What should we expect from Oliver Kylington’s next contract with the Calgary Flames?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
When he accepted the promotion to become general manager of the Calgary Flames, Craig Conroy inherited seven players slated to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2023-24 season. Since then, four of those situations have been resolved – Mikael Backlund signed an extension, while Tyler Toffoli, Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm were traded.
With Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev widely expected to be moved before the trade deadline, that leaves Oliver Kylington as the lone piece of unfinished business.
Over at Postmedia, Wes Gilbertson recently profiled Kylington and took a look at his situation.
Reading between the lines, it seems pretty likely that Kylington will be sticking around. The organization deserves their flowers for how they supported Kylington during his time away from hockey, and the player deserves his flowers for how he’s worked his way back to the game. There seems to be a great deal of trust and respect between player and club, and it seems like it’s a relationship that works for everybody’s needs right now.
And from a hockey perspective, this could be a fantastic place for Kylington to keep building his game up. The Flames’ bench boss is Ryan Huska. Huska coached Kylington for three seasons in Stockton (2015-18), then became the assistant coach in Calgary responsible for the defensive group for five seasons (2018-23) as Kylington made his push into the NHL ranks. The Flames have three right shot defenders under contract for 2024-25: Rasmus Andersson, MacKenzie Weegar and Brayden Pachal. They all have slightly different styles, but in what we’ve seen, they all have some chemistry with Kylington.
So… what does that deal look like?
From the player’s perspective, Kylington is quite frankly a unicorn. He’ll turn 27 in May, but he’s arguably “younger” than that from a hockey perspective for two reasons: his skating style and manoeuvrability mean that he probably takes fewer hits than a lot of other blueliners, and him missing 20 months means he spent less time travelling and getting crashed into by other players than anyone of his age. His odometer is arguably much lower than other 27-year-olds.
But this also makes Kylington essentially impossible to find suitable comparisons for from a contract perspective. If he plays every Flames game to close out the season, he’ll end the year with 203 career games. All due respect, but most first-time pending UFAs are tweeners or folks that haven’t found their niche yet at the NHL level. To put it another way: we have comparables for folks like Jordan Oesterle and Dennis Gilbert, but Kylington is, again, a unicorn.
In Kylington’s situation, I’d both recommend and expect a short-term deal of one year, maybe two. And the reason for that is pretty simple: we need a larger sample size to determine what Kylington is at the NHL level. Two years ago, the Flames signed Kylington to a two-year deal with a $2.5 million cap hit after his breakout 2021-22 season. The logic behind that deal was quite simple: “Is this what he is, or does he have another level?”
If Kylington plays all the Flames’ remaining games, he’ll hit 35 games in 2023-24. And not only that, he’ll have joined the team mid-season, and he’ll have been competing against opponents who had full training camps and were in mid-season form. It’s because of those qualifiers that I don’t really think it’s fair to look at his point production in his 35 games this season and conclude that’s his actual level that should determine his compensation.
In the absence of more useful information, the easiest thing to do might just to default to his current contract. If it were up to me, I’d recommend signing a one year deal at $2.5 million, and then the Flames and Kylington’s camp can revisit a longer deal mid-season – players on one year deals can sign extensions starting on Jan. 1 – when it’s clearer where Kylington fits in.
There aren’t a lot of players with comparable skill-sets to Kylington’s, or in comparable contract situations. He’s a unicorn. And the simplest, smartest thing to do might just be to punt for a year and hope things are clearer when Kylington has more games under his belt.
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