Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
The Calgary Flames duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are still without contracts for the 2016-17 season, but assistant GM Craig Conroy isn’t sweating it. Conroy said the Flames’ two top scorers will be locked up, whether that means next week or next month.
With the season coming to a close and the draft approaching, the Calgary Flames have a lot on their plate. But don’t go thinking that means they’ve lost track of the fact young stars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan aren’t yet locked up to contracts for the 2016-17 campaign.
Though Gaudreau and Monahan are both set for restricted free agency — and Monahan open to ink an offer sheet should he not sign with the Flames — Calgary assistant GM Craig Conroy doesn’t see any cause for concern. The only thing stalling the Flames in locking up their two leading scorers, according to Conroy, is that there’s a lot to work on this off-season in Calgary. That’s true, too, because the Flames need to find a goaltender, or two, for next season, prepare for the draft and figure out which free agents the club wants to target in free agency.
“We have so many things we need to deal with,” Conroy told the Flames’ Jason Pirie. “I don’t want to make it look less important because it sure isn’t. They’re two of our best young players. If it got done tomorrow, that could be it. If it gets done in a week, or if it takes a month, we still have the comfort level that it is going to get done.”
There were reports as early as February that the Flames and Gaudreau were working on a long-term extension, and if that does come to pass, there’s a good chance the 22-year-old could sign the richest contract in franchise history. Coming off of a 30-goal, 78-point season that saw him finish sixth in league scoring, Gaudreau will have earned every cent of his raise. Gaudreau said he wants to be back in Calgary, too.
“I love the players in this locker room,” Gaudreau said, via the Flames official website. “I think we have a great group of guys, and I can see myself playing here for a long time.”
Some believe the target range for a Gaudreau deal is in the neighborhood of eight years and $60-million, which would match the deal handed out to the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko in July 2015. The two have been similar in point production over the past two seasons and play similar roles on their respective clubs. Tarasenko has 77 goals and 147 points since the start of play in 2014-15, and Gaudreau has managed 54 goals and 142 points over that same span.
Gaudreau might be joined in signing the richest deal in Flames history, though, as he said if it were up to he and Monahan, the two would “just sign the same deal and get back at it next season.” That could very well be the case, even though Conroy cautioned against expecting the two players getting the same deal.
“You can’t just pay everybody what they want and be in the same spot,” Conroy told Pirie. “We have to do what’s best moving forward to put together a team that can one day win a Stanley Cup. We don’t want to be disrespectful to anybody. We just can’t give everybody the world.”
Monahan, 21, has already earned an ‘A’ as part of the Flames’ leadership ground and is the better goal scorer of the two. His production hasn’t quite matched Gaudreau’s — Monahan has 125 points over the past two campaigns — but identical deals for the duo might be the best way to lock them up. The one issue in signing Monahan to a matching deal, besides the massive financial commitment being doubled, is the center hasn’t shown he can drive play as well as Gaudreau and that has been one of the Flames biggest issues. There’s lots of time for that to improve, however, especially if Monahan’s new deal is an eight-year pact.
So while the Flames no doubt need to exercise some discretion in building their franchise moving forward, some caution may need to be thrown to the wind when it comes to Gaudreau and Monahan. They may just be pieces of the larger puzzle, but they’re the foundation which Calgary’s future will be built upon.