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The Calgary Flames need to sign Connor Zary before December 31st

The Calgary Flames have, for all intents and purposes, filled their roster for the upcoming season. The only remaining roster player without a contract is Oliver Kylington, but being an RFA without arbitration rights, there’s no reason to worry about that contract. He’ll sign in time for camp, and Kylington will push for a full time roster spot on the Flames’ new-look blueline.

Brad Treliving might be essentially done with his NHL roster, but there is one important signing outside the NHL that he still has on his to-do list. One of the newest Flames, 2020 first round pick Connor Zary, is in need of a contract.

Why the Flames need to sign Zary

Whether or not he signs, the Flames will retain his rights for two seasons. As a CHL player, Zary’s rights are held by his drafting team for two seasons, after which he re-enters the draft if he’s still without a contract. The Flames will sign him well before that.

Zary is a premier player in his age group, and is currently in competition for a spot on Canada’s world junior squad, one that returns defending the gold medal. Last year, Zary was a late cut for the team.

Connor Zary skates for Team Canada at the U-18s

The reason for the push to sign Zary in 2020 is because of Zary’s unique birthday. According to the CBA, a player’s “age” is whatever age that player is on September 15th. Zary was born on September 25th, so although he will be 19 years old for this entire WHL season, he’s actually only 18 in the eyes of the CBA.

This matters because of how the rules for how entry-level contracts “slide”. An entry-level slide occurs when a player who is 18 or 19 plays fewer than 10 NHL games in the contract year. In that scenario, the entry-level contract, generally the cheapest contract a high end player will ever sign, extends, or slides, by one year. The key point here is that it occurs for 18 and 19 year old players.

Since Zary is only 18 in the eyes of the CBA, he is eligible for two entry-level slides, assuming he doesn’t hit the 10 NHL games played mark in the next two seasons. Realistically, it’s unlikely he’ll hit that games played requirement, so there’s good incentive for the Flames to get him signed before the end of the calendar year.

In doing so, it allows Zary to potentially play professional hockey in the AHL next season and his contract wouldn’t even start rolling. It gives the Flames an additional one or two years to sign Zary to his second contract, opening up what could be millions of dollars of cap savings in 2024 and 2025.

The only caveat is that Zary must sign his entry-level by December 31, 2020 to be eligible for two slides. Historically, the Flames have signed their first round CHL picks fairly early, and almost always before the December 31st deadline.

PlayerDraft YearDraft OverallELC Signing DateDraft End DateDays
Connor Zary202024TBD7-Oct-20
Jakob Pelletier20192623-Sep-1922-Jun-1993
Juuso Valimaki20171621-Jul-1724-Jun-1727
Matthew Tkachuk201667-Jul-1625-Jun-1612
Sam Bennett2014426-Jul-1428-Jun-1428
Sean Monahan2013622-Jul-1330-Jun-1322
Emile Poirier20132231-Dec-1330-Jun-13184
Morgan Klimchuk20132818-Dec-1330-Jun-13171
Sven Baertschi2011135-Jul-1125-Jun-1110

In fact, the Flames have generally signed their first rounders within a month after they were drafted. This was the case for Valimaki, Tkachuk, Bennett, Monahan, and Baertschi. Pelletier took a bit longer, but he was signed before the season began and well before December 31st.

2013 first rounders Poirier and Klimchuk were signed much later than other first round picks, but still ahead of December 31st. The only recent first rounder who was not signed in the year he was drafted was Mark Jankowski, but he was playing in the NCAA and rules for college draftees is quite different than CHL draftees.

It’s the last piece of business for Treliving and the Flames, and we should hear about a Zary contract signing soon. He’s currently in Red Deer at Canada’s WJC camp, so it wouldn’t take much to get him to sign his contract while he’s there.

It makes sense for the Flames to get this done sooner rather than later, and Treliving is too savvy a GM to let this slip. So with all that said, keep an eye out for Zary officially joining the Flames within the next month or so.

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