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Can the Flames fit Matthew Tkachuk and Noah Hanifin under the 2019-20 cap?

Friends, the Calgary Flames have some unfinished business remaining this summer but they’re largely done – and mostly fine, cap-wise, for 2018-19 due to the Troy Brouwer buyout. But their two big pieces of business will undoubtedly have big salary cap implications for the 2019-20 season.

Per comments from general manager Brad Treliving, Noah Hanifin’s amenable to a long-term deal. Per our pal Pat Steinberg, Matthew Tkachuk is in the same boat regarding his impending contract extension. Both are going to be pricey. The Flames are fine for this season’s cap, but can they fit everybody comfortably under the cap in 2019-20?

Fair value for Noah Hanifin

Hanifin is 21 years old and has completed his entry-level contract with 0.35 points per game (83 points in 239 games). There are four recent new contracts that featured players coming out of their entry-level deals. (Deals signed prior to this year are scaled based on percentage of the cap ceiling when they signed.)

  • Rangers D Brady Skjei, whose 0.38 points per game turned into six years and a $5.25 million AAV this summer
  • Hurricanes D Jaccob Slavin, whose 0.37 points per game turned into seven years and a $5.3 million AAV (signed in July 2017 with a year left on his deal) – scaled to $5.6 million under today’s cap
  • Ducks D Hampus Lindholm, whose 0.39 points per game turned into six years and a $5.25 million AAV (signed in October 2016) – scaled to $5.7 million under today’s cap
  • Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen, whose 0.34 points per game turned into six years and a $5.4 million AAV (signed October 2016) – scaled to $5.9 million under today’s cap

Lindholm has played three fewer games on his first contract than Hanifin. His offensive output was slightly ahead of Hanifin’s, but in terms of his importance to the Ducks and Hanifin’s anticipated spot on Calgary’s blueline that’s arguably the best fit of the players mentioned here.

Based on the sample here, a long-term deal of between five and seven years would likely cost somewhere between $5.4 and $5.7 million.

Fair value for Matthew Tkachuk

Tkachuk is 20 years old and has played two years on his entry-level deal. He has 0.67 points per game (97 points in 144 games). There are five contracts – three external and two internal – that are likely effective comparable deals. (Deals signed prior to this year are scaled based on percentage of the cap ceiling when they signed.)

  • Red Wings F Dylan Larkin, whose 0.58 points per game turned into five years and a $6.1 million AAV
  • Jets F Nikolaj Ehlers, whose 0.66 points per game turned into seven years and a $6 million AAV (signed in October 2017 with a year left on his first deal) – scaled to $6.4 million under today’s cap
  • Bruins F David Pastrnak, whose 0.72 points per game turned into six years and a $6.66 million AAV (signed in September 2017) – scaled to $7.1 million under today’s cap
  • Flames F Johnny Gaudreau, whose 0.89 points per game turned into six years and a $6.75 million AAV (signed in October 2016) – scaled to $7.35 million under today’s cap
  • Flames F Sean Monahan, whose 0.67 points per game turned into seven years and a $6.375 million AAV (signed in August 2016) – scaled to $6.94 million under today’s cap

Wanna know why the Flames probably want to sign Tkachuk right away? Right now, the Ehlers deal is the perfect comparable and a $6.4 million cap hit – while hefty – is a pretty tidy number to work with. But if Tkachuk’s offensive numbers take a leap forward, and everybody who played on the 3M Line probably should’ve had better ones last year but didn’t get the bounces, it wouldn’t take much to push him into Pastrnak territory and a $7 million cap hit.

There’s also the issue of the team’s internal cap structure. Nobody on the team has a contract that pays them more than Gaudreau or Mark Giordano (at $6.75 million). There’s a reason for that: they’re the Flames’ two most important players and were back when they signed. For all the talk about external cap comparisons, it’s likely that a portion of the contractual conversation will include mentions of Tkachuk’s importance to the team – he’s likely going to end up as the Flames’ second or third most important forward (behind Gaudreau and perhaps Monahan) so he should probably be paid as such. The team’s willingness to pay him more than Gaudreau or Giordano may be limited.

A likely “external” comparable deal would pay Tkachuk somewhere around $6.8 million over a seven-year span. The Flames would probably likely that number to fall closer to $6.5 million over a similar term to fit within their current internal cap structure.

Tight cap space

Let’s make three quick assumptions to project out the Flames’ cap space for 2019-20.

  1. The cap rises to around $81 million, which would be one of the smaller year-over-year cap increases under the current system.
  2. Hanifin is signed for the mid-point of the general range ($5.65 million).
  3. Tkachuk is signed for the mid-point of the two ranges ($6.65 million).

Adding those two projected signings to the deals already inked for 2019-20 turns into the following general cap structure:

  • 1 goaltender (Jon Gillies) signed at $750,000
  • 5 defensemen (Giordano, Hanifin, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Michael Stone) signed at $24.41 million
  • 10 forwards (Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, James Neal, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Michael Frolik, Derek Ryan, Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik) signed at $46.08 million
  • Plus Troy Brouwer’s $1.5 million cap hit from the buyout

All told, that amounts to $72.74 million in cap commitments and $8.26 million in remaining cap space to sign a starting goaltender, two defensemen and four forwards. Expect the goaltender to eat up the majority of that space.

Sum it up

Signing Hanifin and Tkachuk to fair market value contracts long term is doable and can fit under next year’s projected cap. But it’ll be very tight, and it would probably force Treliving to move out some money – Stone, perhaps – to allow for some wiggle room during the season.

  • RedMile

    Tkachuk will definitely be getting more than 7M making the cap situation pretty tight. I assume Stone will be traded out next summer with all the younger defensive prospects looking NHL ready.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Another last resort scenario is a Mike Stone buyout next off-season to lower cap hit to 1,166,167 for 2019-20 but also on books for same amount year after

      • First Name Unidentified

        This is the “grass is greener” scenario with a lot of folks on this board. Stone can easily slide into #4 in case of an injury, plays low key, and provides a ton of depth. I can’t imagine Tre doesn’t want to see him utilized by Billy P. He can turn into a trade asset by deadline if Billy uses him properly. Stone has a bomb for a shot. The shiny new toys (Juuso, Ras) haven’t been eased into the shark infested waters yet.

        • HAL MacInnis

          Totally agree, First Name. We need to take our time with Andersson and Valimaki. Some players thrive being thrown into the deep end (Tkachuk) and some almost drown (Bennett). Jankowski was the right way to do things.

          Stone is still an important piece to the team. People are assuming that Brodie will easily return to form with Giordano at his side. I hope he does, but assuming so and assuming Valimaki and Andersson are ready is a huge gamble.

          I think Stone will get a chance to shine under Peters. We need a defenceman with a slapshot that can clear a crowd… like some other guy that used to play for the Flames. 😉

      • HOCKEY83

        I agree. I find it odd that fans want to give up Stone for a crappy pick and retained salary. Regardless of any of it though they will do what they have to do to sign Tkachuk. I’m sure they’re not concerned at all.

        • Jobu

          For the record Jobu doesn’t want to deal him either. He was only stating that a deal is better than a buyout, if necessary.

          Stone has a lot of value as a 4/5 defenseman and may thrive under Peters.