The Calgary Flames have many offseason tasks they must deal with this summer, but the No. 1 priority of the team is locking up their top restricted free agent, Matthew Tkachuk. However, with a number of big-name restricted free agents cashing in on mega contracts in the last couple of years, the negotiations are expected to take a while. In fact, The Fourth Period reports that the two sides are in no rush to get a deal done quickly.
Both Calgary and Tkachuk have already had initial discussions, but negotiations aren’t expected to pick up again until later this month, most likely after the NHL Entry Draft. Much of the initial discussions likely dealt with the type of deal that Tkachuk is looking for as he could either sign a short-term bridge deal or a long-term deal. If the team isn’t ready to shell out an expensive long-term deal, they could offer a three-year bridge deal in hopes of seeing whether Tkachuk is worthy of such a deal that would take him to his final year of restricted free agency.
Several restricted free agents have cashed in recently, especially in Toronto as Auston Matthews signed a five-year, $58.2MM contract ($11.63MM AAV) in February, while William Nylander signed a six-year, $45MM deal ($6.96MM AAV) in December after holding out. There are quite a few key restricted free agents this offseason and Tkachuk might want to wait some of them out to see what the market sets at, including Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, San Jose’s Timo Meier and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor amongst others.
Tkachuk is coming off a breakout season in the final year of his entry-level deal as he potted 35 goals and picked up 77 points this season, something they were hoping for after they drafted him sixth overall in 2016. A physical, menace-type player, Tkachuk is critical to the team’s long-term plans, but with plenty of cap concerns approaching, the team could opt to give him a little less money if he accepts a shorter-term deal. However, a long-term deal might be the preferred outcome in case Tkachuk continues to take steps forward in his development, which is quite possible considering he’s still only 21 years old.
The Flames are projected to have more than $14MM in cap space this offseason, giving them the room to lock up Tkachuk to a long-term deal, although the team still has other key restricted free agents in Sam Bennett, Andrew Mangiapane and goaltender David Rittich to sign. The team also must decide on whether to bring back unrestricted free agent Mike Smith in net to pair with Rittich. If not, the team will have to find a goaltender on the free agent market to replace him. That could take up a significant amount of cap room, although there have been rumors the team could move one of their veteran defenseman, either T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic, to open up some more cap space and free up a defensive roster spot for some of their upcoming defensive prospects. General manager Brad Treliving might also attempt to trade forward James Neal and his bloated $5.75MM AAV contract, although finding a taker might prove to be a challenge considering he has four more years remaining on his contract.