Thursday, July 26, 2018

Jankowski Agrees to Two-Year Deal that Works Great for Both Sides

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Mark Jankowski has avoided arbitration by signing a two-year contract for an AAV of $1.675 million. The Flames announced the new deal on Wednesday morning. The two sides had an arbitration hearing set for Friday. Now they won’t need it and that’s always best for both sides.

I view it as a great deal for the club especially, continuing a trend with this player, who has been a good soldier for Calgary throughout his career.

From shrugging off the relentless criticism for being drafted where he was — like it was his fault. For agreeing three years ago at the insistence of the Flames to return to Providence College for his senior season, despite really wanting to turn pro that summer. For forgoing the typical burning of the first year of his entry-level contract when he did sign his ELC in March 2016 — and the NHL pay that would have come with it — to instead agree to begin his contract in the fall instead. For still reporting to Stockton on an amateur tryout right after signing his ELC and getting in that invaluable first taste of pro hockey. Now this, signing a two-year deal that is great value for the team given his upside and where he slotted on the depth chart a year ago as the No. 3 centre.

Now sure, the money works for him too, that’s certainly decent salary for a guy coming off his first NHL season. Yet after putting up 17 goals, regardless of how he did it (e.g. Four goals in the season finale), it wouldn’t have surprised me to see him sign for an AAV around $2 million, especially on a contract that extended over two years. This is a league in which scoring goals gets you paid and 17 is a decent number for year 1 in the league for the soon-to-be 24-year-old, who plays a premium position.


Takes Some Pressure Off

What I like about both the dollar figure and the term for the club is it gives Jankowski some runway to establish himself as the No. 3 centre on the Flames behind Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund. He was that last year, but it could be argued he’s not that any longer after the signing earlier this off-season of free agent centre Derek Ryan.

But let’s not kid ourselves, Ryan is 31 and is not the long-term fit in that role. But what Ryan’s presence the next few years allows the team to do is pump the brakes a little on what they absolutely need out of Jankowski. He no longer needs to be fast-tracked and forced into that role.

Jankowski has all the tools you’d want if you could open up a catalog and select a centre for your franchise. He’s tall, he’s strong (and getting stronger), he is skilled, he is likable, he is receptive to coaching instruction, he works passionately at his craft (e.g. Taking face-offs), when he’s challenged, he responds the right way by not sulking, but instead pushing back with a determined ‘I’ll show you’ attitude, he’s got the awareness to be a shutdown centre — his understanding of the 200-foot game fostered under Nate Leaman, his head coach in college. He’s got all the attributes to be everything that Jay Feaster and John Weisbrod thought he would be when Calgary drafted the tall, skinny kid out of high school 21st overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Will Jankowski ever realize that potential? Maybe. But that’s not what today is about, that’s not what this contract is about. For now, his singular focus has to be narrowed to establishing himself first as a solid, dependable No. 3 centre that can kill penalties and contribute offensively. He was that for some of last year, but there were other times — especially over the latter half of the season — where he looked over his head. Start there and see how far he can take his game. If we’ve learned anything, it would be foolish to doubt him at this point.


Final Word

Will Ryan’s presence block Jankowski from establishing himself in that role? Not a chance. The multi-faceted Ryan is on this roster for many reasons, just one of them being to make Jankowski fight for that third line role and win it back. Ryan can play right wing too and the club would be more than delighted to be forced to shift Ryan into that spot to keep Jankowski in the top nine, or to later in the season do that to re-open that spot at 3C.

Now it’s on Jankowski to do what he’s done his entire career, to show that steely resolve to be what he knows in his own head that he can be, and not settle for being what skeptics think he might be. If he does that, in two years time, that next contract is going to be for a real hefty pay hike. If he does that, chances are he will have playoff experience to further beef up his next salary demand. Now that would certainly be a win-win for everyone.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Do so now! It's another way to be alerted to new stories I've written, other articles from my colleagues that I've enjoyed and I'll occasionally use that space to chime in on the news of the day.

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Recent Flames Reading:

  • Enough: Treliving Finally Repairs Hole in Line-up that has Existed for Seven Years - Not since Craig Conroy have the Flames had a right-shot centre in their top nine and the lack of that cost them last season. Well, that won't be an issue any longer. (July 13, 2018)
  • Trying to Crack the A Team: Don't Pity the Foo - Since Spencer Foo signed with the Flames just a over a year ago, right wing has suddenly become a crowd scene. However, he remains unfazed, confident that he can make the team and be a difference maker. (July 10, 2018) 
  • Flames Get Younger and Different in Blockbuster Trade with Carolina - In a blockbuster deal at the draft, Calgary traded fan favourites Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox. While the return were names that are less familiar , they're both solid. (June 24, 2018)


7 comments:

  1. Glad they got that done. Looks like a better roster than last year up front; not sure about the defense. That was one expensive trade.
    And as always, we appreciate your articles.

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    1. That trade will be less expensive if Noah Hanifin turns into the elite defenceman you expect when you draft someone fifth overall (and he could have even gone third that year, according to some I’ve talked to). He’s the great unknown for me. Sure, three years in the NHL. Yes, an all-star appearance last year at age 21. But I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t watch a lot of Carolina Hurricanes games over the past three years. I look forward to getting a much better sense for myself what this guy is about. Same for Lindholm in that regard. Still a young man.

      I’d suggest the blueline isn’t as good on paper, based on last season, but the wild card is TJ Brodie. If a return to his old spot on Giordano’s right side can give his game a bump, that could be the great equalizer for the short-term in a trade that I’d argue will pay more over the long term.

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  2. I am so happy BT is not over paying people, this keeps expectations in check in relevant to the players talent. When any player gets overpaid the media and fans really pile all over that player and make crazy comparisons. I think this contact will help Jankowski and the team in the long run.

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    1. The GM is running pretty hot still after the disappointment of last season and if he could, deals signed right now would be for even less. Really buys into the notion that we just had a bad season, why should you get a raise? But obviously this is where sports sometimes differentiates itself from the normal workplace and you need to do what you need to do. But I think the Jankowski AAV is decent considering it is over two seasons. This guy isn’t done yet. He’s been on the long development runway his entire life and I expect his game to get noticeably better this season after a summer of reflection and with the chance to reset.

      That first full season in the NHL and playing top-nine at center is a lot for any player. You’re going to hit the wall some nights because you’re matching up against a lot of solid, established players. Players talk about the “grind” and that is exactly what he surely felt at times in that second half as the pressure mounted on his line to score and contribute more. I’d expect him to raise his game a level and also be more consistent this season. The threat of being demoted to the fourth line will be a motivator also.

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  3. Your discussion on Janko is bang on as is your thoughts on Ryan. What a nice problem to have for Peter's depth and competition at the forward ranks.

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    1. The easy way to view the depth chart now is to bump Ryan to 3C and drop Jankowski to 4C. But I don’t think Jankowski will allow such a decision to be that easy. He will be better in his second NHL season. He’s been a late developer his entire hockey career and I think you will see a more consistent game from him this season as he settles into life as an NHL centre, which is not easy. I believe there is still lots of growth available in his game. We all remember the rollercoaster ride Sam Bennett was on early in his career trying to establish himself in the NHL and trying to do so at a difficult and important position like centre.

      The more I think about it, I would not be surprised whatsoever if Jankowski breaks camp at the 3C still with Ryan on one of his wing and the latter could then take those key strong-side face-offs.

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  4. Hi Darren,

    Good observation on Jankowski's likelihood of growth from the previous year.

    I have yet to see, on any traditional media or social media outlet, an analytic metric that measures each player's growth of individual skill set from the previous year. Here is the equation: Year-Over-Year-Growth + Enthusiasm for New Flames Teammates = Stanley Cup! ;)

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