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Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving has a lot of important items on his off-season to-do list such as, you know, getting a couple of NHL goaltenders under contract.
The biggest task at hand, though, is clearly signing Matthew Tkachuk to a long-term deal.
The 21-year-old took a massive step forward in 2018-19, going from a solid two-way player to an *elite* two-way player.
He destroyed his previous outputs, setting career highs in goals (34), assists (43) and points (77) while still providing plus-defense and driving possession as well as he drove opponents crazy.
He may be a restricted free agent without arbitration rights but he's going to get paid – a lot – much like we're starting to see with so many other high-end, young players.
How much 'a lot' turns into remains to be seen, but it's fair to say the previous internal ceiling – i.e. Mark Giordano/Johnny Gaudreau money – is not going to cut it.
If EvolvingWild's contract projections
, based on the expected salary cap of $83 million
, are any indication, it might not come close.
They project Tkachuk will get $7.98 million on a long-term deal. Less than other high profile RFAs like Mikko Rantanen, Mitch Marner, and Brayden Point, but more than Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, and Timo Meier. That sounds right to me.
I mean, I am the biggest William Nylander fan out there and he fetched nearly $7 million per on a long-term deal coming off a contract year in which he put up 61 points. It's not reasonable to expect Tkachuk, a more well-rounded overall player, to sign for that after a 77 point campaign. He'll be expensive.
For fun, let's assume Tkachuk signs for the $7.98M EW projects which, quite honestly, might end up being a tad low. Let's also assume the forward core gets rounded out with Andrew Mangiapane signing a cheap, shorter-term deal in the $1 million range, and Sam Bennett in the $2.5 million range.
As currently constructed, that'd leave the Flames with ~$3.7 million to spend on a pair of goaltenders. Unless the Flames want to go bargain bin shopping and hope something hits – like Petr Mrazek with Carolina this season – that's not enough. It might not even be enough to extend David Rittich alone (thanks Edmonton).
The Flames are going to find themselves in a bit of a cap crunch. Not close to the same extent as the Lightning or Maple Leafs, of course, but a crunch nonetheless.
Dumping James Neal is ideal but that'd be very costly. While Michael Stone is a more realistic trade option, I doubt there's much big appetite for a $3.5 million defender who has picked up 15 points in his last 96 games and was healthy scratched in the playoffs.
If Tkachuk is as costly as he is projected to be (rightfully so), Treliving is going to have to get creative to make things work.
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