rd pairing D and a high risk prospect, and give extra pieces back.

  • FLT

    To those talking about acquiring baby Tkachuk, it ain’t happening. I’d love to have him, but not at the price he would command – he’s a 4th overall pick just a few months ago.

    The suggestion that Stone + Bennett + gets anywhere close is ludicrous. Unless the last plus is a Valimaki or a couple future first round picks…which would also be ludicrous.

    • Cfan in Van

      If he goes back to school (and potentially stays 4 years), does his trade value not decrease significantly like Fox’s did? Not apples to apples in draft value, but a similar scenario.

        • Kevin R

          I have buddies that are adamant that they would never do a 1-1 deal for baby Byng & Bennett. I think Ottawa reached a bit too much at #4. What you are suggesting is way too high ask for a high ceiling player that hasnt played a pro game yet. I wouldnt give that package for Karlsson.
          Ottawa doesnt want much salary so Bennett & Kylington would be a pretty attractive package for baby Byng & I think we can afford that & would not want to give anymore than that.

          Keep in mind that if Bennett has a much better year, which many are hoping & expecting, he will also be looking for a Lindholm type of deal. Add Byngs new contract & Brad will be one busy guy next summer trying to get a goalie & Byng to fit under the cap. Moving Bennett + differs that extra strain on the cap next summer. My other concern is that I just dont see the room in the top 6 for Bennett & that is where we need him to play to see the progress we are hoping. So if we go through another year of lower 3rd line minutes & minimal PP time, 35-40 points is probably as good as we are going to see from him on a decent year. That will certainly cause his value to take a hit.

          For those asking why do we need a Brady? Answer is simple. Our window is just opening, guys that play with edge & have talent are the difference makers in the playoffs when refs let a lot more go. Tom Wilsons value from this years playoffs speak for them self.

          • Cfan in Van

            @FLT
            Maybe Bennett? Maybe our later 1st round in 2019? It certainly depends on how bad the Sens think they’re getting played by the Tkachuk camp, how highly the Flames value him, and how confident they feel that he would sign in Calgary after a few years.

          • FLT

            @Cfan in Van
            Yeah, our opinions differ there. There are still some reasons to be optimistic about Bennett, but I don’t think an Aug. 13 trade package with him as the centerpiece nets anything close to Brady. I don’t think even Bennett + Flames 2019 1st is close either.

            I’m sure crazier things have happened, but regardless of whether he goes back to school or not, selling Brady at a steep discount less than 2 months after picking him 4th overall would be extraordinarily poor asset management by the Sens.