For nearly a decade, Sean Monahan has been a key contributor for the Calgary Flames. Taken sixth overall back in 2013, the center has typically been counted on for around 30 goals and 60 points per year. He has also been an assistant captain with the team since 2015.
Unfortunately, the last few years haven’t treated Monahan quite as well. He’s faced injury trouble, along with a pretty steep decline in production.
Between the 2018-19 season and the 2019-20 season, Monahan saw his production drop from a pace of 36 goals and 86 points per 82 games down to 26 goals and 56 points per 82. Still though, that wasn’t too far off the pace what Monahan had posted in previous years.
However, Monahan then managed just 10 goals and 28 points in 50 games during the shortened 2020-21 season, a pace of just 16 goals and 46 points per 82 games. That marked the first time he had ever failed to reach 20 goals (or even a 20-goal pace) in a season. His points per game average was the lowest since his rookie season as a 19-year-old in the 2013-14 season. Things continued going downhill this year. Monahan managed only eight goals and 23 points in 65 games, a measly pace of just 10 goals and 29 points per 82 games. That is by far the worst numbers of his career.
At just 27 years old, the descent for Monahan has came far earlier than ever would’ve been expected, though injuries play a role. A glaring factor is that his shooting percentage has been in a steady decline for a few years and he was basically scoring half as frequently on shots this season as he has over the rest of his career.
The Flames are looking to contend and really can’t gamble on Monahan having a career resurgence. They have several key free agents in Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington. They do not have enough cap space to re-sign them all. So with only a year left on his contract at a massive $6.38 million, Monahan seems like a prime target to be a cap casualty.
Sean Monahan’s 2 Ways He Can Be Cut Loose
Trading the Flames Center
There are a couple ways to make it happen, being either in the form of a trade or a buyout. There’s no doubt Monahan’s recent play and expensive deal will deter many teams from wanting to take him in a trade. He also has a 10-team no-trade list. That means he has at least a bit of control over where he could be moved.
There are still reasons why teams might be interested. Monahan has only a single year left on his contract. He is still just entering his late 20s and has been a highly productive player through much of his career. That could incentivize teams to take a chance on him.
Calgary may need to retain a bit of salary or include some assets. But there is potential value in acquiring him and given the limited term, trading for him doesn’t carry a major risk. It’s likely the Flames wouldn’t be keen on retaining much salary, given they need as much cap space as they can manage to re-sign their key free agents. However, they do have a chunk of their picks remaining over the next couple years. They could use those picks in place of the salary and attempt to swing a deal.
Consider a Buyout
If that’s not a realistic scenario, the other option would be to opt for a buyout. If they went this route, it would mean a $2.375 million penalty against the cap for the coming season and $2 million against the cap in the following year, according to CapFriendly.com. With that in mind, it would just be more worthwhile for Calgary to attempt to retain some salary as part of a deal, to avoid getting hit with that much money being counted against the cap, especially for the 2023-24 season.
Monahan isn’t the only player the Flames could look to move. The other clear option would be trading Milan Lucic. However, Lucic has pretty solid trade protection and will have a list of only 10 teams he can be traded to. That makes a potential deal difficult to facilitate. His cap hit is about $1 million lower than Monahan’s. But he also carries less potential upside and could be harder to move.
The other factor is that Lucic’s contract can’t really be bought out. A buyout would mean the Flames are hit with $4.67 million against the cap this season (and about $300,000 in 2023-24), which just doesn’t make sense for them.
As a result, it seems like Monahan is the most likely candidate to be moved for cap space. The Flames are looking to build off their successful year. They can’t afford to lose any of their top free agents. That leaves Monahan as the odd man out.