One of the underlying issues confronting the Flames this off-season is their shortage of cap space. Presuming the players go for the escalator to the salary cap, Calgary will have just under 6 million dollars of space to sign 6 players. If said players were all fourth-liner/bottom-pairing D types, that would be manageable, but given that Ian White is likely included in that number, the task seems almost out of reach without a move to shed a big-ticket player.
The three main targets for removal that most fans are identifying are Kotalik, Sarich and Staios. Before we get to what I’m suggesting, let’s have a look at each man’s contract status, including what buying them out would entail, since yesterday marked the beginning of the 15 days that teams are allowed to offer buyouts to players.
Two seasons remaining at a cap hit of 3.0 million per year is a lot for a guy that wouldn’t sniff the top six on a contender. His buyout courtesy of CapGeek:
Cash cost to the team would be 4.0 million over four years, and the cap implications are as follows:
So buying him out is an option, in that it’s very likely that the Flames could get analogous production in the top nine for less than 2 million a year, but the overall savings would still be relatively minimal.
Two seasons remaining at 3.6 million per year. Sarich is still a decent defender, but he’s been given opportunities in each of the last two seasons to play top-six comp with good partners (Regehr in 08/09, Bouwmeester last year) and has finished both years in the third pairing. 3.6 million is too generous for that level of play. Here’s his buyout:
Cash cost to the team would be 4.67 million over four years, with the following cap hits:
Again, the savings are real, and I suspect that the Flames could replace Sarich’s production for half of what he’s making. So, helpful in a small way, just like buying out Kotalik.
One year remaining at a cap hit of 2.7 million. He’s about done as a NHL defenceman, IMO, and there’s no salary I’d pay him that the league would allow 😉 His actual paycheque for 10/11 will be 2.2 million. His buyout:
Cash cost to the team would be 1.47 million over two years, with these cap hits:
Those savings aren’t anything special, and given that Staios’ salary is lower than his cap hit, and that he only has one year left on his deal, the Flames should send him to Abby and be done with him after this year if they can’t dump him. A buyout wouldn’t make much sense. They’d be better off paying him 2.2 million in the minors with no cap hit rather than paying him 1.47 million and having him tie up any sort of cap space for two more years.
So, can you trade any of these three? Easier said than done, of course, since a GM that would be willing to take on one of those tickets would almost certainly expect the Flames to take on a crap contract in return. If I were running things, there is one player I might target, not because I think he’s anything special on-ice, but because the Flames could take advantage of his contract status to gain cap flexibility.
Rostislav Olesz has been a major disappointment in Florida. The 24 year old Czech was signed to a 6 year deal with a 3.125 million yearly cap hit after the 07/08 season, but injury and indifferent play have made him a player that the Panthers would prefer to move. As in the case of Calgary’s three shaky contracts, it seems likely that Florida would have to take back something considerable to make a deal for Olesz happen. There hasn’t been any talk of the Panthers buying him out, either. It’s possible that they think that he might turn out at some point, but it’s just as likely they’d prefer not to spend the dough. Not every team’s ownership group is as flush as Calgary’s.
What would make Olesz an appealing target is the relatively cheap terms of his buyout. Because he’s under 26, the team that buys him out only has to pay 1/3 of his contract to do so. Players 26 and over receive 2/3 of their remaining contract. So, here’s Olesz’ buyout, as per CapGeek:
Cash cost to the team would be 4.9 million, spread over 8 years. The cap hits are as follows:
Years with a minus amount are cap credits. As you can see, the yearly charges range from cheap to better than cheap over the first four years, and one could hope cap inflation makes the final four years’ worth of charges even less relevant.
Would Florida take one of the Flames’ contracts in return? I can’t see them wanting Staios or Kotalik, but Cory Sarich might still be useful enough to entice Dale Tallon into thinking about it. The move would secure them a player that might still be a top-four D-man in the East, while eliminating a long-term deal that appears to have gone sour. Personally, if I were the Panthers’ ownership, I’d be looking to buy out Olesz and just cut bait, but as I’ve mentioned, there’s been no talk of that sort of move on their part.
The benefit for the Flames of making a "Sarich-for Olesz’ buyout" trade would be substantial, with cap savings of nearly 3 million in 10/11, almost 3.3 million in 11/12, and the two cap credit years thereafter. Beyond 13/14, chances are the cap should be high enough that a small hit shouldn’t impair the club’s competitive situation. Combined with sending ol’ Steady Steve to Abbotsford, the Flames could clear enough room to sign White, find one more acceptable defender that could be 4th or 5th on the depth chart, and still have enough money left that they wouldn’t have to sign four or five minimum salary types just to stay under the cap.
I want to state for the record that I’d certainly rather get a cheap asset for any of the three Flames’ players mentioned if at all possible as opposed to making this sort of deal. That noted, moving under-performers in the current environment isn’t always simple, and if the Flames can move even one of these three players without taking an equally bad contract in return, I’d be surprised. Olesz’ contract certainly falls under the category of "bad", but it does offer an out, even if the Panthers are loathe to use it themselves. I’ll also admit that recommending that someone set fire to a pile of money is a lot easier when said pile of money isn’t your own, but if Darryl Sutter can’t move some payroll via conventional means, this sort of move might be an option that has to be considered.