When you have a year like the Flames are having, narrowing down the top “bang for you buck” candidates is not an easy task. The fourth annual instalment of Calgary’s best value contracts is by far the hardest one yet, which is why I’ve expanded from a top three to a top five for 2019. There’s a brand new face at the top of the list and he’s not even one full season into his tenure with the Flames.
In what’s a pretty good indicator of how much better this year has been for Calgary compared to last, only Johnny Gaudreau’s name is seen in consecutive years. The top three last year was:
3. Mike Smith
2. Mikael Backlund
1. Michael Ferland
Last year’s article was published Jan. 31, which was before Smith’s season derailed and obviously before Ferland was dealt to Carolina. Backlund, on the other hand, doesn’t crack this year’s top five in year one of his new long-term deal, but was just on the outside.
Finally, entry-level contracts don’t count, which is why you will not see either Matthew Tkachuk or Rasmus Andersson listed. Let’s count ’em down.
5. DAVID RITTICH
For a guy on a one-year, $800,000 contract, the Flames have gotten really good work out of Rittich. Even if his save percentage has dropped to the middle of the pack over the last couple months, Rittich is still an above average goalie this season.
League rankings below with a minimum 30 games played.
Considering what other goalies with inferior stats to him are making, you can be pretty satisfied with Rittich’s return on investment. Calgary wins when he’s in net, he has the ability to go on extended runs with elite numbers, and he’s in just his second NHL season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his numbers take a step forward next season.
There’s one other thing to consider with Rittich. Much like the Flames, he’s been significantly more buttoned down on the road as opposed to at home. Calgary plays a very loose, high-event brand of hockey at Scotiabank Saddledome, as opposed to largely being very responsible away from home.
There’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” effect here, but both Rittich and Mike Smith’s numbers are significantly better on the road. What really stands out, though, is Rittich’s 0.933 save percentage away from home; that’s the third-highest mark in the league.
4. TRAVIS HAMONIC
Hamonic’s very reasonable contract was one of the main selling points when the Flames acquired him in the summer of 2017. After a difficult first season with his new team, Hamonic’s $3.857 million cap hit looks like a really good buy in year two.
Paired with Noah Hanifin from the very start of training camp, Hamonic has anchored one of the league’s most steady and consistent duos. While the guy next on our list continues to make his case for the Norris Trophy, Hamonic has been Calgary’s second best defenceman by a large margin. He also seems to embody all of what playoff hockey is about, which is encouraging.
No one on the Flames spends more time on the penalty kill than Hamonic; he averages 3:00 per night, which is a top 20 total league-wide. And, while offence isn’t primary in his role, Hamonic has set a new career high with seven goals. In the end, that’s just a nice cherry on top of what has been a stellar second season in Calgary.
3. MARK GIORDANO
Yeah, he’s one of the two highest paid players on the team, but that doesn’t mean Giordano doesn’t provide his team a great deal of value. As it stands today, Giordano is third in scoring amongst defencemen and has posted absurd underlying totals. Remember, he’s done all this while playing top end opposition.
In year three of his six-year, $40.5 million contract, Giordano has all but squashed any thoughts of being an anchor for the Flames going forward. Due to his cyborg-like abilities to defy age, it’s hard to believe Giordano will be a liability at any point in the final three years of his deal. And even if he is, one or two “overpaid” years will be more than worth what Calgary has gotten in the first half of the deal.
Finally let’s look what the Flames are paying for Giordano compared to some of the other similar cap hits around the league.
That’s only a sampling of the defencemen with higher cap hits than Giordano (I didn’t include puke-worthy deals like Dion Phaneuf and Brent Seabrook, for instance), but it gives you a good idea of the value Calgary is getting.
While you’d have a tough time convincing me Subban, Burns, or Victor Hedman ($7.875 million) are better players than Giordano this season, it’s at least a viable conversation. What you can’t argue, though, is Giordano’s overall value is as high as it comes for elite NHL defencemen.
2. JOHNNY GAUDREAU
The other highest paid player on the Flames is providing incredible value this season, too. Gaudreau is one of the most electrifying and dynamic players on the planet and it turns out Calgary got extremely lucky with the timing of his second contract.
It just so happens the summer/fall of 2016, when Gaudreau signed his deal, will go down as one of the best in recent memory for bargain hunters. Think of the deals signed that summer; along with Gaudreau (6 x $6.75 million), Mark Scheifele (8 x $6.125 million), Aleksander Barkov (6 x $5.9 million), Nathan MacKinnon (7 x $6.3 million), and Sean Monahan (7 x $6.375 million) all signed their second deals, too. (PS, Monahan was also just on the outside of cracking this list).
As of March 18, Gaudreau is tied for fifth in league scoring with 91 points, so let’s break things down a little more.
|Player||Team||Points||AAV||Cost per point|
|Sidney Crosby||PIT||92||$8,700,000||$94, 565|
Yes, I fully understand the contracts above can’t be compared apples-to-apples; deals were signed at different times in different economic climates and for varying lengths. This is ONLY comparing point totals and the value teams are getting this season, and this season alone. That’s also why guys like Brayden Point and Mikko Rantanen, both on entry-level deals, weren’t included above.
We can all agree the Lightning are making out like bandits this year with Kucherov’s production, because it’s just stupid. His cap hit jumps to $9.5 million next season, which might still be underpaid, especially with what we’re about to see this summer. In Gaudreau’s case, though, he’s one of the best values at the top of the leaderboard, which puts him number two on this list.
1. ELIAS LINDHOLM
Lindholm signed a six-year, $29.1 million deal with Calgary a few weeks after being acquired from the Hurricanes at the 2018 NHL Draft. That contract looked very prudent and reasonable at the time. Fast forward seven months and 72 games and this looks like a Ponzi scheme.
With a cap hit of $4.85 million, Lindholm looks like he might be laying claim to one of the league’s biggest bargain contracts for years to come. It remains to be seen whether Lindholm’s production is sustainable year-over-year, but I can’t see it dropping significantly if he remains on a line with Gaudreau and Monahan.
Lindholm has been an impact maker in every situation this season. His five-on-five metrics are strong, while he’s also a mainstay on both the powerplay and penalty kill, averaging 3:17 and 2:21 per game, respectively. Lindholm’s fit with his new team has been seamless from the start and his contract looks better and better every passing game.