The Calgary Flames have had an interesting past few months.
They made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and won a playoff round for the first time in over a decade. They signed Jon Gillies, college hockey’s top goaltender and most valuable player for the NCAA’s national champions. They added veteran Czech defender Jakub Nakladal. They re-signed defensive forward Mikael Backlund and energy forward Lance Bouma long-term. They swung for the fences at the draft, acquiring Dougie Hamilton for a trio of draft picks – and signed Hamilton to a long-term deal. Then they added Michael Frolik through free agency.
This past week, general manager Brad Treliving capped off his summer with arguably his biggest move: re-signing captain Mark Giordano to a six-year deal. The pact will reportedly pay Giordano $6.75 million per season through the 2021-22 season.
The deal is huge for the team for a few reasons.
First, there won’t be any “last year of his contract” drama with Giordano the way there was with former captain Jarome Iginla back in 2012-13. Despite the team’s best efforts, Iginla’s contractual status became a huge distraction for the team, particularly when they began to struggle and onlookers (and teammates) braced for the other shoe to drop. The tension around the team never really dissipated until Iginla was out the door and a successful season was out of the question.
Second, Giordano is the right leader for this club right now. While Iginla was one of the most talented and celebrated Canadian junior players of his era, Mark Giordano was originally a relative unknown. Iginla was a hard worker and one of the best-conditioned players in the league, but he was also impeccably talented. Giordano is a classic late bloomer, a player that had to work his backside off to get a chance to play in the National Hockey League. He was fortunate enough that his talent eventually caught up to his work ethic, but the side-effect of Giordano wearing the captain’s C for the Flames is that his prodigious work ethic has become the standard for the team rather than just a nice background story.
Third, Giordano’s deal sets the cap structure for the team going forward. Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell are among the key Flames skaters with contracts expiring following the 2015-16 season – along with goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. Signing the team’s leader and best player to a long-term deal not only provides some roster stability, but it also sends a message to the players (and their agents) that only exceptional individuals will be making more than Giordano. So unless Gaudreau or Monahan turn into Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews all of a sudden, the Flames will have a simple cap structure going forward.
Finally, the deal sends a message from management to both the team and the fanbase. When the club felt they could no longer field a competitive team and required a rebuilding process, the Flames were pretty transparent with the public in declaring so. Since the spring, Treliving has made a series of moves to bolster his team’s roster and retain key assets. And just as jettisoning Jay Bouwmeester and Iginla in the spring of 2013 shouted “We don’t think we’ll be competitive anymore,” the manner in which the Flames have locked in the important pieces of their team long-term – particularly their captain and best player – suggests that they might become a team to keep an eye on over the next few seasons come playoff time.