Johnny Gaudreau

Getty

Gaudreau, Monahan, Flames too much for Capitals

11 Comments

When you talk about the best lines in the NHL, don’t sleep on the trio Johnny Gaudreau is leading for the Calgary Flames.

With his 10th goal of the season coming early in a Flames – Washington Capitals game that is ongoing, Gaudreau collected his 30th point of 2017-18. As of this writing, only two other players have hit that mark so far: Steven Stamkos (35 points) and Nikita Kucherov (33), the headliners of a Tampa Bay Lightning trio that’s grabbing a lot of, well, headlines.

Here’s the goal Gaudreau scored against the Caps, keeping in mind that he has plenty of time to add to his lofty totals:

To an extent, it feels like Gaudreau’s fantastic work has been sneaking under the radar, at least compared to the likes of Stamkos – Kucherov. Then again, maybe some of it has to do with the fact that his hot streak is at least somewhat concentrated in the last few weeks?

Gaudreau, no doubt, is the catalyst. His playmaking ability is often spellbinding, and he’s well beyond questions about being a flash in the pan at this point in his career. The 24-year-old came into tonight’s game with 233 points in 251 career regular-season games; he’s scored more than the likes of Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Malkin since becoming a full-time player in 2014-15, according to Hockey Reference. (He ranks 12th overall during that span.)

His linemates deserve some of the spotlight, too.

There remains a debate about how much Sean Monahan can accomplish without Gaudreau, yet the counterpoint would be to wonder if it’s really that wise to mess with such a good thing. Such an argument is especially tough to make on the heels of his first career hat trick:

While Gaudreau has eight goals and 10 assists for a whopping 18 points (and possibly counting) during a 10-game point streak, Monahan collected his 21st point of this season on the primary assist. He added a helper to that hat trick the other night, so even if he’s stopped for the rest of Monday, Monahan has five points in two games. He also generated a six-game point streak (three goals, five assists) from Oct. 27 – Nov. 9.

When people haven’t been discussing Monahan’s dependence upon Gaudreau, they’ve wondered who might be the right winger for that dynamic duo.

Micheal Ferland might spell the end of that debate.

The big 25-year-old currently has 12 points in 18 games, but he’s really been revving up his production as of late. The Flyers snapped his five-game goal streak on Nov. 18, yet he extended his point streak to six contests with an assist (5G, 3A).

Logically, Ferland makes some sense for Gaudreau – Monahan. Neither of those forwards bring a lot of beef to the table, and Ferland has also shown some signs that he possesses the ability to finish the chances they can set up. As fun as it is to watch Jaromir Jagr with those two, Ferland might end up being the best fit for them since Jiri Hudler’s better Flames days.

(Ferland didn’t get an assist on Gaudreau’s goal, so he’ll need to generate some offense as this game goes along to keep his impressive streak going.)

***

Stamkos, Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov probably carry the championship belts as the best scoring line in hockey, at least right now. One of the delightful things about this relatively high-scoring start to the season is that there are plenty of contenders for that imaginary title, and Gaudreau’s group shouldn’t be shortchanged in such debates.

Update: Monahan added a goal of his own (the eventual game-winner, with a primary assist by Gaudreau) as the Flames ran away with this one by a score of 4-1. Matthew Tkachuk made his presence felt as well with two assists.

About the only bummer was that Ferland’s point streak ended.

So, Gaudreau finishes the night with 31 points on the season, including 19 during this 10-game streak. Monahan now has 22 points (with six in the last two contests).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Gio won’t go: Flames extend Giordano for six years, $40.5M

13 Comments

It seemed like the Calgary Flames were going to have a big elephant in the room regarding Mark Giordano’s expiring contract next season. They removed that problem in a huge way on Tuesday.

The Flames announced a six-year contract extension for the Norris-caliber defenseman. Multiple outlets including TSN’s Bob McKenzie report that the cap hit will be $6.75 million, which would make the deal worth $40.5 million overall.

That contract will kick in beginning in 2016-17, making Giordano the highest-paid member of the Flames. He’ll make the same $6.75 million for each year of that deal, according to The Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno.

While that’s an expensive deal out of context, that cap hit is quite the steal if Giordano remains one of the best defensemen in the NHL, which was absolutely a fair label for the veteran in 2014-15 before his season was cut short by injury.

(Really, you couldn’t hear Norris talk around awards season without “it would have been Giordano if he didn’t get hurt” …)

Here’s one additional detail about the contract, via General Fanager:

The Flames now boast a tremendous group of blueliners signed to long-term deals:

Giordano: $4.02 million in 2015-16, $6.75 million through 2021-22
Dougie Hamilton: $5.75M through 2020-21
TJ Brodie: $4.65M through 2019-20

Slight concerns amid a mostly joyous situation

Now, this does leave a few questions. Is someone like Dennis Wideman going to be the odd man out? Will this make it more difficult to re-sign the fantastic trio of Jiri Hudler (UFA), Johnny Gaudreau (RFA) and Sean Monahan (RFA) after 2015-16?

You really have to strain to see the downside for the Flames, however, as this is a bargain by expensive, high-end defensemen terms.

The genuine worry is age. Giordano is 31, he’ll turn 32 in October and will be 33 around the time his next contact kicks in.

With that “price of doing business” concern out of the way, it’s ultimately a pretty fantastic deal for the Flames.

McDavid, Eichel headline NHLPA Rookie Showcase

5 Comments

This year’s NHLPA Rookie Showcase won’t be lacking star power.

The top two picks at this year’s entry draft — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel — will be in attendance, along with 38 other prospects that’ll descend upon Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 1 for photo ops and media availability.

The list of invitees, per the players’ union:

Connor McDavid (Oilers), Jack Eichel (Sabres), Dylan Strome (Coyotes), Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs), Noah Hanifin (Hurricanes), Ivan Barbashev (Blues), Chris Bigras (Avalanche), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Blue Jackets), Madison Bowey (Capitals), Connor Brown (Maple Leafs), Michael Dal Colle (Islanders), Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets), Robby Fabbri (Blues), Zach Fucale (Canadiens), Nikolay Goldobin (Sharks), Ryan Hartman (Blackhawks), Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), Julius Honka (Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs), Ronalds Kenins (Canucks), Slater Koekkoek (Lightning), Dylan Larkin (Red Wings), Sonny Milano (Blue Jackets), Samuel Morin (Flyers), Mike Matheson (Panthers), Michael McCarron (Canadiens), Josh Morrissey (Jets), Brendan Perlini (Coyotes), Nic Petan (Jets), Emile Poirier (Flames), Shane Prince (Senators), Ryan Pulock (Islanders), John Quenneville (Devils), Mike Reilly (Wild), Nick Ritchie (Ducks), Travis Sanheim (Flyers), Mackenzie Skapski (Rangers), Brady Skjei (Rangers), Shea Theodore (Ducks) and Jake Virtanen (Canucks).

This will mark the seventh year the PA has gathered rookies for its annual event. Last year’s Rookie Showcase featured 33 players, including Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and fellow finalist Johnny Gaudreau.

Calgary Flames ’15-16 Outlook

4 Comments

For the most part, there should be optimism in Cowtown.

After a great ’14-15 campaign in which they exceeded all expectations, the Flames had themselves an equally successful summer. GM Brad Treliving struck the perfect chord of adding to his upstart team without sacrificing youth or prospects; Dougie Hamilton came aboard at the expense of three draft picks while Michael Frolik joined in free agency, much like Karri Ramo, who was brought back to recreate last year’s successful goalie tandem with Jonas Hiller.

The Flames didn’t lose much, either.

Spare veteran parts like Raphael Diaz, David Schlemko and Brian McGrattan walked in free agency, and with good reason; the postseason emergence of youngsters like Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Tyler Wotherspoon made the older guys expendable.

The real excitement in Calgary, though, is the prospect of putting everything together. Up front, the dynamic trio of Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler will be back for another go-round, only this time they’ll have depth behind them: Frolik, a full season of Bennett, a full season of Mikael Backlund (remember, he missed 30 games last season) and a real wildcard in Ferland, who showed flashes of being a havoc-wreaking power forward in the playoffs.

On defense? Imagine if that all comes together too. Adding Hamilton, getting Giordano back, building off the excellent playoffs from T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell — the Flames could have one of the better bluelines in the Western Conference.

So yes, Calgary certainly has momentum heading into ’15-16, but momentum can be a fickle thing. Especially when you’re trying to carry it from one year to the next.

What the Flames won’t have going for them is the element of surprise. It’s fair to say they snuck up on some few opponents last year, especially during their 17-8-2 start, but that’s unlikely to happen again. They’re a tough out, and the rest of the NHL now knows it. Upon being introduced to the Calgary media in July, Frolik, the former Winnipeg Jet, acknowledged part of his reason for signing in Calgary was recognizing how good the team was — and will be.

“With me and Dougie, I think that [expectations are] just going to be higher and higher,” he explained, per the Herald. “With what the guys did last year, the goal is for sure to make the playoffs.”

Calgary will also likely need to improve on its puck possession and shot-based metrics — we touched on that earlier today — but those improvements have a good chance of happening thanks to the new roster additions, and the maturation of incumbent youngsters.

Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why the organization’s already thinking about another boisterous postseason in front of the Sea of Red.

“Players want to be in a good situation, they want to have a chance to win,” Treliving said. “In the playoffs, seeing the atmosphere in the building, seeing this city come alive, seeing the support and the passion that our fans have, makes players excited.”

Flames’ biggest question: When will Giordano re-sign?

6 Comments

“Everybody in this room knows what Mark means. On the ice, we all know. He’s a culture-setter for me. We plan to get to work at it [contract extension] and have done some preliminary work at it, but it’s one we want to get wrapped up real quick this summer.”

That was Flames GM Brad Treliving on May 12, shortly after Calgary was bounced from the playoffs by Anaheim.

At the time, optimism was high. The Flames had made the playoffs for the first time in five years, won a series for the first time in 11 years, witnessed a slew of young talents playing big roles and, perhaps most impressively, did it all despite losing Giordano — their captain, leader and best player — to a season-ending biceps tear in late February.

But much has changed since May 12.

For one, there was Giordano’s initial ask. Per TSN, the 31-year-old — heading into the last of a five-year deal with a $4.02M cap hit — opened at around $9 million per year. Yes, this is how most negotiations start and yes, that number will eventually be lower. But it’s still an eye-popping figure in a vitally important negotiation.

Remember, Calgary’s already spent some fairly big coin this summer. Treliving made Dougie Hamilton the team’s highest-paid player (in terms of cap hit, anyway) with a six-year, $34.5 million deal, then made Michael Frolik the club’s highest-paid forward with a five-year, $21.5 million pact.

And looking down the road, Giordano isn’t the only big contract in Treliving’s future. Sean Monahan, coming off a terrific 31-goal campaign, and Calder finalist Johnny Gaudreau will also need new deals after this season.

The good news for Calgary is there’s no cap crunch standing in the way of things. The Giordano extension will get done, but it’s easy to see why it hasn’t happened yet.

Let’s assume that, when the contract is signed, Giordano will surpass Hamilton as the team’s biggest earner. It would be bizarre for any Flame, let alone a d-man, to be paid more, especially since Giordano was considered to be a Norris Trophy frontrunner at the time of his injury; he still managed to finish 13th among NHL blueliners in scoring last year, with 48 points, despite missing 21 games.

So there’s that to figure out.

There’s also how much term the Flames want to give. For as good as he was last year, Giordano will be 32 by the time next season opens and is coming off a major injury, marking the third time in the last four seasons that’s happened — a torn hamstring cost him major time in ’11-12, and a broken ankle sidelined him for weeks in ’13-14.

Finally, there’s the timing. It stands to reason both Calgary and Giordano want the extension done before the season starts, to avoid the distraction it may cause when games start to matter.

At last check — in early July — Treliving said the negotiation was underway, after getting sidetracked by the Hamilton trade and free agency.

“Mark’s our captain and our leader, and we’re gonna work away at getting that done,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “No update on the talks with Mark, other than it remains a priority for us to continue and work away at and get to a good conclusion.”