Tkachuk’s three-year deal the perfect solution for contending Flames

With the Calgary Flames locking up Matthew Tkachuk to a 3-year, $21 million deal, Faizal Khamisa chats with Flames Insider Ryan Leslie about how the deal got done, other salaries in the dressing room, and more.

CALGARY – The smile on Sam Bennett’s face was symbolic of the mood in Calgary Wednesday.

Bennett woke up to news his pal Matthew Tkachuk had inked a three-year, $21-million pact that marks the perfect contractual solution for a player and a team now staring at a sizeable window to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Tkachuk’s signature not only ended an extended contract impasse for the talented RFA, but rounds out one of the most talented cores in the NHL.

The list of those signed for the next three years in Calgary includes Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic and Noah Hanifin.

That’s five of their top six scorers, the reigning Norris Trophy winner and arguably the toughest player in the league, all locked up for a team coming off a 107-point season in which they topped the Western Conference standings in the regular season.

General manager Brad Treliving has done his part – now the heat is on this squad to take advantage of the opportunity.

"It’s really exciting times for us in Calgary – we know how special this group is and it would be a big disappointment if we didn’t do something special with this group," said Bennett.

"We all believe in this group and we showed last year how good we can be during the season."

Tkachuk agreed.

"I want to win with this group," said Tkachuk at a late afternoon press conference upon arrival in Calgary.

"I went to too many Stanley Cup parties, being from St. Louis this summer, and every time you went to them you think how great it would be to win with this group."

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The signing of Brayden Point at three years/$6.75 million annually on Monday clearly helped establish a reasonable price for Tkachuk, who was originally looking for a five-year deal.

Dreams of riding Mitch Marner’s $10.9 million AAV weren’t going to be realized in Calgary, so the two sides dug in on a deal that ends his impasse, gives him financial security for life and aids the team short- and long-term.

It’s the largest bridge deal in NHL lore, eclipsing Point’s pact. Point had more offence and plays a more significant role in Tampa as a centre, but he took less to stay in a tax haven like Florida.

The Tkachuk deal makes him the highest-paid Flame on the team and ties him with Jarome Iginla for the highest salary in team lore.

The concern all along was that the Flames would have to trade a significant asset to create cap space for Tkachuk’s contract.

He didn’t want that to happen, which fell in line with Brad Treliving’s two goals this summer:

"No. 1 priority was to sign Matthew and no. 2 was to keep this team intact – mission accomplished," said Treliving, whose talks with Tkachuk turned from long-term to short-term near the start of camp when the realization was it satisfied everyone’s wishes.

"Matthew wanted the same thing, which speaks to his character – throw no bodies onto the tarmac to get a deal donw. Now we can go about improving the team without having to make any distressed transactions."

At $7 million AAV the Flames no longer have to contemplate parting with a first or second rounder to open cap space, as other teams have had to do.

They shopped Michael Frolik, T.J. Brodie and others all summer long, but now any deal they may want to pursue can be completed without guns to anyone’s head. Frolik, for one, was relieved.

It also opens the door for the likely depth signing of either Tobias Reider and/or Zac Rinaldo who are both showing well as PTOs in camp.

"It’s huge," said Giordano of the news.

"Great on him for signing and great for Tre – both sides getting it done. I don’t know about all the salary cap numbers and everything, but I think it looks like we can keep our team and not make big moves to get it done, which is huge."

Getting Tkachuk in the lineup to start the season Oct. 3 is a major accomplishment given how entrenched each side seemed in the negotiations.

No more distractions for a team with no excuses.

"We want to have a lot of that success again in the regular season as a group and do a lot of the same things, but we want to carry that over into the playoffs and take that next step," said Giordano.

"If you look around at a lot of the RFAs they’re all on good teams and they’re taking these three year deals that are helping their teams set themselves up to keep a lot of players and win now."

Although he too had a poor playoff showing in the team’s five-game departure to the Avalanche last spring, Tkachuk is the type of player you win with.

The consummate leader and peace-disturber, the former Memorial Cup winner is also coming off a 34-goal, 77-point campaign in which he toiled exclusively on the team’s shut-down line alongside Backlund and Frolik.

Coach Bill Peters had spoken of wanting to try Tkachuk on the top line alongside Gaudreau and Monahan, which he said Wednesday is off the table…for now. On Saturday he said he’ll likely be in the lineup for the Flames’ last pre-season game against the visiting Oilers. If so, the coach said he’ll be playing alongside his age-old linemates, Backlund and Frolik.

One of the lads most excited about Tkachuk’s arrival is a former Oilers adversary of his, Milan Lucic.

"He just had 77 points as a 21-year-old, which is impressive, and he helped this team take that next step and reach that 100-point plateau and win the division," said Lucic, a fellow left-winger.

"It’s great to have him signed up, and I’m one of the guys excited to have him back to help us get back to where we were in the standings."

Tkachuk had been skating with his former junior team in London, On. and took an early afternoon flight Wednesday out of Toronto to join the Flames.

He said he spent the flight talking to people about his summer and his signing, which got him even more excited to get to Calgary where fans snapped picks of him in the baggage area.

Asked if he contemplated buying drinks for everyone on the plane to celebrate he laughed.

"I don’t think I should be drinking right now – I have a big day tomorrow," he smiled, thinking about fitness testing and his first skate with the club.

"I think I’ll save the first round for my teammates."

You can be pretty sure they’ll insist on it.

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