They’re two of our best young players. If it got done tomorrow, that could be it. If it gets done in a week, or if it takes a month, we still have the comfort level that it is going to get done. - Craig Conroy
CALGARY, AB -- Any doubts regarding the Calgary Flames’ key pending restricted free agent duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan putting pens to paper this off-season can be erased.
It’s not a matter of if.
It’s a matter of when.
“We love these guys. We’re going to get it done,” assured Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy, on hammering out extensions with his team’s top scoring pair.
It’s not as if contract talks have hit a standstill either.
It’s just that locking up the two pivotal pieces of the puzzle is only one must on a lengthy Flames to-do list, which also involves hiring a new bench boss, acquiring a bona fide starting goaltender, not to mention establishing the future at this month’s NHL Draft.
For a team that was forced to watch playoff hockey this spring, it’s just the nature of the beast.
“We have so many things we need to deal with,” Conroy said. “I don’t want to make it look less important because it sure isn’t. They’re two of our best young players. If it got done tomorrow, that could be it. If it gets done in a week, or if it takes a month, we still have the comfort level that it is going to get done.”
Though there hasn’t been around-the-clock bargaining, both players have expressed optimism that deals will be completed.
“It’s something that needs to get done and that I’ll be thinking about, but it doesn’t bother me,” Monahan said. “I want to be in Calgary and this is the only place I want to play. It’s going to get done and it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Ditto for Johnny Hockey.
“I love the city of Calgary,” Gaudreau said. “I love the players in this locker room. I think we have a great group of guys, and I can see myself playing here for a long time.”
Fresh off a career-high and team-leading 30-goal, 78-point campaign – good for sixth in the league – Gaudreau will undoubtedly fetch equally big numbers.
The 21-year-old Monahan, meanwhile, has racked up 80 goals and 159 career points and is already part of the Flames leadership group after only three seasons in the league.
Not only linemates but close friends off the ice, the highly-skilled pair admit they have even discussed the possibility of inking a package deal.
“Johnny is a good friend of mine and a great player,” Monahan said. “If we get the same contract, that would be cool and we’d go from there.”
“We talk about it at times,” admitted Gaudreau. “Me and Sean, we love playing together and we love the city of Calgary. If it was up to us I think we’d just sign the same deal and get back at it next season.”
Of course, it’s not that simple.
Both forwards, who will suit up for Team North America at this September’s World Cup, are set to receive hefty pay days following their entry-level deals.
“You’re always comparing yourself to other players and what other players have gotten,” said Conroy, a veteran of 1000-plus NHL games who has gone through this rodeo from both sides of the negotiating table. “Everybody’s situation is different. As a player, you’re looking at yourself. For this one time it’s not about the team. It’s about you as a businessman. You’re the businessman and you’re worried about yourself.
“As management, it’s still a big, huge puzzle where we have to piece it all together. You can’t just pay everybody what they want and be in the same spot. We have to do what’s best moving forward to put together a team that can one day win a Stanley Cup.
“We don’t want to be disrespectful to anybody. We just can’t give everybody the world.”
Other Flames RFAs include goaltender Joni Ortio, forwards Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, Kenny Agostino, Turner Elson, Freddie Hamilton and Drew Shore as well as defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon.