Flames’ 5 Worst Contracts of 2022-23

The Calgary Flames have some great contracts and some not so good ones, but only one really stands out as bad. It isn’t going to look great down the line, but the team’s window to win the Stanley Cup likely closes after next few seasons and Brad Treliving had to take advantage of that and deal with the rest when it comes. On a team that looks much different than it did last season, here are the five worst contracts heading into the 2022-23 season.

5. Nazem Kadri, Centre

$7 million AAV through the 2028-29 season

Nazem Kadri’s contract isn’t too bad at all right now, but it has its risks. The length of seven years when he signed as a 31-year-old and the fact that he just had a career year on the best team in the NHL brings up questions. The first is if he is going to be able to repeat that.

Nazem Kadri Colorado Avalanche
Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kadri spent a chunk of the season playing with elite players like Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog since Nathan MacKinnon had been injured. Though one could easily say Kadri rose to the occasion and was the first-half MVP of the team, the Colorado Avalanche were a dominant team overall. He had an incredible offensive season putting up 28 goals and 87 points in 71 games while being a two-way presence and smartening up in the postseason. But he also smashed his career highs, which can possibly be seen as an outlier season.

The second concern is the age and term of Kadri’s deal. $7 million to replace part of what the team lost in Matthew Tkachuk seems solid and it gives the Flames a legitimate second-line centre. But any lengthy contract signed on a player’s back-half of his career is risky. He may be able to keep up similar strong offensive numbers for a few years, but everybody trails off eventually. The contract takes him to age 38, so the likelihood of a buyout or cap dump is high.

4. Mikael Backlund, Centre

$5.35 million AAV through the 2023-24 season

The projection is that Mikael Backlund will be moved down to the third line this season after the acquisition of Kadri. It works out well considering he only put up 12 goals and 39 points last season. The benefit is that there isn’t as much pressure to produce offence, even though he and his line will contribute a fair amount.

But as far as third-line players go, it’s not ideal to pay someone more than even $4 million per year to play there. Backlund makes more than that and it was less of a burden when he was in the top six. While he struggles to contribute offensively, he should maintain a decent level of value due to his contributions defensively. Regardless, the Flames can manage the contract for just two more seasons.

3. Blake Coleman, Winger

$4.9 million AAV through the 2026-27 season

It was a bit of a toss-up between who of Backlund and Blake Coleman would be higher on this list. I came to this conclusion based on contract length, production, and role. Backlund is a bit older but Coleman isn’t young. What may save some value with the two-way winger is the possibility he plays on the second line, though there will be competition with Dylan Dube and Jakub Pelletier.

Blake Coleman Calgary Flames
Blake Coleman, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Coleman also meshed well with Backlund due to their similar, defensively minded styles of play, so a third-line role is a true possibility in 2022-23. However, Coleman makes nearly $5 million for five more seasons, and after scoring just 16 goals and 33 points, you can expect that number to eventually decrease throughout his contract. His work ethic made up for some of the lack of production offensively, but a Stanley Cup pedigree overvalued him heading into free agency.

2. Juuso Valimaki, Defence

$1.55 million through the 2022-23 season

Juuso Valimaki is so high on this list even though he makes the least amount of money because he has been a non-factor for the Flames yet. He was expected to become a full-time NHLer last season, but ended up being sent to the minors after just nine games. Not only was his spot easily filled last season, but the defence core is even stronger with the addition of MacKenzie Weegar.

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If there is any place for Valimaki, it is going to be as a seventh defenceman, and even that’s no lock with Connor Mackey and Nicolas Meloche in the mix. $1.55 million to mostly practice and fill in where necessary in a best-case scenario is not worth it. He could very well prove me and many others wrong this season or be traded and the saga will be over with. But right now, Valimaki was paid before doing anything for the Flames.

1. Milan Lucic, Left Wing

$5.25 million AAV through the 2022-23 season

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the worst contract on the Flames is Milan Lucic’s. He earns about $3.5-4 million more than he’s worth right now in his career. From 2020-21 to 2021-22, he took a big step back, scoring the same number of goals and two fewer points in 26 less games. His ice time decreased and he really turned into a checking-role player.

Milan Lucic Calgary Flames
Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This season will further enforce that if Lucic remains with the team, as he should be pushed down to the fourth line, get fewer minutes, and be expected to play a strong physical game without much worry of offence. He’s very slow on his feet and at age 34, his offence has dwindled since he signed the big contract that is heading into the final year.

It could be worse for the Flames as the trade that brought Lucic over from Edmonton and sent James Neal resulted in Neal being bought out early from the Oilers. Lucic is still kicking around and contributing in an important depth role, even if it doesn’t match his cap hit.

The Flames will be able to overcome any bad contracts this season by either dealing with the small impact or trading the players, but down the line may have themselves an issue with some of the veterans locked in. However, the Flames are looking strong this season regardless.