Prospect Ramblings: Of signings and soap operas (Aug. 20)

by Mark Allan on August 20, 2016

You'd be celebrating like Sean Monahan if you just signed a seven-year, $44.625-million contract. The deal for the 21-year-old Calgary star offers hope to other young prospects that they too might be millionaires not long after they're legal to drink.

 

 

After a dog-days-of-August lull, player signings by NHL teams spiked again this week, highlighted Friday by the Flames extending one of their young stars, and the end of a lengthy popularity contest.

Further demonstrating the road from bright-eyed prospect to well-paid star is shorter and better-paved than ever, Calgary inked Sean Monahan to a seven-year, $44.625-million deal.

After negotiations that took as long as they took, the Flames are compensating the 2013 sixth-overall draft pick well, because 21-year-old No. 1 centers coming off 27-goal, 63-point campaigns are hardly common even in a salary-cap world. Although it signed him for a higher annual average salary than all other young RFA centers (including Mark Scheifele, Nathan McKinnon, Aleksander Barkov and Filip Forsberg) to sign this off-season, Calgary now has the services of the 6-3, 195-pound Monahan for the next seven seasons.

The team had to tread carefully, though, because his pint-sized yet dynamic left winger is due for a mammoth pay raise as well.

Johnny Gaudreau, also an RFA at a tender age, had even better stats than Monahan – 30 goals and 78 points. After compiling 55 goals and 88 assists for 143 points in the 160 games of his first two full NHL seasons, it’s fair to assume the former Boston College whiz will earn more money than his center.

Since Monahan’s contract comes with an annual cap hit of $6.375 million and Calgary has $8,594,601 of cap space left, well, you can do the math.

Regardless of contract status, Gaudreau and Monahan are expected to play for Team North America in September's World Cup of Hockey.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic plot twist of the popular soap opera As The Off-Season Turns, free agent Jimmy Vesey signed with the New York Rangers.

After spurning Nashville, then Buffalo, the 23-year-old declared himself available for hire – but not to just anyone. While a bidding war was impossible due to entry-level-contract restrictions in the collective-bargaining agreement, Vesey allowed himself to be wooed by his shortlist suitors that included the Bruins, Blackhawks, Islanders, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Devils and even the Sabres. And, of course, the Big Apple Blueshirts.

Reportedly due to geographical inconvenience, farther-flung teams rumored to include Detroit, Montreal, Philadelphia, Columbus and Carolina were disqualified because the former Harvard star preferred to play close to his hometown of Boston.

 

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These highlights demonstrate 6-6 center Logan Brown offers much more to the Ottawa Senators than a hulking physical presence:

 

 

In other prospect-related signings, Ottawa agreed to terms with towering 2016 first-rounder Logan Brown, 18, on a three-year entry-level deal and Pittsburgh inked fellow center Matt Cullen to a one-year pact worth $1 million.

Signing the 39-year-old Cullen is prospect-related because for at least one more season it eliminates playing time for a young hopeful such as Oskar Sundqvist.

The deal makes sense to reprise a popular, versatile veteran presence who somehow remains productive well past his best-before date.

It makes less sense from a salary-cap perspective since the Penguins now exceed the cap maximum by $3.3 million less a greenback after also signing free-agent center Thomas DiPauli to a two-year, entry-level contract that comes with an annual $742,500 hit.

We’ll never know what GM Jim Rutherford had in mind as a contingency plan in case Vesey decided to sign with Pittsburgh, although we can assume with confidence he’ll place blood-clot-prone LW Pascal Dupuis and his $3.75-million cap hit for one more season on long-term injured reserve.

 

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In a week of signings that also included UFAs Antoine Vermette joining Anaheim and Radim Vrbata moving to Arizona, RFAs Jacob Trouba and Tobias Rieder are notable because they haven’t agreed to terms yet with the Jets and Coyotes, respectively.

A seven-point decline by the 22-year-old Winnipeg blueliner has lessened his team’s enthusiasm to sign him for a lot of money for a long time, at least without some reassurance. Arizona and its 23-year-old LW are reportedly not far apart in dollars on a two-year contract.

It’s reasonable to expect both will sign before the season begins and that both have something to prove.

 

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Early in the week, 28-year-old former Colorado energy forward T.J. Galiardi signed a professional-tryout deal with St. Louis, while RFA youngsters Tyler Wotherspoon and Christopher Gibson agreed to one-year, two-way pacts.

Wotherspoon hopes to crack the highly paid Calgary blueline corps, while Gibson is part of an increasingly crowded Islander crease crunch.

Mark Allan