With the Calgary Flames already in offseason mode to prepare for the 2022–23 season, Sean Monahan‘s upcoming roster status is definitely one of the more intriguing headlines. The Flames are heading into this summer with $26,925,000 in cap space to work with, with the task of hopefully being able to re-sign unrestricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau, and restricted free agents Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington.
General manager Brad Treliving has the enormous task of figuring out a way to re-sign two 100+ point players making up two thirds of one of the best top lines in the league, a 30+ goal scorer, and a breakout top-four defenceman. Could Monahan’s final year remaining at $6.375M be the contract that is sacrificed heading into next season to make this work?
The NHL has confirmed a $1M salary cap increase to $82.5M for the 2022–23 season, which will eventually increase another $1M to $83.5M heading into 2023–24. This will play a big role in how Treliving sets contracts over the coming weeks.
Monahan’s historical injury status
Monahan is widely regarded as one of the Flames’ most reliable players. That definition has changed from being a reliable goal scorer to a player that always shows up and brings forth his best effort—even if he’s playing injured beyond what most would call reasonable.
Most recently, coming out of the 56-game 2020–21 season, Monahan had harboured a left hip injury early in the shortened season and played through it until the team was mathematically eliminated. Nonetheless, he didn’t even entertain the notion of shutting down early for the sake of his health.
In terms of statistical progression, the 2021 season was Monahan’s worst up until that point. He posted just 10 goals and 18 assists through 50 games. However, he scored 8 goals and 15 assists for 23 points through 65 games this year, unfortunately marking a new career-worst season.
Over the past several seasons, Monahan has played through various injuries with differing degrees of severity. Some injuries required surgeries, including operations to fix hernias, his groin, wrist, hip, and more.
Towards the end of the 2021–22 regular season, Monahan was shut down for the rest of the year due to undergo another season-ending hip surgery, this time on his right hip. He was then consequently placed on LTIR. During the Flames’ locker room exit interviews to cap off the year, it was revealed Monahan had successfully undergone surgery on his right hip and was noted to be currently five to six weeks ahead of recovery time in comparison to the rehab on his left hip last summer.
Now as the Flames turn the page from 2021–22 over to 2022–23, they are reaching a dilemma with how to move forward with their long-time alternate captain. They have several options and there’s no doubt that Treliving is looking at each and every one heading into this pivotal offseason.
Option 1: Buying out Monahan
Although buying out a player is often seen as a bleak way to terminate a relationship, it could be a route the Flames elect to take with Monahan’s contract. Understandably, the cap-crunching endeavour that Treliving has tasked himself with this summer, solely in attempting to make sure that Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Mangiapane, and Kylington are either locked up long-term or at least extended in some fashion is an absolute nightmare scenario.
That on top of filling out the rest of the roster, the buyout route could be a path Treliving looks into when the window opens on June 15. If the club were to elect to buyout Monahan’s contract, they’d save $4M on the cap heading into next season, while adding a cap hit of $2M to the books in 2023–24.
Here’s how the buyout structure would look for Monahan. Cap hit calculations were performed via CapFriendly.com.
|Season||Initial Base Salary||Initial Cap Hit||Buyout Cost||Post-Buyout Earnings||Savings||Cap Hit|
There’s some merit to buying Monahan out, but there are better options to Treliving to explore.
Option 2: Trading Monahan
Monahan’s name has been in the rumour mill for quite some time now and it’s important to note that his contract carries with him a modified no-trade clause (M-NTC). His M-NTC kicked in for the 2020–21 season, and has since been applicable for the final three seasons of his deal. Monahan’s clause consists of a 10-team no-trade list, meaning Treliving has 21 other clubs he could potentially find a dance partner to trade with this summer.
Prior to the Canadiens acquiring Josh Anderson for Max Domi and a 2020 third-round pick in October 2020, it was reported by Darren Dreger that the Flames were heavily in on Anderson with Monahan supposedly being part of the return heading to the Blue Jackets. At the time however it is of note that, Treliving did not want to give up a centre as a part of the deal.
More recently, after the 2022 trade deadline it was reported on Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts Podcast that Monahan would have been included in a deal for Hampus Lindholm out of Anaheim, had any sort of trade package been officially finalized. Hampus Lindholm ultimately went to the Boston Bruins for a hefty package. It’s clear however that the Flames had shown genuine interest in the defenceman and seemed to not hesitate to send off Monahan’s deal in order to make the money work.
Treliving has clearly tried trading out Monahan’s contract before and it would be to no one’s surprise if he tried again this summer, whether that be at full face value of the deal or with some essence of salary retention applied to the transaction. Hypothetically, going this route would essentially make the most sense for the club.
Option 3: Keeping Monahan
Although a self-fulfilling route, if the Flames somehow managed to lock up their upcoming free agents while finding ways to make the cap work, keeping Monahan on the books and letting him play out the final year of his contract in Calgary is a viable option too. However, that’s a big if and it’s unlikely when all the pieces are considered.
The big question if Monahan did remain a Flame heading into next season, would be where would he fit in the lineup? With Adam Ruzicka‘s progression and Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund securing the #1 and #2 spots down the middle, would keeping Monahan as a #3 or #4 centre at $6,375,000 really make sense if he doesn’t find a way of coming back to form?
Any other year and this option would be automatic for the Flames to have Monahan play out his contract. However, the looming cap scenario for the Flames makes this option all the more harder to assess and execute.
It’s not as easy a decision to simply keep him for one last year, as that has implications for the players surrounding him in terms of their salaries, as well as the competitiveness of the Flames as a team.
Mulling over Monahan
No matter what the Flames do with Monahan, rest assured he will be involved in the final outcome. He’s been as loyal a player as any for the Flames, and he’s earned enough to be in the loop of what steps the club will take with him.
All in all, Treliving is going to have to undertake some serious decision-making this offseason and determining what to do with Monahan will have a major impact on the team moving forward.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire