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Projecting Matthew Tkachuk's next contract

Gerry Thomas / National Hockey League / Getty

Throughout June, theScore will be projecting contracts for the star-studded restricted free-agent class. In this edition, we project Matthew Tkachuk's new deal.

The player

Gerry Thomas / National Hockey League / Getty

You'd be hard-pressed to find a hockey fan who doesn't like Matthew Tkachuk's game.

The Calgary Flames forward is a true throwback and a chip off the old block. Both he and his brother Brady bring the same nastiness, competitiveness, and 200-foot game that their father Keith did, which old-school hockey fans can appreciate.

Tkachuk pleases new-age, analytical thinkers as well, though. In his career, he owns an elite Corsi For rating of 56.8 at five-on-five despite an offensive-zone start rate below 50 percent and playing almost exclusively against other teams' top lines.

Offensively, he enjoyed a well-timed breakout 2018-19 season.

Season (Age) GP G A P ATOI
2016-17 (19) 76 13 35 48 14:40
2017-18 (20) 68 24 25 49 17:15
2018-19 (21) 80 34 43 77 17:36

Tkachuk managed to produce 53 of his 77 points at even strength despite skating on Calgary's shutdown line alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. He notched nearly as many points as his two linemates combined (81).

The team

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Flames general manager Brad Treliving has some work to do. CapFriendly projects the club to have just over $14 million in available cap space. In addition to Tkachuk and a handful of depth forwards needing new contracts, Jon Gillies is the only netminder signed for next season. Treliving has to decide whether he wants to re-sign David Rittich, Mike Smith, or perhaps both.

Locking up Tkachuk and resolving the goaltending situation are two of Treliving's top priorities, but a couple of trades may need to be made in order to make it work. Frolik has one year remaining on his deal with a $4.3-million cap hit and could be dealt. Defensemen TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone are all UFAs next year, and with plenty of young blue-liners in the system, one of these veterans is likely on the way out.

Thanks to some team-friendly deals on the roster, the Flames shouldn't have too much trouble fitting Tkachuk under the cap on a long-term extension.

The comparables

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Here's a select list of wingers to sign contracts out of restricted free agency over the past few years:

Player Cap hit CH% Length Year signed
William Nylander (TOR) $6.9M* 8.67 6 years 2018
Leon Draisaitl (EDM) $8.5M 11.3 8 years 2017
David Pastrnak (BOS) $6.6M 8.89 6 years 2017
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) $6.75M 9.25 6 years 2016
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) $7.5M 10.27 8 years 2015

CH% = Cap hit percentage, based on cap ceiling when the contract was signed

* - Nylander's cap hit in 2018-19 was prorated to $10.2 million because of time missed in negotiations

Draisaitl could be the most fitting comparison for Tkachuk, as they each recorded 77 points in their contract years. However, the Germany native finished eighth in scoring in 2016-17, whereas Tkachuk settled for 31st. Draisaitl also came with the versatility to play center.

The projection

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Like many of this year's RFAs, Tkachuk's contract could be directly tied to one of his counterparts. If Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine, or Brock Boeser sign their respective deals first, it'll offer one or more immediate comparisons for both Tkachuk's camp and the Flames' brass to look at.

Calgary almost certainly views Tkachuk as a part of the long-term core moving forward. Many believe he'll be the club's next captain once 35-year-old Mark Giordano moves on.

A deal in the six-to-eight-year range would likely be ideal for the Flames. However, Tkachuk was attentive to good friend Auston Matthews' lucrative five-year extension.

"I feel like every year there's a couple guys, a couple big names every year who kind of change the way a little bit," Tkachuk said in February. "I think Auston changed it, too, going with the approach (of) a five-year deal, too. Maybe people haven't seen that in a couple years, but it's not, like, uncommon. Guys used to do that all the time. He definitely set the bar."

Tkachuk is a near lock to become Calgary's highest-paid player. The 21-year-old's deal will carry an average annual value of at least $7 million and could potentially reach $9 million depending on the length and what other RFAs sign for.

Verdict: 6 years, $51 million ($8.5M AAV, 10.2 CH%)

(Advanced stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)

Others in this series:

Projecting Matthew Tkachuk's next contract
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