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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Other Perspectives to the Giordano Contract Extension

Two years ago today, Canada's 17 best defencemen gathered at WinSport for a game of ball hockey. It was the orientation camp for Canada's National Men's Hockey Team as preparations began for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Mark Giordano was not among them.

Ryan Suter, Zdeno Chara, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Nik Kronwall and Erik Karlsson -- they weren't there either, but that was because of the country listed on their passport.

The reason for Giordano's absence? Simply not good enough according to Executive Director Steve Yzerman and his management team.

Viewed in that light, Giordano signing a 6-year/$40.5 million contract extension as was announced Tuesday is downright staggering.

Yet, the overwhelming reaction to the deal, which pays him an annual average value of $6.75 million, was what a bargain for the Flames. You can include me among that group that had to look twice to make sure we were reading the dollar figure correctly. Two weeks ago in this piece when I broke down exactly what you get with the overall package with Giordano, I concluded a 6-year/$46.5 million extension -- an AAV of $7.75 million -- would be fair value.

For eight reasons why the Flames got themselves great value with this deal, I'll refer you back to that last article. His low NHL odometer, unique career 'sweet spot' and a list of comparable contracts from around the league are all there.

Today in an Eight From 80 Feet dedicated specifically to his newly-signed deal, I present part two. Here are eight additional angles in which you can look at the Giordano deal and realize it is one that Calgary hockey fans should be ecstatic with.


1. Still Getting Nearly $9 Million, Eh

NHL contracts are paid in U.S. dollars. Girodano lives and works in Canada. In case you haven't noticed, the value of the Canadian dollar ain't what it used to be.

Two years ago today when Giordano was back home in Toronto watching the Blue Jays instead of at Hockey Canada's camp, the U.S. dollar was worth 95 cents Canadian. Yesterday, it closed at 75 cents.

Put $6.75 million US into the currency converting machine and out spits $8.95 million in Canadian spending money. Look at it in that light and instead of being the ninth highest paid blue-liner in the NHL, Giordano moves up to third behind only PK Subban and Dion Phaneuf.

Sure, maybe it doesn't stay that way and Giordano's new deal is a year away from kicking in, but it's certainly something to consider.


2. Establishing a Team Salary Framework

What Flames GM Brad Treliving has managed to do with all his recent player signings is appropriately slot players -- based on how they compare relatively -- in a way that establishes a Flames salary framework that works for the team and should benefit the club moving forward.

Look at the blue-line where Brodie's extension signed early last season was the first domino. Hamilton's contract was then built off that and Giordano's contract falls in line at a number that makes sense for where he's at in his career in comparison to the other two.

A year from now when Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau need new deals, Treliving is again going to try and position them in respect to these other recent deals. Look fellas, we just paid our captain and best player $6.75 million, so take that into consideration when you're coming up with your salary ask at your young age.

Same thing for Kris Russell, who is entering his UFA season. If he is offered an extension, know that the salary will reflect where he fits in compared to the big three.


3. Economically-Priced Norris-Worthy Trio 

If his season doesn't end in February due to injury, there's a good chance Giordano wins the Norris Trophy last season. Instead, he finished sixth. Brodie also cracked the top 20 in Norris voting finishing 18th and the 25-year-old is just getting going. Hamilton just turned 22 and could very soon be in that same conversation.

We're talking about three defencemen, all potentially Norris Trophy winning-calibre, all locked up by the Flames for the next five seasons at a combined cost of $17.15 million (and even less in 2015-16 where it will be $14.4 million as Giordano completes the final year of his current contract), which is less than 25 percent of the NHL salary cap where it's at today at $71.4 million. That's shrewd spending.

If you subscribe to the adage that defense wins championships, Treliving has really set this team up nicely. Look ahead to the final three years of that five-year window in particular, which should be where this team peaks, and here are the ages the Flames young forward core will be:
  • Johnny Gaudreau - Ages 24-26
  • Sean Monahan - Ages 23-25
  • Sam Bennett - Ages 21-23

That would go hand-in-hand with:
  • Giordano - Ages 34-36
  • Brodie - Ages 27-29
  • Hamilton - Ages 24-26

4. Front-End Savings Trumps Back-End Losses

Five years from now when Giordano is 37 and has two years remaining on his deal, will Calgary wish they were paying him less? Probably.

But that's the cost of doing business. If you look at it that way, you're getting lost in the weeds. Plus, what might Giordano command for a salary at that age? Don't underestimate it. As an example, Andrei Markov's three-year extension kicked in at age 36 and was for an AAV of $5.8 million.

While he likely will be worth less at that time, it may not be considerably less. Meanwhile, the discount the team will reap at the front end of his new deal -- as much as $2 or $3 million less than what he could have earned over those first three to four years -- will be substantial and more than makes up for any overpaying the team will do in the final couple years.

We're also just guessing at when Giordano and his unusual career arc reaches 'post-apex'. Without getting into that elite class of Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque and Chris Chelios, there are plenty of others that enjoyed some of their best seasons in their mid-to-late 30s -- Al MacInnis, Larry Murphy, Mathieu Schneider, Rob Blake and Brian Rafalski are a few examples.


5. Face of the Franchise

If Giordano averages 65 games per season over the next five years, he'll pass Robyn Regehr and move into second place on the franchise's games-played list behind Jarome Iginla. So, you might as well pencil him into that spot right now.

Flames top five defencemen all-time in games played:
  1. Robyn Regehr, 826
  2. Al MacInnis 803
  3. Gary Suter, 617
  4. Jamie Macoun, 586
  5. Mark Giordano, 510

Make no mistake, we're talking about a player that is the face of the franchise, the face of the city and on track to go down in history as one of Calgary's greatest players ever. The No. 5 jerseys will be everywhere in the 'C' of Red -- as well as on the streets and in schools -- for many, many years to come.


6. Role Model 

Earlier in the month in this piece, I tackled the topic of regression and whether or not what happened to the Avalanche last year will -- as many pundits predict -- happen to the Flames this season. One of the distinguishing factors I identified that separates Calgary from Colorado as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs the year before that is the quantity of youth on this team. Over half of the Flames roster this season including a lot of very important players will be age 25 or under.

This is why Giordano is such an ideal player to be wearing the 'C' in this organization and to be sticking around for a long time. Older, experienced, yet always one of the most fit players. Giordano sets the path and the others follow. As a young player, you look at how he handles himself off the ice, on the ice, in the weight room, in the community, and you emulate. He is an exemplary person to have your future stars patterning themselves off of.


7. Attracting Players to Calgary

Hamilton signing long term. Michael Frolik picking Calgary from the 30 choices he had as a free agent.

Treliving said on July 1 that both of those transactions were helped by the successful season the Flames had last year. Winning was identified by both players as a reason why they wanted to commit to Calgary for the next several years.

Giordano accepting less than what he surely would have commanded on the open market in a year's time to stay with the Flames is yet another move made in that same spirit. He sees Calgary as the best chance to win and make no mistake, he wants to win. He is on the verge of his 32nd birthday and has played in four career NHL playoff games. Four!

Yes, players want to maximize their earnings and that's a big factor when they're on the open market or negotiating a new contract, but what really motivates most players more than anything else is having a legitimate chance to get their name inscribed on the Stanley Cup, to hoist it over their head in June at the end of a two-month playoff grind, to take it back to their hometown in the summer and show it off. A genuine opportunity to do that is huge.

If you look at the roster construction of the Flames right now, the star-studded back end, the young stars up front, Calgary is becoming a destination of choice once again for players. While it used to be that way back in the 80s, it's hard to say with any sincerity it has been that lately. Think about it, one trip to the second round of the playoffs over a 25 year span, prior to last season. That doesn't exactly land you the cute cheerleader when you're looking for a prom date.

Now, Calgary is putting itself in a position to be a team being courted, versus the team doing the courting, and that will have positive implications moving forward.


8. Staggered Expiry Dates

If you want to build a team that will be successful for the next decade and not just the next few years, you need to be succession planning all the time. In a salary cap world, you need to be prepared to regularly integrate younger and cheaper versions of players into your line-up as replacements for some of your star players as they become too old and/or too expensive.

Of the big three on the blue-line, the final season on each of their long-term deals is different and I see a real advantage to these dates being staggered.
  • TJ Brodie - Signed through 2019-20
  • Dougie Hamilton - Signed through 2020-21
  • Mark Giordano - Signed through 2021-22

Through the draft and free agency, Treliving has done a nice job in the past two years of building up the organization's depth on the back end, which was very thin not that long ago. Of course, no one can say with certainty right now if any of these highly-touted blue-liners will pan out but there are some nice possibilities in there, who eventually could turn into top four or even top pairing-calibre players.

Looking specifically at the top three defencmen on my recently-unveiled list of the Flames Top 20 Prospects, here's what we would be looking at:
  • Brandon Hickey will be 24 the summer of 2020 when Brodie becomes a UFA.
  • Rasmus Andersson will be 24 the summer of 2021 when Hamilton becomes a UFA
  • Oliver Kylington will be 25 the summer of 2022 when Giordano potentially retires.

It's not going to end up as simple as that, other names will come along and there's always the possibility the players above could re-sign, but you get the point.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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