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

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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.

Report: Leafs sign Setoguchi to PTO

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to give Devin Setoguchi another chance.

According to Matt Brown of The FAN 590, the Leafs have signed Setoguchi to a professional tryout contract. He will attend the club’s training camp next month.

CTV Calgary reported earlier this month that Setoguchi went through a rehab program and has been sober for five months.

The 28-year-old signed a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames last August, but after going 12 games with out a point, the Flames waived him and assigned the former first-round pick to the AHL’s Adirondack Flames.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Alberta native scored three goals and seven assists in 19 AHL games last season.

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

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Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

Report: Prospect Ehlers mulling Swiss league if he doesn’t make Jets

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Nikolaj Ehlers will be one to watch at Winnipeg’s training camp this fall.

Ehlers, the Jets’ first-round pick (ninth overall) at the 2014 draft, is reportedly open to playing in the Swiss league should he not make the Jets roster out of the preseason, per news agency Sportinformation.

More (courtesy Swiss Hockey News):

“I honestly do not think about this now,” the 19-year-old Dane says to the Sportinformation. “But Switzerland is at the top of my list if I’m not going to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.”

As Ehlers is still too young for the AHL and another year in the QMJHL would not make any sense for him, playing in Europe would be the best solution.

Ehlers is coming off a dominant Quebec League campaign — 101 points in just 51 games — but isn’t big (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and will be in tough to crack a Jets team with good depth up front. While the forwards Michael Frolik, Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty are all gone, Alex Burmistrov is back from Russia and some other youngsters, along with Ehlers, will push for just a handful of spots.

“It’s going to be tough coming back here and trying to get that spot on the team,” Ehlers told NHL.com this summer, during Winnipeg’s prospects camp. “There is a lot of excitement, and I think that on the ice there are a lot of things I can improve on, and I’m going to try to do that this summer.”

It makes sense that Ehlers would target Switzerland in the event he doesn’t make the Jets. Aside from having little to prove at the junior level, he has experience playing in the Swiss National League A — during the ’12-13 campaign, he appeared in 11 games for HC Biel.

Under Pressure: John Carlson

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We wrote yesterday about how most teams that win the Stanley Cup have an elite center, like Jonathan Toews.

Well, most teams that win the Cup also have an elite defenseman, like Duncan Keith, the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

Can John Carlson be that guy for the Washington Capitals?

The 25-year-old is coming off his best season as a professional. In 82 games, he had 12 goals and 43 assists, his 55 points ranking fifth among NHL defensemen, behind only Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, P.K. Subban and Dennis Wideman.

And with the departure of Mike Green, the Caps will need Carlson more than ever to provide offense from the back end, while also continuing to improve in all the other areas of his game.

“I think with Carly, there’s been areas of his game that sort of would lag, and I think he’s done a really good job of focusing on those areas, so he can have that consistency,” coach Barry Trotz said in February, per the Washington Post. “He’s maturing as a player. He’s still a very young player who’s now entering the front end of the prime of his career. There’s lot of good things to see from him.”

Related: ‘It took him a few years, but Victor Hedman’s arrived’