Summer’s instalment of free agency is going to be key for many teams, especially the Calgary Flames. Not only will Calgary be looking to bolster their roster with new signings, but they’ll also need to negotiate contracts with arguably their two most important forwards, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Gaudreau and Monahan will both enter restricted free agency, and with it, will each get an opportunity to sign long-term, big-money deals with the Flames. But looking at the upcoming negotiations, just how much should GM Brad Trelving and Flames’ management spend on the two forwards?
At just 22 years old, Johnny Gaudreau led the Flames in scoring this year, and finished 6th in the NHL in points. As a result, Gaudreau’s arguments to what his contract should look like couldn’t be stronger.
Calgary could sign Gaudreau to a deal that would keep him as an RFA for when his next contract expires, but due to his value, it seems more likely that Gaudreau will take a long-term deal, that will pay him more and lead him into unrestricted free agency.
Gaudreau’s contract may look like something halfway in between the contracts signed by Steven Stamkos and John Tavares in 2011. Stamkos put up 91 points in 82 games (1.11 points per game), and signed a five-year deal, which had a cap hit of $7.5 million per season. Tavares scored 67 points in 79 games (0.85 points per game), and negotiated a contract a year before heading into restricted free agency, signing on for six years, with a cap hit of $5.5 million per season.
If you take these point per game averages and find the middle ground, it sits at 0.98 points per game, almost identical to Gaudreau’s 0.99 points per game average. By splitting the difference with these contracts, Gaudreau’s cap hit could land at $6.5 million per season.
That being said, Vladimir Tarasenko signed a deal with St. Louis last season after scoring around 0.95 points per game, which carried a cap hit of $7.5 million per season. If Gaudreau is serious about wanting to play with Monahan long-term, Gaudreau’s contract could land somewhere around an eight-year deal worth about $7 million.
Calgary is in a tricky situation when it comes to contract negotiations with Monahan. Like Gaudreau, Monahan could take a deal which will lead him back into restricted free agency, but it’s far more likely that he’ll take a long-term deal worth more money. There’s also a likelihood that Monahan will want a matching deal with Gaudreau, similar to that of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, however Monahan isn’t worth what Gaudreau will be asking for.
Monahan scored 63 points in 81 games, putting him around 0.78 points per game. Though Monahan is undoubtedly Calgary’s number one centre, he shouldn’t get $7 million per season.
In fact, Monahan has comparisons that would put his cap hit far lower. Tyler Seguin, who signed his deal a year before his entry-level contract expired, scored 0.83 points per game before signing his contract in 2012, which carried a cap hit of $5.75 million. This is similar to the situation of Taylor Hall, who averaged 0.87 points per game in 2011-2012, and signed a seven-year deal with a $6 million cap hit.
By using these contracts as a guideline, Monahan should really only get a contract with a maximum $5.5 million cap hit. However because Monahan is Calgary’s first line centre, and Gaudreau is also re-signing this summer, $6 million may be a more appropriate contract.
Though these all just seem like a mess of numbers, these contracts are going to play a crucial role in the Flames’ future. By losing three goalies and Jakub Nakladal, Calgary will have just under $25 million to spend on their roster, basing the cap space off of this year’s cap. $25 million seems large, but in this space they need to re-sign not only Gaudreau and Monahan, but the likes of Joe Colborne, Joni Ortio, and Josh Jooris, as well as hunt for a starting goalie. Calgary will no doubt need to hit these contracts right on the bull’s-eye in order to continue a successful rebuild.
Ben is a journalism student at Ryerson University and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs.