CALGARY — The Calgary Flames checked the top task off their summer to-do list by signing captain Mark Giordano to a six-year contract extension.
The 31-year-old defenceman still has a year remaining on his current contract, but Flames general manager Brad Treliving said in May that re-signing Giordano was his “number one priority” this off-season.
The deal announced Tuesday is worth US$40.5 million, at $6.75 million per season.
“Mark has established himself over the last few years as an elite defenceman in the league,” Treliving told The Canadian Press. “We look at it as we got our captain, our leader, our best player under a contract at what we feel is a very competitive number.”
The length of the contract was key to the negotiations, said Giordano.
“Term was the most exciting part for me,” the captain said. “I think the number works. I don’t feel by any means I took less money than I deserve. It’s a fair deal.”
“The only way to get a six-year deal was to make it a fair number that works for both sides.”
Despite missing the last quarter of the regular season, Giordano posted a career-high 48 points in 61 games to finish fifth in team scoring.
The six-foot, 200-pound rearguard was on track for Norris Trophy consideration when he tore his bicep Feb. 25 in a road game against the New Jersey Devils.
“I’m probably of the camp that if he doesn’t get injured this season, there’s a likelihood that not only is he nominated for the Norris, but I believe he’s deserving to win it,” Treliving said.
Giordano was a catalyst in the attack speed the Flames generated from their back end. He insisted at the time of his injury that his absence should not prevent the Flames from making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Toronto native watched from the press box as the Flames secured a playoff berth in their last home game of the regular season. Calgary played 11 playoff games before bowing out to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.
Giordano, who was in Toronto on Tuesday when his new contract was announced, says he’s recovered from the bicep injury and subsequent surgery. NHL training camps open Sept. 17.
“I’ve been skating at 100 per cent, shooting at 100 per cent and working out at 100 per cent for a while now,” Giordano said. “It’s been well over a month of going full out. I’ll be ready for camp.”
Giordano has 66 goals and 179 assists in 510 career games, all with Calgary. He played in February’s NHL all-star game prior to his injury.
His previous five-year contract was worth $20.1 million, or $4.02 million per season. Since Giordano’s new extension doesn’t start until 2016-17, that money won’t count against this season’s salary cap ceiling of $71.4 million per team.
Giordano can now be a Flame until 2022, by which time the team wants to have a new arena.
The Calgary Flames Sports and Entertainment Corporation revealed a $900-million plan last week for a new hockey arena and indoor football field/fieldhouse.
“I understand there’s a process that has to get done, but I’m hoping maybe in the last year or two of my deal we’re in that new facility,” Giordano said. “I’m really looking forward to getting into Calgary and learning more about it.”
The Flames captain’s extension also solidifies a strong group of defenceman following the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins.
Treliving dealt Calgary’s 15th, 42nd and 57th picks in June’s NHL draft to get Hamilton’s rights. The GM quickly signed the 22-year-old to a $34.5-million, six-year deal.
T.J. Brodie, who stepped in as Calgary’s top defenceman when Giordano was injured, is also under contract with a five-year extension finalized last October.
“It sets up to be a real nice D-corps,” Giordano said. “We can spread the minutes out.
“We have to play that same aggressive style. It’s a hard style to play, it’s a hard-working style, but we’ve got to play right on the edge and be willing to jump in and create while at the same time be really solid defensively.”
Giordano’s signing may have a domino effect on prominent teammates who also have one year remaining on their respective contracts.
They include defenceman Kris Russell, who led the NHL in blocked shots last season, rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau, top centre Sean Monahan, leading scorer Jiri Hudler and goaltender Jonas Hiller.
“This deal helps keep me around for a long time and hopefully until the end of my career, but at the same time I think it gives our team the ability to keep our core of young guys who have done such a great job,” Giordano said.