On the final day of 2020, the Calgary Flames have signed their 2020 first round pick. Forward Connor Zary has inked an entry level contract with the club. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal is a three year contract that sources indicate carries a $925,000 cap hit per season and includes additional performance bonuses.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 31, 2020
Zary, 19, was the 24th overall selection by the Flames back in October – after they traded down twice from 19th overall and gained a pair of third round picks (used to draft Jake Boltmann and Jeremie Poirier).
Earlier today, we outlined why Zary’s camp might wait until the New Year to sign with the Flames. But, as they say, plans changed. While players in Zary’s slot in the NHL Draft usually don’t get performance bonuses included in their deals, for the Flames there was a benefit to doing so.
(Zary received potential performance bonuses of $212,500 in the second and third seasons of his deal, with no bonuses included in the first season.)
By signing early, Zary gets his signing bonus now (rather than later), performance bonuses included in his contract (so if he makes the Flames down the road, he could make more than his $832,500 salary), and he gets the possible opportunity to attend Flames camp next month and get some practice reps with some really good players. He’ll reportedly also be eligible to play with the AHL’s Stockton Heat until the WHL season gets going, as the CHL’s transfer agreement with the NHL has been relaxed this season given the pandemic delaying the start of the WHL and OHL campaigns.
From the Flames’ perspective, gaining some flexibility by signing Zary in December was likely deemed worth the potential of shelling out some additional bonuses down the road – if Zary earns his bonuses, it’ll mean he’s made a Matthew Tkachuk-like impact on his ELC, which the Flames would be more than happy to pay extra to get. If Zary isn’t knocking on the door for an NHL gig in 2021-22, then the Flames benefit from a slightly lower cap hit due to his contract potentially sliding twice (and starting to run in 2022-23).
An additional entry level slide can now apply for Zary.
If he doesn’t play 7 NHL games this year or 10 next, his ELC could essentially be four years long. In that case, team would get a free year in the AHL on his ELC in 21-22. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) December 31, 2020
By his deal sliding once (in 2020-21), Zary’s cap hit would be $894,167 for the remainder of his deal. If it slides twice (e.g., also in 2021-22), his cap hit would drop to $863,333, saving the Flames around an additional $31,000 over a full season.
There are trade-offs in every negotiation, and this situation seems like one where both sides were able to find common ground and find a way to benefit.
A product of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, Zary has amassed 73 goals and 182 points over 188 games in the WHL. He was named a first team Western Conference All-Star in 2019-20. He’s currently competing with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship tournament in Edmonton.