He’s understandably biased, but Ritch Winter thinks the Calgary Flames are getting a bargain.
Winter is the agent for speedy left-winger Andrew Mangiapane, a restricted free agent who scribbled his signature Sunday on a one-year, two-way contract, ending a brief stalemate and reporting for training camp at the Saddledome.
This wasn’t a case of meet-in-the-middle. With the Flames apparently not budging and Mangiapane not having arbitration rights until next summer, the 23-year-old left-winger ultimately signed for US$715,000, the qualifying offer that had been on the table since late June.
“It’s a crazy system when you think about it — we all, in the real world, get to work wherever we want, whenever we want. Athletes are restricted in where they can go,” Winter said during an interview Monday on the Eric Francis Show on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. “Andrew is clearly underpaid for what he is capable of delivering this year, but the system doesn’t provide him with the opportunities that he wants.
“The system has become really problematic as we move forward. The system is getting so capped out throughout the league, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sign players. Teams are going to find they’re going to have to trade some of their best players. It affects teams, it affects the fan-base and ultimately affects people like Andrew because when players have rights or significant leverage, like a Matthew Tkachuk as a result of his performance over an extended period of time . . .
“Guys that have limited rights, they get squeezed a bit. This deal doesn’t fairly reflect Andrew’s value. It clearly reflects the rights that have been granted to Andrew by the NHLPA.”
When news of the signing broke Sunday afternoon, after the emerging forward had already missed three days of training-camp practices, some fans must have been wondering, ‘What was he waiting for?!’
Without a doubt, Mangiapane’s camp was shooting for a little more loot. (Although he settled for a two-way pact, the Flames aren’t going to risk losing him on waivers by assigning him to the minors.)
However, as Winter made clear during Monday’s radio segment, they were also wary that an extended absence might cost an even bigger chunk of change during negotiations next summer.
Mangiapane emerged as an everyday NHLer in the second half of last season, celebrating his first big-league goal Feb. 9 and soon scoring seven more. His career stat-sheet currently shows eight tallies and 13 points in 54 showings at hockey’s highest level.
“Sometimes the timing isn’t what you want it to be and it overlaps into camp — not a big deal when you’re looking at three or four days early in camp,” Winter told Sportsnet 960 The Fan. “So the urgency doesn’t really manifest itself until you get to about Day 5, 6 and 7. We evaluate these things based on what is likely to happen based on a player’s performance this year, what that will lead to in arbitration next year. You’re fighting over $150,000. Important, big money, significant to a young player . . . But at the end of the day, if he is not prepared for the season and has a down year compared to what we would project him to have, then he could be costing himself five- or six- or seven-hundred thousand dollars.
“By the time you get to Day 5, 6, 7 in camp, you’re running into that stage of camp where his lack of attendance is going to lead to affecting his performance during the season. Then the cost-benefit analysis changes. I always tell players, there are two things in every deal — money and opportunity, and don’t squander the opportunity.
“Ultimately, that was the genesis of the conversation that we had (Sunday).”
While his pals were preparing for split-squad exhibitions against the Vancouver Canucks, Mangiapane was completing his fitness-testing Monday.
He will practise with his teammates Wednesday.
In an ironic twist, Mangiapane is now among the guys try to capitalize on another contract stand-off. As long as Tkachuk remains unsigned, there is an opening on the second line and top power-play unit.
The 21-year-old Tkachuk is among a handful of rising-star restricted free agents yet to report to their respective camps, a list that is also headlined by Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets and Brock Boeser of the Canucks.
Those gents need to be signed by Dec. 1 to be eligible to skate this season in the NHL.
Winter, who also represents Flames captain Mark Giordano, suggested that date is way too late.
“We all know historically, players who miss camp, miss part of the season, are going to — generally — massively under-perform. And that’s something that I think ultimately players, agents and management have to take a look at,” Winter said during his radio interview. “Maybe the simple solution is if you’re not signed Sept. 1, you’re playing in the KHL, back home in Sweden or somewhere else.
“Deadlines are what get things done, we all know that. The deadline got Mangiapane’s deal done. It wasn’t the deal that we wanted, but it was the deal we wanted at the deadline.”
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