Brad Treliving is going to be very busy in his third offseason as Calgary Flames GM. Along with addressing the goaltending issues that plagued the team this season, finding offensive wingers with size and trying to dump some toxic contracts (looking at you Wideman, Smid and Raymond), the most imperative mission for Treliving this offseason will be signing young superstars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to their second pro contracts. With Gaudreau racking up 78 points in 79 games and Monahan scoring 63 points in 79 games, these players are irreplaceable for the Flames organization and will not be resigned cheaply.
It is seen unanimously among followers of the Flames that the team needs to do whatever is necessary to lock Johnny up for the long haul. Gaudreau finished tied for 6th in league scoring as a 22-year-old sophomore. He alone can be worth the price of admission. Without him, the Flames would likely have been sitting in 30th this season. When speaking of comparable contracts for Gaudreau to sign, everyone points to the 8 year, $60 million dollar deal that Vladamir Tarasenko signed with the Blues last offseason. While that would be a very pricey contract for the Flames to hand out, if anyone deserves it, Johnny does. Sign him long term. Even a bit more than Tarasenko would be acceptable, he is not going to be getting cheaper anytime soon and he is completely irreplaceable. The situation addressing Gaudreau's contract seems to have an obvious solution, however there seems to be a divide in opinions as to whether his centre should be shown the vault as well.
Sean Monahan just wrapped up his third full season in the NHL. While his last game ended in disappointment, leaving after playing just over 4 minutes with an injury, he had finished the season on a tear. In the 33 games Monahan played following the All Star Break, he had 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points, which placed him eighth in the league for that period of time. At the young age of 21, Sean Monahan has already played in 237 NHL games, amassing 80 goals and 79 assists, for 159 points. He is the highest scoring player from the 2013 draft, with the two closest players to Monahan's 159 points being Nathan MacKinnon at 153 and Aleksander Barkov at 119. While he was sheltered in terms of competition in his rookie campaign, the past two seasons he has consistently gone up against the top competition in the Western Conference and has responded with 62 and 63 point seasons. He won 51% of his faceoffs and posted a 49.3% Corsi (Hockey-Reference.com), solid numbers considering that those are both areas the Flames as a team struggle in. While some have shown concern about his possession stats in the past, he has been trending upward in every season and there is no reason to believe that he will not continue to improve his possession stats, as he gets older and further develops. Sean Monahan is a young player, playing first line minutes against top competition, and doing quite well at it. While some argue that the Flames should sign Monahan to a bridge deal before signing him to a long-term deal like Gaudreau, it is imperative Brad Treliving signs Monahan for a similar length of time, or it could cost the Flames dearly in the future. Here is why:
1. Monahan is the perfect running mate for Johnny Gaudreau. While he is not a physical center, he is big and continuously getting stronger, something that Johnny will never be. Furthermore, the duo have stated that they love playing together, with Gaudreau recently saying that he hopes that him and Monahan play together for the next 10 years. Having 2 young stars show that level of commitment to the organization is such a gift and the Flames need to reward both of them. While some argue that Monahan's success could be seen as a product of playing Gaudreau, this argument is somewhat of a moot point. Most players are going to be better when playing with someone like Johnny Gaudreau, we should not penalize Sean Monahan for having success playing alongside the Flames leading scorer. Some players do not have the ability to keep up with a player who processes the game like Gaudreau, as we saw this year with Micheal Ferland for example. No matter how many glorious opportunities Johnny gave Ferland, he couldn't cash in on them. Monahan on the other hand, makes good on the chances that Gaudreau provides him. If they are signing Gaudreau long-term, he will be here to continue to play with Monahan, so why not let them succeed together?
2. Depth at centre wins championships. If you look around the league, most teams challenging for a cup this season have high quality centres. A lot of the other teams seem to be constantly looking for offensive centres, often to no avail. How long was Nashville looking for a first line centre before finally acquiring Ryan Johansen this season? Between Sean Monahan, the ever-improving Mikael Backlund, and 19-year-old Sam Bennett, the Flames are set up for success down the middle for years to come. If Sam Bennett reaches the potential that he is believed to possess and becomes the best centre on the Flames one day? A lot of teams would love the situation of having a player like Sean Monahan be the second best centre on their team. Keep the trio together for as long as possible, if they continue to develop, that's a Stanley Cup caliber trio of centres.
3. Signing Monahan long-term could save the Flames a lot of money in the future. Lets say that the Flames decide to sign Monahan to a 2-year bridge deal. If Monahan continues his upward ascension, or even stays at the same level as he is right now, how affordable will it be for the Flames to resign him after that contract? He could be an NHL veteran of 5 years with 4 seasons of 60 points under his belt, possibly even 70. What if in the second year of the bridge deal he scores 40 goals? It is really not a stretch by any means that he could do that. A couple of years away from free agency, Monahan would command a serious contract, as much or maybe more than what Johnny would be earning from his long-term deal. The Flames are not contending for a cup next season, but 3 seasons from now is not out of the question. Having to spend that much more money on him down the road could prevent the Flames from adding extra pieces to put them over the top, or even result in having to trade away useful players to make the money fit under the cap. If the Flames sign him right now, comparable contracts would include Barkov's recent signing with Florida at 6 years of $5.9 million a season, Matt Duchene's 5 year $30 million dollar deal with the Avalance in 2013 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 7 year $42 million contract with the Oilers signed in 2013 (All salary information is courtesy of CapFriendly). Other players in a similar situation to Monahan who are worth keeping an eye on for comparable contracts would be MacKinnon as well as the Jets' Mark Scheifele, both scoring at similar rates to Monahan this season while coming out of their entry-level deals as well. Signing Monahan for 5 to 8 years on a contract between 6 and 7 million dollars a season could save the Flames a lot of money and cap space in the future, when they will truly require it.
Brad Treliving needs to sign Sean Monahan long-term this offseason. Big, 21 year old centres who perform at a high level while playing against top competition are such a commodity, the Flames need to keep him in the fold for as long as possible. Having Monahan locked up long-term alongside Gaudreau would stabilize the future of the organization. Already an assistant captain, Monahan could be a future captain for this team. Just imagine how high Johnny and Monny could soar when Treliving finds them a top right-winger. Lets find out while knowing Monahan is under contract for the long haul.