Matthew Tkachuk has stuck: What does it mean?

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:25 am by Ryan Pike

With Calgary Flames 2016 first round pick Matthew Tkachuk playing in his 10th National Hockey League contest of the season last night in San Jose, the first year of his entry level contract has began to run. Aside from cementing his spot on the Flames roster – for now, at least – it’s not immediately obvious what other implications his sticking with the club has.

After some digging into old our friend, the CBA, and poking around, here are a few things to keep in mind regarding what Tkachuk staying on with the Flames means in the larger sense.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENCY

Tkachuk playing 10+ games means that the first year of his entry level contract has been activated. That means his deal will run regardless of where he plays next yearhe can play in the American Hockey League next season, if needed, because he’ll turn 20 before the end of 2017 – and that he’ll be a restricted free agent following the 2018-19 season. There will be no “entry level slide,” the extension of a player’s first contract by virtue of them not playing enough NHL games for the first year to be activated. 

That timing is pretty handy, as none of the Flames’ major pieces have deals expiring that summer and it allows the club to avoid negotiating a major deal immediately before a potential 2020-21 NHL lockout (as would have happened if Tkachuk’s deal slid this year).

For trivia buffs, this is the third time in the last four seasons that a recent-drafted Flame has activated their entry-level contract as a teenager in their first season after being drafted. (Sean Monahan in 2013-14 and Sam Bennett in 2014-15 were the others.)

THE SECOND CONTRACT

In his latest 30 Thoughts, Sportsnet guru Elliotte Friedman discussed the importance of managing the entry level deal well. Why? Because players that spend all three seasons of their first deal in the NHL tend to get paid with their next deal.

16. Let’s look: Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan and Mark
Scheifele all played their full ELCs in the NHL. Scheifele did go back
to junior twice, while the other two made it immediately. All signed
long-term extensions over the summer. Scheifele came in at $6.125
million, MacKinnon at $6.3 million and Monahan at $6.375 million. Matt
Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Brandon
Saad are at $6 million. Some of them were point producers right away,
others weren’t. But they all ended up in the same area. Now, look at
some talented forwards who didn’t spend all three years in the NHL.
Nikita Kucherov’s AAV is $4.76 million. Vincent Trocheck’s is $4.75
million. St. Louis took a hard line with Jaden Schwartz and went bridge
deal. GMs and agents will always twist the comparables to their
advantage, but they (privately) agree that a full third year in the NHL
makes a financial difference.

If Tkachuk is here for the full season, he’ll likely be here for the full three seasons. And that likely means he’ll get a substantial contract after his entry level deal is done.

SALARY ARBITRATION

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By virtue of playing against San Jose and hitting 10 games, Tkachuk is a year closer to salary arbitration. He’ll be eligible for arbitration following his fourth pro season (2019-20).

WAIVERS

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As an 18-year-old signee, Tkachuk would normally be exempt from waivers for five full seasons or 160 NHL games, whichever comes first. However, things get accelerated when a teenager goes into the NHL right away.

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As soon as Tkachuk plays 11 games, his waiver exemption is reduced to three full seasons (total) or 160 NHL games. He’ll be waiver eligible following the 2018-19 season (when his entry level deal expires) or 160 NHL games, whichever comes first.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENCY

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If Tkachuk is on the Flames roster for 40+ games, it counts as an “Accrued Season” under the CBA. Why is that important?

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In effect: if Tkachuk is on the roster for 40 games – which would be Jan. 4 against Colorado – it puts him a year closer to unrestricted free agency. That gives the Flames until the end of the 2016 calendar year to decide if they want to keep Tkachuk for the balance of the season.

IN OTHER WORDS

There’s a lot more than just whether to activate Tkachuk’s deal this season at stake here, with the primary concern long-term for the Flames likely being how much he’ll get paid following his initial three seasons of NHL duty. Keep an eye on him in December, as the 40-game mark for the Flames is Jan. 4. If he’s here into 2017, it means that Flames management is content to likely keep him around for the next three seasons… and then pay him handsomely in the summer of 2019.