Sean Monahan (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Flames took care of a major piece of business Friday, inking Sean Monahan to a seven-year deal worth a reported $44.1 million. Monahan’s contract is similar to other major RFAs who’ve signed this off-season, and could set the table for a team-friendly Johnny Gaudreau deal.
The Calgary Flames have never shown anything but confidence when it came to getting Sean Monahan locked up to a long-term deal, and that was with good reason as the club announced Friday that they’ve finalized a seven-year pact with Monahan.
Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the contract will reportedly pay Monahan $6.375 million per season, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. That means Monahan is set to earn $44.625 million over the lifetime of the contract.
For Flames GM Brad Treliving, getting Monahan locked up to a deal that stayed below $6.5 million is an outstanding move and it’s the right salary at the right time for Monahan. It puts his cap hit in the same range as Filip Forsberg, Mark Scheifele and Nathan MacKinnon, three major restricted free agents who were in similar situations before signing contracts extensions earlier this off-season.
It’s a perfect fit for the Flames, too. The cap hit on the deal will look exceptional if Monahan continues his current trajectory into his prime years, and it falls in line with exactly what the three other similar RFAs were paid. Forsberg, Scheifele and MacKinnon all signed deals worth between $6 million and $6.3 million per season, with MacKinnon — the first-overall pick in 2013 — on the high end.
Forsberg has the lowest cap hit of the three at $6 million and he’s an almost perfect comparable for Monahan as their stats are near identical. Forsberg has played 164 games, scored 59 goals and 127 points over the past two seasons, while Monahan has 58 goals and 125 points in 162 games. But Monahan, as a center, plays a more impactful role and also has one more year tacked onto his deal than Forsberg. That accounts for the extra $375,000 per season.
But the implications of Monahan’s deal reach farther than simply getting the club’s young, first-line center under contract as it could set the table for the Flames to lock up their other key RFA, Johnny Gaudreau, to an incredibly team-friendly deal.
There has long been reports that Monahan and Gaudreau were in line for similar deals with the club, and both players have acknowledged that they’ve been in touch about their negotiations and wanting to remain playing together for a number of years.
With Monahan signing at $6.3 million per season, there’s a possibility that instead of Monahan’s contract rising to meet the believed salary range for Gaudreau, the situation could be reversed with Gaudreau taking a slight pay cut to remain in Calgary long-term. If that’s the case, this will be Treliving’s masterwork of his tenure as the Flames’ GM.
Gaudreau, 23, has been one of the league’s premier scorers since breaking in and he put the league on notice when he finished sixth in scoring in 2015-16 with 30 goals and 78 points. Following his breakout season, some believed Gaudreau would be in line for a contract similar to Vladimir Tarasenko’s eight-year, $60-million pact with the St. Louis Blues. That would put Gaudreau’s cap hit in the $7.5 million range.
With Gaudreau’s production and talent in mind, it’s hard to see the contracts matching dollar-for-dollar in the same way other teams have matched deals for their star players. The Chicago Blackhawks, for instance, have twice locked Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to matching deals. First came identical five-year, $31.5-million contracts for the duo which was followed by eight-year, $84-million deals.
Having the Monahan and Gaudreau deals paired in that way would be ideal, especially at Monahan’s cap hit, but it’s hard to imagine Gaudreau takes that kind of hit. Even still, there’s a chance Monahan’s deal lops $500,000 or more off of Gaudreau’s cap hit and he comes in at or below $7 million per season.
A cap hit of $7 million may not seem like a steal, per se, but it would be a huge savings over the span of the long-term deal Gaudreau is almost assuredly going to sign. He’s primed to become a point per game player for the next several seasons and having him at a cut rate would allow Calgary to build around the duo of Gaudreau and Monahan.
The Monahan deal, in and of itself, is a good signing that mimics similar deals for similar players. But if it means Gaudreau’s contract comes in cheaper than many would have expected or believed, then it instantly makes Monahan’s signing one of the best of the off-season, without a doubt.
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