Matthew Tkachuk could – and should – be the first to break the Giordano cap

Whenever Brad Treliving leaves the Flames, his legacy will certainly have a mixed reception. However, if there’s one undisputed good move, it was his shrewd negotiating that kept star players locked up long-term with below market value AAVs due to setting a precedent that no one gets paid more than the captain, Mark Giordano. That’s a mouthful, so let’s just call it the Gio Cap.

The Gio Cap has been the mechanism which keeps costs down and allows the Flames to keep young, good players around for longer. At the time of establishment, Giordano, a #1D who could still play top level hockey at an age when most defencemen are past their expiry date, re-signed for a cool $6.75M, even though he could certainly argue for more as the franchise defenceman.

Now that’s the standard, and it causes a trickle down effect for other Flames looking for big bucks. Johnny Gaudreau, one of the league’s superstars, buckled on the eve of the 2016-17 season to the power of the Gio Cap, settling for $6.75M when he certainly could’ve made much, much more. Earlier that summer, Sean Monahan took a few dollars less than most 1Cs make, thanks to the Gio Cap. As we go down the roster, we can see players who took much less than they should’ve. Briefly: Elias Lindholm ($4.85M), Noah Hanifin ($4.95M), and Mikael Backlund ($5.35M).

It has its downsides: the Gaudreau holdout was annoying, and you feel that any premium free agent is going to write off Calgary immediately given the artificial salary cap in place. But the upsides outweigh the downsides by a large margin: Calgary has a strong group of players under 25 who can be among the best in the NHL despite taking in a smaller salary than those who bargain for more.

Let’s look at the ongoing William Nylander saga in Toronto for further proof (because everything eventually has to be related to the Leafs): there’s an impasse because Nylander (rightfully) deserves around $8M, but the Leafs don’t want to pay that, mostly because that means they’ll have to pay Mitch Marner more. They’ll also have to pay Auston Matthews at least what John Tavares makes, if not more.

Unless there’s some magic to be done, it looks like Toronto is either going to have to break up the band or stick with them and hope the top-heavy roster can carry the rest of the very cheap depth players. It’s extremely hard to say that any situation involving Tavares, Matthews, Marner, and Nylander can end poorly for the team with these players, but that could be how it goes down in the centre of the universe.

So big ups to Treliving, whose responsible re-signing restraint has set the team up to successful and flexible in the long and short run. Now let’s all collectively take a big sip of this coffee and check which upcoming RFAs the team will need to re-sign in the 2019 offseason.

Matthew Tkachuk

Ah. If anyone was going to be the wrench in the plans, you know it had to be Tkachuk.

There’s a lot I could say here, but Ari already said it earlier. So here’s the gist of it: everyone’s favourite winger has been a treat to watch since game one of his career. He can play offence, defence, and the villain to the opposition, doing all three things at near-elite levels. He can play shutdown duty against the league’s other top lines, provide a boost to the powerplay, work well with anyone he’s paired with, and generally tilt the ice in the Flames’ favour whenever he leaves the bench. He’s a jack of all trades and a master of most.

And he’s going to get paid because of all those qualities. For comparison, here’s a list of wingers who scored somewhere between 0.63-0.83 PPG on their ELCs during their teenage years, their fancy stats in their contract year, how much their next contract cost, and what percent of the cap it took up at the time it was signed:

PPG CF% OZS% Next contract AAV CH%
Sebastian Aho 0.75 58.10 57.53 n/a (still on ELC) n/a
Mikko Rantanen 0.74 46.07 54.82 n/a (still on ELC) n/a
David Pastrnak 0.73 57.82 56.20 $6.66M 8.89%
Jeff Skinner 0.7 51.25 67.04 $5.725M 9.54%
Nikolaj Ehlers 0.69 53.65 53.69 $6M 8%
Gabriel Landeskog 0.67 48.83 45.82 $5.571M 8.66%
Alexander Radulov 0.66 n/a n/a n/a (left for KHL) n/a
Max Domi 0.64 47.98 54.99 $3.15M 4.20%
Wojtek Wolski 0.64 49.67 48.01 $2.8M 4.94%
Jamie Benn 0.64 52.56 51.97 $5.25M 8.16%

With the exceptions of Domi and Wolski signing bridge contracts, which is almost certainly out of the question here, it looks like Tkachuk will get around 8.5% of the cap based on the average CH% of the players who signed long-term deals. Assuming a minimum $2M jump in cap, that means Tkachuk would get $6.97M, 8.5% of an $82M salary cap. That’s the minimum increase, remember. It could rise as high as $85M, in which case Tkachuk would make $7.225M.

That’s a lot of cash! But if you look at this list of comparables, it’s hard to put more than two players ahead of him. His underlying numbers, as Ari wrote, are just as good or better than any of these numbers. There’s few flaws the Flames can point to in defence of not paying him.

It’s hard to see a way for Treliving to escape paying Tkachuk big time money. Unless cap circumstances force a bridge contract, Tkachuk is the all-around player who deserves his money.

Final thoughts

He wouldn’t be Brad Treliving if he didn’t do everything in his power for Tkachuk to remain at or under $6.75M.

But he’s likely going to have to capitulate. The winger’s performances this season are painting the GM into a corner with every tipped power play goal or multi-assist evening. The longer he remains at the top of the team scoring chart, the higher his AAV will go.

If I could offer a suggestion, I would say the Flames should offer a $7Mx8Y contract before Tkachuk builds a stronger case for that first number to be higher. If they want, they can only pay him $6.75M for the first three years – the length of term remaining on Giordano’s contract – and backload his contract to symbolically keep the Gio Cap intact, but for all intents and purposes, Tkachuk is going to break that cap. It’ll only be a matter of how much.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    You know, I don’t like to make real comments and I love Tre, but we haven’t had much sustained success (or much playoff success) with that cap. I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

    • kirby

      Yeah maybe we should be more like the Oilers or Hawks and grossly overpay a handful of star players leaving absolutely no room to cultivate or retain any depth whatsoever? I don’t understand your point here.

      The lack of sustained success has been primarily attributed to the fact that we haven’t had an actual #1 goalie since Kiprusoff retired. If we had a guy who didn’t average 3 goals against on home ice last year, we easily would have been a playoff team. If we didn’t have a guy who completely melted down under playoff pressure the year before, we absolutely would’ve had a chance to make a run. If we made a play to go acquire Marc-Andre Fleury instead of trying to pick washed up veterans off the FA scrap heap, maybe it would have been us having a magical run instead of Vegas.

      We have the talent up front. We have the depth. We have a good D-core. There’s been one consistent glaring gaping hole in our roster between the pipes and it’s been holding us back for YEARS now.

      Nothing to do with the fact that Johnny and Mony are locked up to long term manageable cap hits. If anything, that’s one of our greatest advantages moving forward.

      • Flaming moe

        Meh tough comparison Kirby. The hawks have 35 million tied up in Kane, Toews, Seabrook and Keith until 2024. That is the worst cap management ever. Oilers have 20 million tied up In Mcdavid and Draisaitl. Klefbom and Larson are good cap hits at 4 million.

        Difference is all the hawks players are old and past there prime. Oilers players are just getting into there prime. So if the flames want to pay chucky top dollars, I would rather do it now while he is in his prime. I have a feeling Chucky will have no problem holding out if Treliving doesn’t want to pay up.

        Biggest concern for me is….. wth are we going to do about a goalie????

        • kirby

          Yeah i’m not saying Tkachuk doesn’t deserve a big lucrative extension or that we shouldn’t do damn near whatever it takes to keep him long term. I love that guy, if he’s not our future captain i don’t know who is. But if it’s gonna take $10-11 mil a year or something absurd like that, then it likely comes with repercussions and concessions down the road that could prevent/restrict other moves in areas of need. But i don’t see that being the case, and i think 7×8 or 8×8 could/should absolutely get the deal done and i’d have zero problem with it whatsoever.

          My point was moreso to the original commentor posting the sentiment that the “Gio Cap” has affected play on the ice, as if Johnny and Mony having manageable long term deals hurt the teams sustainable success when in reality, the exact opposite is true. It’s the biggest reason he have a chance to build a serious contender for years to come as opposed to teams like Hawks/Oilers, who yes are paying for different reasons (the Hawks because that core won and they were rewarded for it which is now coming back to haunt them now that some of those guys are regressing/not what they once were, and the Oilers who are hoping that’s coming but now can’t build the depth around young stars McDavid/Draisaitl to make that a reality) but either way end up with top heavy and ultimately lackluster rosters that can’t hold up or compete long term over the grind of a long season and have zero room for error due to their lack of depth.

          So considering all that, i just can’t comprehend how someone would think that lower cap hits at the top is a bad thing in relation to a teams sustainability. That made no sense to me.

          But yes, we gotta keep Chucky and find a goalie. Especially with the cap going up and a core already secured, that should be completely realistic to achieve.

        • withachance

          Oilers have so many contract albatrosses… Drai is not a 10M player, Lucic at 6M+ is insane, Russell at 4M+ is insane, Nurse is going to need a huge contract based on team comparables (if Larsson is making 4M, Nurse is worth 7M).

          Oilers’ cap situation is downright embarrassing for essentially a one man team

        • LannyMac

          Hey Moe, I would gladly over pay two franchise forwards and two D if we had 3 cups in six yrs. Definitely overpaid now but my gratitude for having 3 cups outweighs what I have seen from this franchise for thirty yrs.

      • HOCKEY83

        Hawks is an odd example. Flames fans would love to have the cups the Hawks have won. It hasn’t just been goaltending. The flames have also had some of the worst performing D in the league as well. 3 to 4 years left on Johnny’s contract. you consider that long term. Both him and Monny will be wanting at least 18 mil between the 2 of them when it comes time to sign. I would consider at least one or both gone within 4 years. What do you think this team looks like in 4 years.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Well, I guess a direct effect would be Johnny’s holdout through camp. It cost him a lot of productivity that year. It hurt us. Additionally, a top notch goaltender acquired in a trade might demand 7-8.

      Just some thoughts.

      • kirby

        With Mike Smith carrying over $5.6M cap hit a year, wouldn’t you GLADLY tack on another $1.4 to secure an actual #1 caliber goaltender? Especially with the cap projected to raise by a few million? Would that not be a worth while price for potentially the last major piece to a puzzle? Does saving some money on a goalie feel good when it perennially prevents us from contending for anything?

        • MDG1600

          Treliving and Sigalet seemingly couldn’t identify a #1 goaltender if there lives depended on it. Hiller – fail. Ramo – fail. Ortio – fail. Elliot – fail. Draft Mcdonald ahead of highly rated Demko = fail. Smith can hold the fort until future starter Gillies is ready = fail and fail. Don’t worry boys – this Parsons might be good if we can ever get him healthy enough to play so we can find out… and last but not least – hey what about that german guy we signed – is he any good? It’s a damned comedy of misadventures in goal.

          • theartfuldodger

            That is goalies we ended up with not the same as identify the better ones. Surely Treliving was in on Flower, Bishop and others but they didnt come here.

        • HOCKEY83

          It’s 5.6 this season before tkachuk is signed and as well as Hathaway Bennett and almost every prospect the flames have. Tkachuk will get somewhere between 7 and 8 mil if the flames are lucky. take away Smith’s cap hit that leaves you over the cap just signing tkachuk and no goalie…I think that’s a little too much money saved on a goalie 🙂

  • The GREAT WW

    Byng is a generational talent, so pay the man……!!!

    Having said that, plenty of people on here were saying Hamilton would break the Gio cap…..and Gaudreau……and Monahan……..Hanifin…..Lindholm……..


  • Orrwasbest

    I hope we can keep the number reasonable as any amount over the Gio Cap will spill over to future contract negotiations as well! The kid is a star and will be our next Captain but hope he is concerned with surrounding himself with quality teammates and spreading the wealth. Very difficult in todays cap world and Tre has really done a great job to date. JG took a hit for the team and here is hoping MT sees that and does similar.

  • Off the wall

    I think there are several things to consider regarding Tkachuk.

    1. He should be untouchable. He’s our heart and soul. At 20 years old!
    2. Coming off his ELC, doesn’t provide him a lot of leverage, yet he deservedly should garner about the same amount of cap % as our top paid players, which as Christian already stated is at 8.5% or $7M.
    3. Treliving should have started negotiations before the season began , as we know he’s going to have another great season. Heck he’s tied with Johnny for points, with lesser sklilled players in his line. His prowess on the PP, is only going to get better. No one can tip a puck like Tkachuk.
    Waiting just robs Treliving of any hope of keeping him under his invisible salary cap structure of $6.75M
    4. If Treliving gives Tkachuk the Gaudreau treatment, he should probably find another job. We don’t want another potential hold -out to impair our relationship with Tkachuk. The kid bleeds Flames.
    5. 8 years of $7-7.5M is going to happen. If Backlund can make $5.35M, then there’s no question Tkachuk is worth at least $7M.

    Geez, I’m starting to sound like Tkachuk’s agent.
    Don’t play cheap with our future Captain, he doesn’t deserve it.

    • The GREAT WW

      Backlund is overpaid by $2 million per for what he brings…..
      Let’s not use his boat anchor contract as a measuring stick for other contracts…..


    • Alberta Ice

      Yep, you should be his agent! Good arguments. (And thanks again to Columbus, Edmonton, and Vancouver for not selecting him after the Maple Leafs and Jets took their prizes in the draft of 2016. Still can’t believe we got him. 3rd best selection of that draft year for sure!)

  • Cheeky

    If we can sign him to 8 yrs then $7 mil per is a good number. Some how though I think he will try to cash in on his next (ufa) contract while he’s still young, so it may only be a 5 or 6 yr deal (which should land under the Gio bar)…

    • Off the wall

      Good point Cheeky. That’s very plausible as well.

      Most young players like to leave a little UFA years for future deals and I don’t think Tkachuk will necessarily sign the maximum 8 years.

      It’s interesting that the same agency represents Monahan as well as Tkachuk. Newport Sports Agency got Monahan $6.375M over 7 years, not 8.
      Gaudreau took a six year deal at $6.75M.

      Perhaps Tkachuk does exactly as you pointed out – six years at close to Monahan money?

      If that’s the case, I agree that Treliving will keep him under his internal cap of $6.75M

      • LannyMac

        If this kid stays healthy and hovers around a pt per game or better with all the other intangibles he has over Mony and Johnny. There is no way whether it be a shorter contract or the full 8yrs he should take anything less than 8mil AAC

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      I’m thinking along these lines, although I’m not certain the Gio Cap will hold. I’m more concerned about term. If I’m BT I’m trying to keep the next term shorter than MT becoming UFA. I think that is a 6 year term but I might be wrong. That gives us a chance to lock him up once more before getting into a bidding war.

  • Cfan in Van

    It may be mentioned in Ari’s article, but am I the only one missing Tkachuck’s numbers from that table? It would definitely help the comparison, if they were included…

  • MontanaMan

    We all assume that Tkachuk will be signed following a lengthy negotiation. But what if he pulls a Nylander and asks for $8.5 or $9 million on an extended deal? Then what?

    • Off the wall

      I think the difference is in the player himself.

      Tkachuk is a team guy. That doesn’t mean he’s going to let Treliving dictate his $ and term, Tkachuk deserves his fair equitable payday. He will make sure he gets it, however I wanna believe Tkachuk wants to play more than anything else in the world. That’s his makeup. Team results are paramount to him. All his actions and speech demonstrate this. If money was his biggest concern, he wouldn’t be playing on Calgary to begin with.

      Gaudreau could have waited it out longer and probably got a bigger salary. In the end, Gaudreau intervened with his agent, because playing mattered more. That’s the kind of players you draft and keep. The ones that can see the big picture.

      Nylander isn’t concerned with the team concept. His holdout signals that he feels more entitled, regardless of the salary cap. Does Nylander care about winning as a team? Probably not. Does he care that Marner and Matthews need to fit into the cap space? Probably not.
      Does the December deadline seem to concern him? He doesn’t care. He wants, he wants, he wants.

      I’ll bet on Tkachuk any day over a entitled, sniveling Nylander..

      • His Dudeness

        That’s ridiculous. Nylander knows that the leafs will trade him and his “team friendly” contract once they have to pay everybody. Fans are so stupid. Maple leafs don’t give a flying turd about Nylander, why should he take under market value to play for whatever team the leafs move him to.

        • Off the wall

          You think Nylander’s market value is worth $8.5-9M? Ok then.

          Glad his dudeness believes in rudeness.. you know, you really don’t need to use dumb, stupid, ignorant, foolish, obtuse, moronic, absurd,idiotic as adjectives to make your point.

          I hope I made mine..

          • His Dudeness

            Entitled sniveling Nylander is not rude? Do you know him? Have you ever in your life gone through contract negotiations? Did you take less than you are worth?

            The fact is Nylander deserves to get paid and since he can’t get a NTC on this contract he should not sign for below market value just so Toronto can Trade him away.

          • Off the wall

            That’s fair, I deserved that.

            Probably a poor choice of wording, however the two players are significantly different. That was the discussion behind this thread.

            And yes, I’m a Contractor, so I’m always involved in negotiating contracts. A few times I’ve taken less money at the table, for stability and other reasons. It’s not always about money.

            I’m not saying the two are exactly the same, however I understand how difficult the negotiation process is.

            GM’s don’t frequently trade away team friendly contracts, unless they are getting one in return.
            Gaudreau and Monahan are prime examples of team friendly contracts with no NTC. They’re not going anywhere, are they?

      • Cfan in Van

        “If money was his biggest concern, he wouldn’t be playing on Calgary to begin with.”
        He was drafted by the Flames and not going to college, so he didn’t have much of a choice other that being a complete hold-out (like Lindros). As loyal as he may be, he’s aware of his place on the totem pole. He’s going to want to get paid. I think he gets JG/MG cash for 5 years, or 7+ for 6-7 years.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I wonder if the physical, intense game Chucky plays is going to age him faster than a player the same age who doesn’t play that robust style, so will Chucky be an old 28 as opposed to a guy who is still in his prime at 28. I wouldn’t let this wonder stop me from signing Chucky long term or for major bucks were I Tre because he has shown during his time here his incredible value to the club.