Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
Calgary's two best forwards – who also happen to be two of their youngest – have yet to sign their new contracts for 2016-17. And while the Flames aren't panicking, there is a finite amount of cap space in town and a lot of upside in both players involved.
It's the middle of August and most of the NHL's personnel decisions have been made. Sure, we're waiting on Jimmy Vesey and Kris Russell, but the most irritating situation out there must be in Calgary, where the Flames are still in negotiations with their two best forwards, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. So what's the hold up?
From what I've been told, it's a wrestling match – not a contentious one, mind you, but a real negotiation nonetheless. Both Monahan and Gaudreau are key drivers in Calgary, but the Flames only have about $15 million in cap space left. That may seem like a lot for two players, until you think about what other stars entering their primes are making.
In Gaudreau, you're looking at Vladimir Tarasenko money, for sure. That means at least $7.5 million for a lot of years. Now, if you're Gaudreau's agent, Lewis Gross, you point out that your client had more points and logged more average ice time than Tarasenko did this past season. Gaudreau also doesn't benefit from the same strong core of teammates that Tarasenko has in St. Louis. So we're definitely talking $7.5 million, but maybe even a bit more.
That leads us to Monahan, though we must keep in mind that he could sign before Gaudreau. The ascending center (and Gaudreau's linemate) can look at deals recently inked by Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon and Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele and set his minimum ask at about $6.5 million. If you're Pat Morris, the Newport Sports agent who handles Monahan, your duty is obviously to big-up your client and note that Monahan has produced more offense than both of his fellow young stars over the past two seasons. So that $6.5 million is a short-term figure, not a long-term one. If the Flames want long-term, the asking price is likely higher.
And there's the crux of the matter: The Flames don't want to go short-term on Monahan (or Gaudreau for that matter); they want to lock up their cornerstones up front – especially since Sam Bennett, another rising talent, needs a new contract next summer. Coming off his entry-level deal, Bennett will get a substantial raise. But they only have so much cap space and you always want to leave a bit of a cushion.
Not only that, but Brian Burke is involved. The Flames' president, hockey operations, told TSN that his policy is to "pay players what's fair and not more than what's fair."
So he and GM Brad Treliving don't sound like they're just going to give Gaudreau and Monahan the balance of $15 million just because it's there. Burke also said he believed both would be signed before the World Cup of Hockey and that's coming up soon. It's an interesting scenario for a franchise that appears to be on the rise and again; from my understanding, these negotiations aren't nasty right now, they're just tough.
But I also have to assume that Flames fans will feel a lot better once the contracts are actually signed.