The Calgary Flames have been able to file a contract extension for Matthew Tkachuk since July 1, 2018. Nearly 15 months later, the stars seem to be aligning for that to finally happen – and for that the Flames and Tkachuk’s camp can thank Brayden Point and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On Monday, a pretty significant domino in the restricted free agent market toppled when Point agreed to a three year contract with the Lightning worth $6.75 million annually against the cap.
A shrinking universe of possibilities
Early in the summer, the prospects of a deal for Tkachuk were bounded only by the Auston Matthews deal (five seasons at $11.634 million per) and the Sebastian Aho offer sheet (five seasons at $8.454 million per).
But given that Tkachuk is a winger rather than a center and plays a two-way shutdown role alongside perennial Selke candidate Mikael Backlund, and often played with Norris winner Mark Giordano, isolating Tkachuk’s impacts and value was a big challenge. The result was a broad spectrum of possible contract outcomes.
A couple of signings in the last two weeks significantly shank the universe.
Boeser and Point book-end the market
Last week’s signing of Brock Boeser by the Vancouver Canucks – three seasons at a $5.875 million AAV – and Point’s deal provide pretty specific boundaries on potential short-term Tkachuk possibilities. Boeser has two full seasons of 55 and 56 poiunts. Point has three full seasons of 40, 66 and 92 points. Tkachuk is most similar to Point, with seasons of 48, 49 and 77 points, but his status as a winger and his slightly lower offensive production overall suggest that may he should make a little bit less than Point. Even if Florida’s favourable tax situation is brought into the equation – they have no state income tax – giving Tkachuk the same cap hit as Point over three seasons would be a pretty big give to his camp.
The other factor playing into things is likely the contract structure. Both Boeser and Point see their salaries escalate each season, with Boeser’s third year being $7.5 million and Point’s $9 million. This is another give to the player side, as each player would receive a qualifying offer following the third season of that salary amount to retain their rights. The players would have until July 15 of that year to accept the qualifying offer, which given the hefty salary amount involved they would have tons of incentive to do. It would lock them in and potentially allow them to unplug their phones and walk to unrestricted free agency. It’s a precedent that’s been set by most key RFA signings recently, even the deals signed by young defenders, so it seems likely that a bridge for Tkachuk would have that structure.
Calgary’s cap situation restricts term
In this week’s edition of 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman notes that the Flames and Tkachuk’s camp were looking at five or six year terms for a deal. In an ideal world, that’s what would work for both sides – it’s what Brad Treliving has hammered out with most of his key pieces. But the Flames are in cap purgatory and probably can’t afford to go longer than a bridge without dislodging a piece of their existing lineup.
Barring anything unforeseen, market forces and salary cap forces are very forcefully nudging the Flames and Tkachuk towards a bridge deal.