Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped some news on Calgary Flames fans in his Sept. 26 edition of the 32 Thoughts Podcast.
He reported that it would be MacKenzie Weegar’s preference to not negotiate a long-term contract extension during the season. Flames fans have heard that story before.
The Flames cannot go into the season without Weegar signed to a long-term contract extension. Here are a few reasons why.
The Johnny Gaudreau situation
We all know what happened with Johnny Gaudreau over the last 15 months. The Flames and Gaudreau were close to signing a long-term extension prior to the start of the 2021-22 season. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and Gaudreau refused to negotiate during the season. He ultimately decided to leave Calgary and sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The same thing could happen to Weegar. What happens if things don’t go well this season? What if things go incredibly well and maybe he wants to see how much money he can get in free agency? There is always that chance of Weegar wanting to seek a new home as we saw with Gaudreau.
A question that was brought up near the trade deadline last season was “should the Flames trade Johnny Gaudreau?” The answer at the time was an obvious no. But now that Gaudreau left, should Flames fans have a different perspective on that same question when it comes to Weegar if he remains unsigned well into the regular season?
What happens if the Flames are in first or second in the Pacific division at the trade deadline? Are they going to get rid of one of their best defencemen in a trade during the middle of a playoff chase and a potential Stanley Cup run? The Flames can’t put themselves in a position where they are deciding whether or not to trade Weegar to ensure they get assets back for him.
Weegar is only going to get more expensive
Friedman reported that the contract comparable that makes sense for Weegar is the deal Hampus Lindholm signed in Boston last season: 8 years with a $6.5 million AAV. For arguments sake, let’s say the Flames can get a similar deal done with an AAV of $6.5-$7.5 million over 8 years. They should do everything they can to get that signed now because Weegar is only going to get more expensive.
All signs point to Weegar having a major breakout season with the Flames. Last year, 11 skaters, including all six regular defencemen, had offensive career years playing for Darryl Sutter. Weegar could be next in line for that, especially if he gets some time on the Flames first power play unit. Weegar could also be paired with Chris Tanev this season. That has the potential to be a top 3 defence pair in the NHL. We all know that Tanev makes his defence partners better. He could do the same for Weegar.
Analytics also show that Weegar is an elite defenceman in the NHL right now.
Goals For %
xGoals For %
Corsi For %
Scoring Chance %
(League ranking among the 210 defencemen who have played over 800 minutes in the last two seasons courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Not only do the analytics and analytics community like this player, but so do established hockey media and writers. The Professional Hockey Writers Association vote on who wins the Norris Trophy. Weegar finished 8th and 14th in Norris voting in 2020 and 2021 respectively. There was also a legitimate chance that Weegar could have represented Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics had NHL players gone. That is one of the hardest teams in make in all of sport. Weegar likely would have been there.
Another thing to consider is that Weegar is a late bloomer. Weegar’s game has considerably improved and evolved over the last three seasons. The trajectory he is on is impressive and it makes you wonder how high this players ceiling is. Here are what his numbers look like for an 82-game pace over the last four seasons.
(Weegar’s projected points over 82 games)
The salary cap increasing in three seasons
Friedman reported this week that the NHL salary cap is projected to increase as much as $10 million over the next four years. This will make the idea of signing a 29-year-old to an 8-year contract more attractive for the Flames as they know they are going to see a large increase in the cap when Weegar is likely to start to see a decline in his performance. The $6.5-$7.5 million cap hit won’t look so bad when the cap increases into the $90 million range.
Who can replace Weegar?
Who will replace Weegar If the Flames can’t get a deal done and they potentially have to trade him or lose him to unrestricted free agency? The answer is no one from inside the organization. The Flames group of defense prospects is weak to say the least. None of Juuso Valimaki, Connor Mackey, Jeremie Poirier, Yan Kuznetsov, Ilya Solovyov, Cole Jordan, Cameron Whynot, and Jake Boltmann look like they have the potential to be a top pairing defenceman in the NHL. That means the Flames will have to replace him by making a trade or overpaying a lesser player in free agency.
The list of the top free agent defencemen in 2023 include Matt Dumba, Damon Severson, Travis Sanheim, John Klingberg, and Brian Dumoulin. All players I would arguable are a sizable downgrade from Weegar. The Flames have also traded away a ton of draft picks during Brad Treliving’s time as GM. They will not be in a place next off-season where they can afford to deal even more first and second round draft picks to acquire someone with the talent of a Weegar.
I present all this information to show Flames fans how important it is to sign Weegar before the start of the season. He is a massive part of this roster and will be a huge component of the team if they want to go on a long playoff run over the next several seasons. Treliving and his management team cannot have another Gaudreau situation on their hands. They need to learn from their mistakes and get the job done before the regular season starts on Oct. 13.
How much money and term would you be willing to give MacKenzie Weegar? Let us know in the comments section what you want his next contract to look like!