After a disappointing and quite frankly, surprising second-round playoff elimination, the focus for the Calgary Flames has now shifted towards the summer. As everyone knows, despite how well this team performed in 2022-23, there could be some big changes in store for this roster.
Though general manager Brad Treliving has remained adamant he wants to re-sign both, the status of both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are up in limbo. Both are without contracts for the 2022-23 campaign, as are two other key members of the team in Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington. While it was great to see all four perform at high levels this past season, it also means they are in for raises, which won’t come easy given the cap era we live in.
While it isn’t easy, however, bringing back all four may be possible if Treliving plays his cards right. That will mean having to make some difficult, but proper decisions this summer. With that said, there are two players in particular under contract for the 2022-23 season that he will need to do everything in his power to move.
Monahan & Lucic Contracts Need to Go
In a season that saw most Flames perform at the highest levels we have seen, two that failed to do so were Sean Monahan and Milan Lucic. The former has had a rough go of things injury-wise for quite some time now, while the latter is simply an aging player on a bad contract. While it won’t be easy, Treliving needs to find a way to move both.
For Monahan, he has one season remaining on his deal that carries a cap hit of $6.375 million. At a time, that deal was considered to be a bargain, but that has changed over the past three seasons. After a 2018-19 campaign in which he recorded career highs with 34 goals and 82 points, the 27-year-old has managed just 40 goals and 99 points over his past 185 games. The 2021-22 campaign was the worst of the bunch, as he had career worsts with eight goals and 23 points.
Many hoped that Monahan would be able to bounce back this season after undergoing hip surgery on his left side, an injury that reportedly nagged at him throughout the entire 2020-21 campaign. Unfortunately, that bounce back never came close to fruition. In fact, he reportedly dealt with an injury to his right hip in 2021-22, and as a result has since undergone another surgery to help repair that.
While the hope is that he can return to health in 2022-23, it doesn’t feel very promising given what we have seen the past few years. If he ends up being unable to go, the Flames can simply stash him on the long-term injured reserve for the final year of his deal. However, if he is deemed healthy to play, Treliving will need to look to move him and free up some cap room. Perhaps a team in a rebuilding state would be willing to take a chance on the once very consistent goal scorer.
As for Lucic, he will be tougher to move. Despite also having one-year remaining on his deal with a lower cap hit of $5.25 million, he has slowed down to the point that he is sometimes ineffective and can be a liability for the Flames. Unlike Monahan, his decline has less to do with injuries and more to do with father time taking effect.
Lucic has failed to crack the 25-point barrier over his past four seasons and is a far cry from the dominating power forward he once was. That said, he still does have the ability to use his big body as an asset and flatten opponents to the ice, but that too has happened less in recent years.
Despite his diminishing skill, Lucic’s toughness may be enough for a team to take a flier on if the Flames are able to add an incentive to a deal such as a draft pick and/or a prospect. That may also require some salary retention on Treliving’s part, but even still would be worth pulling the trigger on. They need all the cap space they can give right now, and the hulking 33-year-old forward is taking up a significant amount of it.
Both Carry No-Trade Clauses
Of course, aside from both being on bad contracts, the other major deterrent in moving them is that they both have no trade clauses in their deals. For Monahan, he carries a modified no-trade clause that would allow him to select 10 teams he wouldn’t be willing to accept a deal to. That said, there would still be 21 other clubs Treliving would be able to discuss a trade with.
Lucic, on the other hand, may prove to be more difficult. He currently has a clause in which he can select eight teams he would accept a trade to. That clause does end in the beginning of July, but then switches to another in which he would provide a list of 10 teams he would be willing to go to. Again, not an impossible situation for Treliving, but one that certainly won’t be easy.
Given their struggles as of late, there is of course the chance that either of these players may perhaps accept a trade regardless of the team in hopes that a change of scenery will help get their careers back on track. That will remain to be seen, though one thing is for sure. Bringing back all of Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Mangiapane and Kylington, while also filling other holes on the roster, is only possible if Monahan and Lucic’s contracts aren’t on the books for the 2022-23 season.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.