56Matthew Tkachuk
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Matthew Tkachuk’s contract tops list of Calgary’s offseason priorities

The off-season is about a month old, which means general manager Brad Treliving is just getting started. Calgary has lots to figure out coming off a disappointing five game playoff exit and Treliving has never been one to be passive. From potential trades to free agency, the Flames are staring at one of the most important summers in quite some time. Nothing looms larger, though, than Matthew Tkachuk’s pending contract negotiation.

Matthew Tkachuk’s contract

There is so much to consider when trying to determine what Tkachuk’s new deal is going to look like, and when he’s going to sign it. The fact Tkachuk is part of a massive class of high-end restricted free agents makes projecting very difficult. It also doesn’t leave me overly optimistic this is going to get done anytime soon.

This RFA crop includes Mikko Rantanen, Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, Brayden Point, and Sebastian Aho, to name only a few. For virtually every player in the conversation, there isn’t much benefit to signing early. Specifically for players in the middle of this pack like Tkachuk, the incentive to get out in front isn’t really there. As such, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this drag into August.

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Then there’s the matter of what the deal actually looks like, whenever it gets signed. Are the Flames willing to sign Tkachuk to the biggest contract in team history? If they’re keen on locking Tkachuk up for seven or eight years, they won’t have much of a choice.

The biggest deal in team history is currently owned by Sean Monahan; he signed for seven years and $44.625 million three years ago. With the NHL’s current economics, I can’t see the Flames getting Tkachuk for a similar term at less than Monahan’s $6.375 million average annual value.

Calgary’s highest AAVs are owned by Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau; both count $6.75 million against the cap. To keep Tkachuk under any rumoured “internal cap”, the only option would be a bridge deal, likely for three years. Two years is too short, four years gets Tkachuk to free agency, and anything longer starts to buy UFA years, which come at a premium.

Bridging Tkachuk is helpful in the short term; the Flames would get him at a lower cap hit for three years as they try to maximize their competitive window. The downside, of course, is what happens after those three years. If Tkachuk continues to produce at point-per-game rates, what could be a $7.5 million AAV today is going to be a whole lot higher come 2022.

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Draft weekend

Treliving gets his work done at the NHL Draft. He’s worked five drafts as GM and has made a trade every single time, and usually not of the small variety. I don’t expect that trend to change next month in Vancouver, and I’m led to believe Treliving is ready to execute another significant move.

Year Acquired From Price
2014 Brandon Bollig Chicago 3rd round pick (2014)
2015 Dougie Hamilton Boston 1st round pick (2015)
2nd round pick (2015)
2nd round pick (2015)
2016 Brian Elliott St. Louis 2nd round pick (2016)
3rd round pick (2018)
2017 Travis Hamonic
4th round pick (2019)
NYI 1st round pick (2018)
2nd round pick (2018)
2nd round pick (2019)
2018 Elias Lindholm
Noah Hanifin
Carolina Micheal Ferland
Dougie Hamilton
Adam Fox

Aside from 2014, all of Treliving’s draft weekend acquisitions have been big ones, which makes it four straight years. Furthermore, Treliving was only on the job for about six weeks prior to his first draft, which leads many to suggest the Bollig acquisition was more of a Brian Burke decision.

With names like TJ Brodie and Michael Frolik connected to plenty of trade innuendo, it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Flames leave Vancouver as one of the biggest newsmakers for a fifth straight year. While Calgary would be fine using their first round pick (26th overall), we’re talking about a team knocking on the door. Don’t be stunned if Calgary doesn’t pick in the first round for the third time in five years.

Other contract negotiations

Rasmus Andersson

While Tkachuk’s deal will garner the most attention this summer, the Flames have a few other interesting contracts to figure out, too. In the immediacy, David Rittich’s new contract poses an interesting dilemma. Is Calgary ready to go multiple years with Rittich for a long-term payoff? Or is the more risk-averse one-year deal the approach?

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The Flames also have interesting negotiations ahead with a trio of forwards: Sam Bennett (RFA), Andrew Mangiapane (RFA), and Garnet Hathaway (UFA). All three showed growth in 2018-19, while the latter two took significant steps forward.

Finally, Rasmus Andersson becomes eligible for a contract extension July 1st, which presents an opportunity for Calgary. With one year remaining on his deal, the Flames have a chance to pounce and lock up an extremely promising defenceman long-term, even if it means absorbing a little risk. If his camp is into it, I see very little downside going five or six years with Andersson as soon as he becomes eligible.

Figure out the goaltending situation

Mike Smith

Tackling the above task has a number of layers. It starts with getting Rittich signed as discussed above, but goes beyond that. Calgary needs to decide, if they haven’t already, if they see Rittich as a number one. If the answer is yes, he needs to be given the opportunity, and playing time, to reflect that starting in October.

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The Flames also have to decide if Mike Smith is back next season. The pending UFA started all five of the team’s playoff games, but also turned 36 in March and struggled for much of the regular season. If Smith is open to returning as part of a tandem, the conversation about re-signing him has merit. If he’s focused on remaining a clear cut number one, it doesn’t make any sense.

I’m not anticipating a Smith return, which would force Calgary to find a solid partner for Rittich. I don’t believe the Flames are confident Jon Gillies is that guy, so a trade or free agency would be the next step. Cam Talbot, Curtis McElhinney, and Thomas Greiss (trade) are all very interesting options Calgary could explore.

  • Bobby Bitman

    Firstly, 174 points in 224 reg season games and 3 points in 9 playoff games is not a point-per-game player, and this is where the flames have to be careful not to overvalue MT (conceding that he is young and should improve) What exactly is he? and what’s he worth?

    Pros: He is excellent in front of the net, deflections, and getting under opponents skin.

    Cons: Poor skater, playoff results are simply not there, and unless you are Justin Williams, that disturber schtick doesn’t usually work in the playoffs.

    Overall, are the flames going to look at a salary based on potential or based on what he has done?

    Before the trashes come, I’m not saying he’s not good or effective, but is he worth much more than 6-7?

    • withachance

      He’s worth more than 6-7M just purely based on how high the cap has gone up. He’s likely going to come in around 9% of the overall cap hit at a minimum which is roughly 7.5M, but wouldnt be surprised if he hits closer to 8M just based on the rest of the RFA class

      • HOCKEY83

        Exactly withachance. Do you think colorado is just going to give Rantenen 6 mil because Mackinnon signed for 6 mil in 2016…not a chance…rantanen is gonna get more. Probably won’t sit well with Mackinnon but Rantenen doesn’t care and 3 years in the salary cap world is like a salary cap generation gone by. Salaries go up for similarly skilled players over short periods of time in this NHL…it’s just the way it is. They only way he gets paid less than Johnny Monny or GIO is if Tkachuk himself chooses to take a team discount.

    • The Red Knight

      HIs hockey IQ is huge and that’s why his skating doesn’t affect his play as much because he’s already going to the right areas before anyone else , he makes elite plays , he will be atleast a point per game player.

      • CowboyBob

        He sure didn’t get to the right areas in the playoffs. He had no pressure on the Avs defencemen nor could he disrupt the Avs breakout because he couldn’t get in there time. This reminds me of Dustin Byfuglien before the 2014 Olympics, everyone was saying what a force he would be. Against Canada the US didn’t play him the last two periods because the game was to fast for him, simply couldn’t keep up. That’s what Matthew Tkachuk looked like to me against Colorado. I agree there is talent there with MT, zbut’s simply not elite unless you can skate against the other team’s top line. I’m fine with a bridge deal, see if he can learn how to skate in the next few years, if not move on.

        • Tkachuk'sLisp

          I think him being a 77 point guy playing in a primarily defensive role with Backlund and Frolik (or insert random linemate) says what kind of player he is. Tkachuk is elite.

          • Bobby Bitman

            It is this kind of thinking that will get MT overpaid. 24 of those points (one third) were on the pp (pretty good numbers) so he was not in a “primarily defensive role” obviously. He’s good but is he “elite”? I think not.

            He’s valuable, but I think it’s improtant to keep MT in persepective. he’s not “generational” as WW likes to throw around and he’s certainly not “elite” The game is only going to get faster, but will he get faster? Beware of the overpay with MT, that’s all I’m saying.

          • HOCKEY83

            Ya he’s not generational but certainly as elite as Johnny or monny. Regardless of that fact non generational stars in this league are getting 7 to 11 mil to play. Generationals are getting more than that

    • Loud_voices

      I couldn’t agree more Bobby! I love Tkachuk and I think he’s a difference maker. That being said, I don’t think he’s better than Guadreau or deserves a bigger contract. Johnny also signed for way less than what I thought he was worth so who knows if BT could get Chucky to do the same. The market plays a big factor in the price of contracts and like this article states (I didn’t even take this in to account until reading this article) if we sign him on a bridge deal what’s his worth going to be at the end of the deal with his improvement and inflation? It might just be better to bite the bullet now rather than the bigger one later.

    • HOCKEY83

      Bobby Bitman…Considering it’s every bit as good as monny’s first 3 season and the final of the 3 season for tkachuk was better than Monny’s 3rd season…also not that far off of Johnny’s first 3 seasons…He probably will get more than Monny but would be crazy if he got 7

          • Budgie

            Bitman: “How are Ya” how is Skip? Tkachuk will likely get 6, a lot of money, he is in the upper echelon for his style of play, deflects pucks and agitates. Has a good shot too, he will be paid like a first line player. Personally I think he should be happy with 4 over 6 years-with bonuses

          • HOCKEY83

            None of these young star kids in the NHL deserve the money they are getting so what i think he should get is irelevent. What you think he should get is irelevent. He’s going to get what the NHL values him at. Not what the fans think he should get. If I’m going by what other players of his calibre would be getting than it varies from 6 to 8 mil for 5 to 8 seasons. his salary will be somewhere in there.

    • Getpucksdeep

      Time for me to chirp again! Rask NEVER signed with or played for Toronto. He came straight from Europe and his entry level contract was with the Bruins. He spent 2 years in the Bruins AHL Providence system. He is a Boston developed goalie. Binnington is obviously a home grown goalie. That will 9 straight cups won by home developed goalie. Goalies may be voodoo but when teams find one they don’t trade them. They keep them.

  • Franko J

    Treliving is good for another blockbuster trade on draft day. I bet he has 2 to 3 deals in the process already and is just waiting to make the right move.

    While Treliving has been in negotiations with Tkachuk’s camp for some time, I think I have to agree and a deal will drag into August at the least. I am most certain Tkachuk’s agent will be waiting for the Marner deal to get done first.

    In the meantime, I think BT main focus should be taking care of “in-house” priorities and try to sign Bennett, Mangiapane, and Rittich first and foremost. I think after draft day there will be a couple of RFA’s that will have to be resigned to new deals as well. Just like last year with Lindholm and Hanifin.

    The no-brainer will be signing Andersson to an extension come July 1. Him and Valamaki are the cornerstones on the Flames D. Signing Andersson to extension now might be less expensive than waiting to the end of next season. Especially if he continues to progress like he did this past season.

      • I think you’re right that the biggest obstacle is Tkachuk deserving and probably demanding more, but the message wouldn’t have to be taken as a lack of faith. I think it’s easy to look at however many years Giordano has left as a Norris level defenseman and see that as a cup window (not that the post-Gio defense is looking too shabby right now). It would be the selfless move of a potential future captain to make a sacrifice and keep the team in compliance with their internal cap, and also validate Tre’s hardball negotiations with Gaudreau. I’m not saying I’d be all for taking 6.75 for 3 years if I was Tkachuk or one if his parents, but it could be a good move if he turns into an 10 million dollar player afterward. If he does, he’ll be up there with my all-time favourite Flames.

      • calgaryfan

        It is a business deal players get paid for success why not take a bridge and prove your worth, and if he demands a trade the Flames could hold an auction highest bidder wins

  • freethe flames

    What does the market suggest he is worth. Nylander is making @7m amd Matthews signed for @$11m. In some ways Tkachuk is a better player than Nylander but not by a lot. They are different but I would prefer Tkachuk. He is not as good as Matthews . Both Nylander and Matthews play center (or can) and they always get paid a premium. The market suggest $7.5-8m. Agree or disagree but that is what the market likely suggests.

  • Puck Head

    I enjoy watching the Blues play because they’re solid all around. They have 17 players from Canada and only two guys under 6 feet.

    Their lineup is significantly different from ours.

    • super6646

      Yes, because size = heart and whatnot. Marchand is one of the favourites for the con smythe and is 5’9. God can people in this fanbase stop living in the Stone Age and understand that small players can make an impact too.

      • CowboyBob

        I think smaller players can totally play in today’s NHL. But, they need to be tough, mean and fast. Marchand and Gallagher have more nasty in one little finger than Monahan and Jankowski have in their entire 6’3” bodies…put together.

        • super6646

          Make no mistake, Monagone and lamekowski were a joke in the playoffs. But Ryan and mangiapane both played with heart and tried their best, and they are both small players. Even Gaudreau, despite being ineffective (this applied to Lindy as well and was mainly because of Monahan deciding to shut down) wasn’t due to a lack
          of effort. As you guys already pointed out, many of our big players (cough cough Neal) decided they wanted to play golf early. It wasn’t our “small” players that was the problem.

      • The Red Knight

        Theo fleury!! 5’6 and the heart of a thousand buffalo ! We need more Fleury s and iginlas ! Not powderpuffs ! Jankowski 6’4 210 of powderpuff,Monahan 200 lbs of soft hair , size means nothing if you wear it like a Widdle baby .

  • Kevin R

    Hope Tkachuk isnt going to drag this out to max out as much as he can from the other RFA’s. Security may be what he wants & I agree a Tarasenko type deal of 7 for 7.5mill per is a pretty solid payday for the young man.

    I would have no problem signing Talbot to a 3 year 3.0 millish type of deal to be a 1B goalie. Give him a chance to haunt the Oilers lol. & then sign BSD to a similar deal. I wonder what people would think if we flipped our 1st & a prospect to the Kings for Quick where the eat $2.5 mill of his salary, that would give us a pretty solid 1b plan for the next 4 years at 3.3mill per. Just putting that out there.

    For all those Nazem Kadri haters, keep this in mind, prior to Leafs bringing in Tavares, he potted 30+ goals the previous two seasons. He’s a 1-b-2nd line centre option on a very good contract. I would say Brodie, Jankowski(who could slot cheaply into the 3rd line in Toronto) for Kadri & Brown. Gives Peters some excellent top 6 options to shuffle.

    If Tre can get Anderson to sign a TJ Brodie type of extension come July 1, what a coo that would be & totally worth the risk in my opinion.

    Looking forward to seeing what Tre winds up doing.

    • wot96

      No to Quick even if LA eats salary. He is getting old and his numbers aren’t great. Haven’t we had enough of old goalies already?

      I hate Kadri. He would be a good addition if he can control the approach.

    • Derzie

      I would treat ex-Oilers and players over 30 as exceptions when looking for talent. Reclamation projects are tempting but they can’t be the main focus or for key weak areas (Goaltending, tenacious forwards). Too risky.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Gillies to Pittsburgh for Tristan Jarry. May have to sweeten the pot a bit so add Kylington (he is 9th or 10th on the depth chart) and get Pittsburgh’s 4th round pick from Buffalo. Jarry’s career AHL numbers are 77-48-15-9 with a .915 sv% and a 2.55 GAA. His NHL numbers are 14-8-3-2; .906 sv% and 2.84 GAA. He is signed on a one-way at $700K and only 24 years old. Pittsburgh has Murray and DeSmith locked up. Gillies goes home (or closer to home) and we get a quality backup/top AHL goalie.

  • Garry T

    Bobby Bitman … 3 years at $4.5 million . Do not offer him a long term deal.
    See what his group comes back with. Analyze that. Go back to 3 yr. deal and if they come back long term, I am in for 5 years at $5.0 million to start and negotiate from there. If they get stupid, then you say $4.5 three year deal is on the table, that’s it.

    Kevin, glad to see you’re on the Kadri Express. Welcome aboard. Hope they grab Kadri. Think Kappenen would be a good addition. Do not know that much about Brown other than Elite Prospects write up. Knowing Tre, he gets something in his head and it’s already done. If he trades our first again a lot of people are going to be upset.

  • super6646

    Brodie>Hammer 100% if one of them is being traded and choosing who to keep. Ideally we don’t wreck our right side depth though and keep both of them, but just a thought 🙂

    • Puck Head

      Tre won’t trade Hamonic unless he gets a smokin’ good deal for him. I highly doubt Tre could get anywhere close to the 1st and two 2nds that he paid for him. It would be bad optics if he moved him for much less.

      • super6646

        Let him walk in FA then…

        He’s not the guy you keep around longterm on our blueline. We already have truculence in Andersson and hanifin, we need the 2 way play and skating more than the former.