As the season approaches, so too does the need to become cap compliant.
The Flames have cap space to spare and money to spend. With the Kipper retirement, the club has about $13M+ available under the $64M cap ceiling, meaning they are positioned to potentially solve a lot of problems.
In April, the org auctioned off Jarome Iginla and Jay Boumweester. Now they can do the same, except this time it’s ample cap room that is the prize.
There are seven or eight teams in the NHL currently at or over the cap. There are few others scraping dangerously close to the ceiling. By Monday, every team in the NHL has to get under the cap and many of the easy-fixes that existed in the prior CBA (demoting guys to the AHL) have been removed or restricted in this version of the bargining agreement. Sunday is the deadline for teams to declare their demotions and waiver players, meaning, no doubt, that more than a few interesting names are going to hit the wire as clubs go fishing for an easy solution. While one or two contracts might get scooped off of waivers, it’s not a guaranteed fix for anyone.
Flames fans have been waiting all summer for Feaster and company to leverage the organization’s ample budget and cap space. Well, this is it…Calgary is positioned as the NHL’s cleaner – they can make problems go away, for a price. As the Monday deadline approaches, cap crunched clubs are going to get more and more desperate, meaning there’s an opportunity to take on a bad deal and add some useful pieces in the process.
Potential Dance Partners
Toronto Maple Leafs
The most obvious one. The Leafs are now marginally over the cap thanks to the Franson signing. They could probably get compliant by moving a few guys around or only carrying the minimum 20 players on the active roster, but that doesn’t leave them any wiggle room during the season in case of injury.
John Michael Liles is the obvious odd man out. At $3.875M/season he’s overpaid, not to mention the fact his contract stretches until 2015-16. It’s a big chunk of dough for a soft PP specialist type, which is why the Leafs haven’t been able to move him before now.
Liles is still an NHLer and could reinvigorate his value with a good season and/or opportunity a la Matt Stajan, but he’s also a guy the Flames could simply buy out next summer since they still own their compliance buy out options from this summer. Either way, he’s not a problem for the Flames like he is for the Leafs.
Joe Colborne, Carter Ashton, a first round pick are a few of the assets Feaster could demand in return for absorbing a near $12M toxic asset. The first two are mid-level prospects who may be regular NHLers one day, but probably don’t have high ceilings. A first rounder is my preferred return, particularly because I think the Leafs will be picking inside the top-15.
Tampa Bay Lightning
A partner suggested by Elliotte Friedman on the FAN960 this morning, the Lightning are right against the cap ceiling, but probably have a more modest internal budget to worry about as well. Friedman noted Tampa is offering up certain bottom-6 forwards and might be willing to sweeten the pot for any particular team that bites.
T-Bay’s bottom-6 is an utter wasteland. BJ Crombeen and Nate Thompson are the only two guys making more than a $1M and they both suck. Ryan Malone is a JM Liles-like problem with a contract worth $4.5M/year stretching through next season. Malone is 33 years old and hasn’t played a full season in five years, although he’s a competent 20-goal, 40-point player when he’s healthy. Like Liles, the Flames could keep Malone around and see if his stock improves or just buy him out next summer.
It may be harder to get a first rounder from Tampa Bay in return since they no doubt anticipate picking in the top-10. They have interesting high-end prospects in Brett Connolly, Slater Koekkoke and Adam Erne, but it remains to be seen if they are quite that desperate or not.
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings have three lines of bottom sixers currently kicking around, so although they are technically over the cap by a couple of million, they should be able to get under it by demoting 3 or 4 players.
Even then, though, the relief is minimal. No doubt they’ll want to dump at least one of those lesser player contracts in order to have a bit more flexibility. Jordan Tootoo is the most probable guy to be expendable, with Patrick Eaves coming in a close second. Tootoo makes $1.9M, which is at least $1M too much for a player of his limited abilities. He’d be another tough guy to rotate in and of out action with McGrattan and Jackman (so not very useful), but maybe the Wings would be willing to throw in a pick and prospect to take him off their hands.
Philly is also right up against things, although they can probably make it work by demoting a few bodies and then putting Chris Pronger’s ner $5M cap hit hit on LTIR. Nevertheless, with 8 guys battling for NHL time on the back-end, they may want to get rid of a guy like Andrej Meszaros who is on the last year of a deal worth $4M per.
The 27 year old has struggled with injuries the last two seasons, but is a decent top-4 option when he’s in the line-up. He’s a guy the Flames could insert into their top-4 pretty easily (Wideman – Meszarso, Giordano – Brodie) and then try to flip at the deadline for some sort of return. If the Flyers throw in a pick or two to take Meszaros off their hands, Calgary could effectively "double dip" on the asset by taking him now and then flipping him in March.
St. Louis Blues
Like the Lightning, the Blues are within spitting distance of the cap, but are probably much more concerned about wiggle room and an internal budget than getting compliant.They have a lot of bottom-6 guys now that Brendan Morrow has been signed, including Sobotka, Reaves, Porter and Lapierre. Sobotka might be th eodd man out there given his pay ($1.3M), although the club has leaned on him as a tough minutes option in the past, so they may value him too much to give him away.
There’s more candidates than this, but the point is there are a lot of teams with a need to dump dollars. Feel free to suggest other options in the comments.
If the Flames can line up the more desperate clubs and play them off against each, there’s a possiblity of driving up the price of doing business. Adding a bad contract is more or less consequence-free for Calgary at this point since they have deep pockets, no expectations of winning this season and the ability to buy-out anyone they don’t want to keep around next summer.
This weekend will be a good test of the Flames executive’s abilities and competence. There will never be a better time to leverage cap space than right now, so here’s hoping they can extract something of value before Monday.