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Will Flames Play Waiting Game in Talks With Weegar?

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A week ago, it was reported that MacKenzie Weegar had a genuine interest in signing a long-term deal with the Calgary Flames.

But is that really what’s best for the Flames right now?

Weegar gives the franchise arguably the deepest and most impressive blue lines in the NHL this year. There’s no debating that.
It’s easy to be excited about locking that up beyond the coming season, but the price has to be right for the team. That same price might not be right for the player.

Of course Weegar is interested. He just watched his friend and fellow trade piece Jonathan Huberdeau cash in on a massive $84-million extension after coming over in the same deal for Matthew Tkachuk.

Huberdeau is coming off a personal-best 115-point season and could have gone to unrestricted free agency next season.

Weegar is in a similar position He could (rightly) be looking to hit maximum dollars and term after a career year. The 28-year-old had eight goals and 36 assists for 44 points in 80 games with the Florida Panthers last season – all new benchmarks over a five-year stint with a regular role.
That put him in the top 30 scoring defencemen.

But that total would have also have left him third among Calgary Flames rearguards, with Rasmus Andersson hitting 50 points (four goals, 46 assists) and partner Noah Hanifin with 48 (10 goals, 38 helpers).

It was also the first time he played 80 games in an NHL season.

Does that mean Weegar is the third best defenceman in Calgary? No. But Flames GM Brad Treliving finally has some leverage after a rough start to his summer.

Flames GM finally has some leverage

Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk left him with no options, and few options, respectively.

Treliving, though, has salvaged the return for Tkachuk with a pretty nice haul in the initial trade. And now a long-term extension for the centrepiece. He can take his time to work on a mutually beneficial deal.

That value may not be easy to determine.

Weegar was undeniably underrated league-wide for his overall play. He was a minute muncher and dominant at even strength. Only three of his points came on the man advantage, and he had nearly as many shorthanded (two).

Of the 11 other players not on entry-level deals to net between 40 and 49 points last season, the average cap hit was approximately $6.45 million. Even less when you knock off the two highest and two lowest in that mix.

And most of these guys also happened to be in the range of 27-32 years old.

That makes them pretty good comparables. And that’s a nice raise from the $3.25M AAV ($4.75M salary) Weegar is earning in his last year of three-year bridge deal with the Panthers.

The question is whether Weegar is looking for more than that.

Weegar was a top defender at times in Florida

He took over as the top defenceman on a team that was missing its blue-line star in Aaron Ekblad at times over the past couple of seasons. But he’s only cracked the 40-point plateau once and is a bit of a late bloomer.

Are the Flames willing to pay that amount? If so, for how many years?

Huberdeau got eight years and will be 38 when his deal is done. Elite forwards tend to have value longer than aging defencemen and a six-year deal would take Weegar to 34.

Is a six-year-deal with an AAV of $6.5 million enough to get it done?

The Calgary Flames defence is largely set for the next two seasons. But new contracts will be due for 25-year-old Noah Hanifin two seasons from now when he can become a UFA. The rock-solid Chris Tanev, 32, promising Oliver Kylington, 24, and big-bodied Nikita Zadorov, 27, can also go to the open market.

If he’s not hearing what he wants currently, Weegar may want to bet on himself. If he hits free agency next season with an even bigger year behind him with the Flames, all the contract leverage lands back with him.

It’s just as likely this one plays out throughout training camp and potentially up to the trade deadline.

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