This is the situation: your captain, who also so happens to be your best player, is up for a contract extension within the year. You've made it clear his retention is a priority for your franchise. You aren't swimming in cap space as you once were, but you definitely have the room to get a deal that's fair for both sides done.
This is the hiccup: he'll be 33 years old when his new contract kicks in.
Thirty-three year olds can still be really, really good at hockey, though. Heck, so can 34 year olds. Thirty-five is when you might start getting a bit dicey, if only because the 35+ contract rule exists for a reason. And the more you age, the more likely you are to decline - and the more that declination will be.
Mark Giordano will be 32 years old this season. His new six-year, $6.75 million AAV deal kicks in the season after, when he turns 33. It'll run until he's 38.
A 33-year-old Giordano making $6.75 million isn't bad at all, especially if his Norris-calibre play keeps up. But a 38-year-old Giordano making that much money? Considering the current state of the Canadian dollar, as well as looming factors like expansion, it's unclear what's really going to happen to the salary cap over these next seven years - but as it stands right now, it doesn't look good.
There was never going to be a perfect solution for this contract. Ideally, you want to have Giordano at a reduced cap rate - and for the first few seasons, it's entirely likely you do. But also ideally, you don't want him to be overpaid - and for the last few seasons, that could very well end up happening.
What Brad Treliving did with this extension was make the best of an imperfect situation. Giordano was reportedly originally seeking a $9 million AAV over eight years: term and money, two things the Flames would be wary about. It was a contract that was never going to happen, because that's how negotiations work: you start unrealistically high, and meet somewhere in the middle.
The Flames met him in the middle, bringing him down to a more reasonable - but still potentially hurtful - term, but at a very reasonable cap hit for somebody of his caliber.
To put it into perspective: Giordano's $6.75 million AAV will be the ninth highest in the NHL for defencemen, barring any future signings. Above him then are PK Subban (deal expires when he's 33), Shea Weber (41), Ryan Suter (40), Kris Letang (35), Brian Campbell (37), Dion Phaneuf (36 - also, haha, what), Drew Doughty (29), and Zdeno Chara (41).
Weber, Suter, and Chara in particular stand out here: they're examples of players who received both term and money in very player-friendly, team-unfriendly deals. This is also a testament to Giordano's desire to not just stay, but win in Calgary. He could have gotten contracts like those three players on the open market, easily. He sacrificed to stay.
Subban and Doughty are completely different examples, in that they were recognized as elite talents from the start of their careers.
Letang, Campbell, and Phaneuf are in the middle of that group, as their current contracts were signed when they were in their late 20s: the ideal terms for them, and what would have been ideal for Giordano (say what you will about their cap hits). As a result, when their deals expire, they certainly won't be carrying that high a cap hit when they're 38, but they've spent longer making their money, anyway.
Giordano, though? That's the price you may end up paying with a late bloomer. He was on a great deal for ages 28-32, with an AAV of just $4.02 million, and it wouldn't have made sense to give him any more than that at the time.
True, it's likely going to cause some chaos when he hits the point 10 years from when that particular contract was signed, but the Flames played it safe at the time. It benefited them then, it'll hurt later, but it was the right way to go.
Once Giordano started emerging as an elite talent, the situation became a problem, with no perfect ending. The result was the player leaving some money on the table, and the team dishing out more years than preferable: a meeting at the middle that ended up being equally unfair for both sides, which ultimately translates into a fair deal.
And who knows? Giordano rose far above expectations in this contract - maybe that's what happens in the twilight of his last big pay day, too.
In the meantime, in the foreseeable future as things currently stand, the Flames' highest paid player will once again be their captain - and as meaningless as that ultimately is, it's something that feels right.