Flames off-season checklist: Clock is ticking to figure out Johnny Gaudreau’s contract

Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) looks to pass the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, April 18, 2022, in Chicago. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo)

Brad Treliving laughed when the first question he was asked at his season-ending media availability was whether it was fair to say he’d like to get Johnny Gaudreau’s contract situation dealt with sooner rather than later.

“Fair to say, yeah,” he chuckled.

Well, then the onus will be on the Flames to table a market value deal right away.

Otherwise, Gaudreau has the luxury of gaining leverage with every day that passes over the next six weeks, leading to free agency July 13.

As a matter of fact, the deadline is shorter than that as teams have a funny way of telegraphing potential offers to UFAs before it’s legal.

There will be no discounts here. Pay the man what he’s worth or a good chunk of the other 31 teams will offer to do so.

The clock is ticking and the pressure is on to sign the 115-point playmaking wizard whose comments Saturday had him gushing about the city and the organization he’s been with for 11 years. Eight more years in Calgary (for, say, $80 million) would cement his legacy as the franchise’s greatest and most prolific offensive star.

[brightcove videoID=6306959309112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Not that any player would allude publicly to a desire to leave a city that has embraced him for so long, but he sure didn’t sound like he had plans to leave. The trick is agreeing on what his fair value is, which two sides often see quite differently.

The Flames will dig in this week to get things rolling.

“It’s been a talking point internally for us,” said Treliving, who is ready to dive in on one of the most important contracts in team history. “I spoke with John and Lewis (Gross, Gaudreau’s agent) and we made an agreement that we’re going to focus on hockey (all season) and Lewis and I would work in the background on the contract.

“I’ve said this — and I’ve said it to John — I think he’s a Calgary Flame and we want to make him a Calgary Flame for a long time, and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make that happen. We saw what he’s capable of. I’ve believed in this guy since the day I walked through the doors here. Certainly, that’s an important piece of business that we’ve got to take care of.”

Gaudreau said he, his wife, and his family love it here and that he dreams of winning a Stanley Cup with Calgary.

Nothing else on Treliving’s off-season checklist comes close in terms of importance, especially since he needs to know Gaudreau’s situation before being able to proceed with any other contracts of significance.

Here are the other items on his top-five list of things to get done. 

Matthew Tkachuk’s return is easier said than done.

Tkachuk was more than enthusiastic when asked if he’d be open to signing a long-term deal with the club.

“Absolutely,” said Tkachuk, who is an RFA this summer, with arbitration rights.

“I’ve loved it here. I’ve grown up here. The more I think about It, I came here and didn’t really know anything about Calgary. I didn’t know anything about Western Canada and kind of just fell in love with it here. 

“I just kind of love the people here. And you know, it’s cool to go places and have people come up and talk about the sport and talk about what you mean to them and everything. 

“I don’t know, just how happy that the team makes them feel and how great they’ve made my life here, just the people in general. So yeah, to answer your question, I would be very open (to a long-term deal).”

Easier said than done.

[brightcove videoID=6306952854112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The only way I see this happening is if the Flames lose Gaudreau and need to up the ante to ensure Tkachuk doesn’t walk for nothing as well.

Otherwise, what’s the impetus for Tkachuk to sign when he can take a one-year qualifying offer of $9 million and then have increased leverage as a pending UFA?

With career earnings of $24 million, the 24-year-old is already set for life and will soon have the ability to cash in almost anywhere he wants.

As happy as he is here, he comes from a family of savvy negotiators, of which his father enjoyed the fruits of moving around in his career.

Don’t expect Treliving to be able to sign him long-term this summer — a one-year deal is almost certain.

The allure of Andrew Mangiapane.

You can bet Treliving will do his best to sign the 35-goal scorer long-term.

However, like Tkachuk, he’ll get heavy pressure from his agent to sign a one-year deal, walking him to unrestricted free agency next summer where there will be more than a few teams interested in giving him the first line minutes he’s never had in Calgary.

What’s different here is that the 26-year-old MVP from last year’s World Championship has “only” made $6.5 million in his career, meaning a life-changing five- or six-year offer for upwards of $25-30 million may prove to be too tempting to turn down.

That said, given his standing as one of the game’s most prolific 5-on-5 players, who can also kill penalties, he knows the pay day could be significantly higher with the possibility of multiple bidders next summer.

Treliving has a history of doing well to lock up players like Mangiapane, but this will be a tough test.

For the first time, Oliver Kylington has leverage.

Few could have predicted last summer that he’d be in a position to command a hefty raise on the $750,000 he made this year.

However, the 25-year-old broke through in training camp and became an everyday NHLer on the second pairing with Chris Tanev.

This is the first time Kylington, who took a pay cut last year, has had any leverage and you can expect the RFA will do everything he can to use it, despite the fact money will be scarce this summer.

Erik Gudbranson and the value of team identity.

This is a luxury item on the to-do list the coach will be pushing for, which is interesting to say for a third-pairing defenceman who signed last season for $1.95 million.

The big man became a huge part of the team’s identity, which is something Darryl Sutter sees as key.

Two years ago, he was wrapping up a three-year deal that paid the 30-year-old first rounder $4 million annually.

The right-shot defenceman re-upped his stock this year with a career season and would have to take less than market value to remain in Calgary where he knows he can continue to play a big role.

He’s made $28 million over his career, so maybe he’d take less money to stay.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.