Doing the cap crunch dance – Looking for parnters

 

 

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.

Philadelphia Flyers

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.

  • Lordmork

    I love the idea of getting an asset for taking a potential asset off someone’s hands. Even if it doesn’t turn out, we still come out ahead. Someone like Meszaros seems like a pretty good deal.

  • Big Ell

    Feaster an crew better gets this right. The return could set a precedent under the new CBA and I don’t want the flames to be a future cautionary tale for what not do.

  • Sanintarious

    I like the idea of getting guys on the cheap with assets added while also trading guys we have had trouble trading already (Butler/Smith etc).

    Its easy for us as fans to say “spend money on the buy outs” if it means getting a prospect or pick. While that all sounds great to us, we have to remember this isn’t our money to just “throw away”.

    Hopefully Feaster can do some convincing if the right deal is there thou.

    I’m with Kent on preferring a first round pick over the prospects mentioned, but I highly doubt Leaf’s would be willing to do that.

    Should be an interesting weekend as far as the waiver wire goes thou!

        • DoubleDIon

          Is he overpaid though? When healthy I’d call Meszaros a #3 defenseman. Similar quality to Wideman, although a different type of player. I don’t really think he’s overpaid.

        • RedMan

          Sure, call it whatever you like its still 4 mill in salary added to pay roll, for a rebuilding team hoping to add through the draft.

          Point remains I don’t see ownership using salary cap space as an asset.

          • piscera.infada

            “Point remains I don’t see ownership using salary cap space as an asset.”

            Why not? I understand them not using cap space to buy-out a player who has an eternity left on his contract at a high dollar value. But if you can generate a high-end pick (that you hopefully turn in to a high-end prospect – which will likely generate buzz around this team in the future) by paying a guy to play for you for one or two seasons at just above market price, I don’t see it as that hard a sell.

            I would be ideologically opposed to shelling out Luongo-esque buyout money for him to go play for another team, but if you get a player (who wont be leaned on as a pillar of this team) and something the fan base can look forward to in the future, it seems to be all win.

          • RedMan

            for the owner,it isn’t about ideology, it is about real money – would you like to shell out TWELVE MILLION REAL dollars to get a guy that is sub par and takes the roster spot of a developer, or worse yet, buy him out, meaning you essentially pay 12 mil. for a pick/?? not me

    • piscera.infada

      I think you could get a first from Toronto, and it might be a phenomenal return. Toronto has indicated they’re going for it, but as we’ve talked about this offseason, it’s not clear they’re even a playoff team. They have cap issues, while trying to get some young kids in the lineup, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave up a first (they would assume it will be a post-15 pick – they’ve mentioned Clarkson will help them in the playoffs) to clean up a problem of theirs.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I think Burke’s value to the org will be on display with these scenarios.

    If you bring in a vet you have to move one out. Calgary, IMO, can’t be shipping good prospects or taking up a roster spot that was planned for a young player but now is used for a ‘toxic asset’ + a pick or something.

    The offseason, leading up to now, has been about evaluating which of Calgary’s youth can play. That process has been playing out in summer camps, water cooler conversations, interviews etc. It’s been intensive and sucking up a lot of your resources. I’d want a return on THAT investment.

    Of course, if an offer is made that you can’t refuse… but from what I can tell, cap strapped teams are trying to offload junk, keep the young, good, cheap players they have to play in place of the junk.

    The cap will be going up. Knowing this, if you’re the Leafs etc do you move the future for a 1 year reprieve or do you just suck it up and finesse your roster? Perhaps there is too much riding on the line this season for those teams that they HAVE to make a move. Great question.

    PS-I was watching BOS playoffs games from a while back on NHL network. Although, it might not show up in stats, Sobotka was really, really good. He is smallish but so incredibly strong on the puck. However, we’ve all seen guys reach some level of play that they just never get to most nights. I can think of Marcus Nilson (On Iggy’s famous ‘The Shift’ I seem to remember Nilson making several good plays).

    • Sanintarious

      Wow….that is just silly IMO.

      Why would the Flames give away a second round pick to HELP the Flyers….

      Flames will be trying to stock pile picks, not give them away.

      Mezaros+2nd for Butler is more like it.

        • Sanintarious

          Haha, I realized once I quoted you, that that is likely what you meant.

          Apologies!

          But that deal wouldn’t be terrible.

          Especially if we can flip Mezaros in the future for say a 2 or 3rd rd pick.

          Turns in to Butler for two Second round picks possibly!

          • aloudoun

            I dont see why that would be an option for the Flames. Just this morning I was reading how the Flames apparently would like another quality defensemen in their rotation outside of Brodie, Gio and Wideman. Personally I like Russell as well but I would have no problem adding Mezaros, especially seeing that hes a short term commitment… so if it doesnt work out at least we wont be stuck with him for 3 years like Lilies

          • Sanintarious

            I completely agree. Mezaros is a short term contract, might be able to squeeze a prospect or pick out of philly as well. And he is certainly an upgrade on Butler.

            I am just as anxious to get Sieloff, and other prospect on the back end on the big club as anyone else, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with them playing their first pro year in the AHL.

            When was the last time the Flames actually had a very decent AHL team? It’ll be positive if the heat play well and the kids get confidence with winning at the pro level.

            Baertschi is no exception. I full expect he will stay up with the team, but I wouldn’t be surprised either if he is sent down at some point to help his confidence.

            It’ll be a long year in Calgary, while the kids are still developing. The Heat could do wonders for them, while being on the Flames could just hurt more then anything.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Wonder if there is much appetite in Columbus to move picks or a young prospect for another team to take on Umberger. That contract is awful. They would have to pay a hefty price though I would think.

    They’re probably resigned to live with it given they still have a couple mil in cap space, but maybe Feaseter should kick tires at least.

  • Stockley

    I don’t much like the idea of adding Liles. One-dimensional player. He’s little more than a PP specialist. We already have one of those named Dennis Wideman; only Wideman is a little more versatile. As some others have mentioned, I’d have less issues with acquiring Meszaros. At least he’s a multi-dimensional player we can either flip at the deadline or resign if he’s a good fit and enjoys life in Calgary. I think Liles would be just another albatross contract.

    • Lile’s abilities are pretty much besides the point. The Flames aren’t winning anything anyways. If he sucks, well then they buy him out next summer with no cap implications. If he manages to score 30+ points somehow, maybe they can flip him.

      Either way, he’s not the prize. To take him, the Flames should demand something pretty nice in return. If the Leafs don’t pony up, then forget forget it.

      • Stockley

        The point I forgot to put in my above comment is it might be easier to sell ownership on taking on a contract they won’t get stuck with. I think if Edwards was gung-ho about buying out contract it might have already happened. For whatever reason they don’t seem to really like paying someone to go away. Meszaros is a lower risk option, worst case scenario he walks away as UFA and the Flames still have whatever other asset Philly is willing to part with to make the contract go away; be it a prospect or a draft pick.

        I like Joe Colborne and Carter Ashton alright but are they any different than prospects already in the cupboards? I think I’d rather see a higher end prospect come back, even if they’re a riskier gamble than the ‘safe’ middle rotation forward who may or may not become players of note.

  • Rockmorton65

    What available prospect does Philly have that would interest the Flames? I think I’d be more interested in a known prospect than a 2nd at this point. Any ideas?

  • seve927

    Oooo, I like the idea of getting a first from the Leafs. If they could pull that off, we could be picking twice in the top 10.

    I’ve always kind of liked Meszaros too, but can’t say I really know much about him. His possession number were terrible last year, playing against tough competition, so he really doesn’t fill a need for the Flames. If he could put up some points though, he’d be a good asset to flip at the deadline.

    Liles is the very clear target. The Leafs aren’t just in trouble this year. They may have to sign a starting goalie (depending on who wins the Bernier-Reimer battle), their top scorer, and a top D-man next year as well. They could really use that 3.8 mill. But I would be completely shocked if they gave up a first, and I don’t really have any interest in Colborne or Ashton or any of their prospects outside of Reilly.

    I think it’s going to be very difficult to extract much value. It sounds to me like teams are going to be more willing to contract their roster than give up assets. I hope I’m wrong!

    • Stockley

      The Flyers D has been atrocious forever. Hard to say whether Meszaros was part of that or if he was just a victim of being part of a corps that is underwhelming at best.

      I remember him more from his Ottawa days when he was very well-regarded.

    • Liles is the very clear target. The Leafs aren’t just in trouble this year. They may have to sign a starting goalie (depending on who wins the Bernier-Reimer battle), their top scorer, and a top D-man next year as well. They could really use that 3.8 mill.

      That’s an excellent point which I neglected. The Leafs want to get rid of the Liles deal for reasons extending beyond this year.

        • seve927

          I might believe (and be in favour of) getting Liles and TO’s 2014 first for our 2015 2nd. We’d be pretty well stocked by next year with some more added picks this year, Leafs would think they’re getting equivalent of a late first rounder back, pretty much a wash. But we have the potential of getting a high first rounder.

  • Here’s hoping the Flames make big on this because KW is right, I’ve been (impatiently) waiting for this for a long time and to me this is the final verdict on Feaster.

    Whatever they do, no quick fix type moves. Play poker, get the highest bid and land some quality pick(s) or prospect(s).

    The vet with the bad contract that comes back doesn’t even matter to me. As Kent stated, buy it out if you have to, but this a golden and rare opportunity to build faster by acquiring additional assets that would be otherwise unattainable.

  • DoubleDIon

    Kent, I like the theory of what you’re saying here. But I think it’s a little bit of wishful thinking. There’s no way the Flyers give you assets to graciously “take Meszaros off their hands.” He’s not Kotalik, heck even a player as overpaid as Horcoff returned an asset. I think you’re over-estimating what we’d get for relieving teams of their cap problems. Kotalik was terrible and made 3 million. Meszaros is a 2nd pairing guy who makes the proper amount. He has value unlike Kotalik.

    Liles on the other hand is overpaid enough to return an asset, not a 1st round pick like you suggested, but perhaps something a little less like a 2nd, Colbourne ect.

    • Rockmorton65

      One thing I don’t think you’re considering is that these teams NEED to trade these players. When that happens, you’re not going to get full value. In fact you’re in a distinct negative bargaining position. Philly’s not saying “what’ll you give us for Meszaros”, rather “what can I give you to take him?” The sell for Liles would be even tougher.

      This might be too aggressive, but I’d rather see Feaster make a move that’s too aggressive rather than timid;

      Calgary-Philly
      Meszaros+1st for Smith & Butler

      Then,
      Calgary-Toronto
      Liles+Colbourne+1st for Niemsz+Jones

      If Cammy has a good year and/or doesn’t want to resign, we’ll get a good pick/prospect. If Meszaros doesn’t fit in, move him for a pick.

      Consider the rebuild supercharged.

    • In a normal environment, sure, but things are getting tight for these teams right now and with the cap taking a big nose dive, it’s a tough situation to be in.

      It doesn’t have to be Meszaros in particular. If the Flames can manage this like an auction, there’ll drive up the price for whoever is the MOST desperate to make a move. There’s lots of candidates, so it’s possible.

      • DoubleDIon

        I just think with the dearth of quality top 4 options Meszaros has value or is at least moveable without giving up another asset. There are options like sending player to the minors for a season (unless I’m missing a new CBA angle) and cash rich teams like Philly and Toronto would sooner do that I’d have to think. I get your point, we can pick up cap and a quasi-useful NHLer and acquire assets. I guess we just disagree on the value of the assets we’d pick up. I see it more along the lines of 2nd rounders or B level prospects.

        • piscera.infada

          You can’t just bury crap contracts in the minors and not have them count against your overall cap hit. That’s a loop-hole they closed in the latest CBA. That, coupled with the lowering salary cap is the reason they offered two ‘compliance buyouts’ as opposed to the previous buyout structure.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Hard to say… Agree taking on Liles would return the greater asset, but what is $3.8 million worth to the owners that they wouldn’t have otherwise had to spend? That money is in their pockets otherwise. Like Friedman said on the Fan this morning, you’re not gonna spend that kind of money on a toxic contract without getting something significant back in return. It’s just that this is new territory when it comes to bargaining in this specific set of scenarios. So the price will be determined I think by pitting cap strapped teams against eachother.

  • piscera.infada

    Any chance of lessening the perceived weight on a team like Toronto by taking a 1st round pick in 2015 (as opposed to 2014)? Of course, you’d hope they don’t become a playoff team in 2015, but assuming they don’t perhaps you get another ball in the McDavid lottery.

    I’m not advocating this, I just wonder if a 1st in 2015 is more palatable to a team that sees itself on an upward trajectory than a 1st in 2014.

  • This is the time Feaster has been promising that Calgary would be making some impact moves. It is exciting times as the Flames are positioned very well. I hope it isn’t a disappointment. I like the idea of getting Liles for all the reasons listed above and for the fact that he is an offensively minded puck mover which should enhance the offensive development of our youth and hopefully inflate the stats of some vet forwards we hope to move. If Jay could pry Connelly away in a scenario like Kent proposed, that would be tremendous.

  • MonsterPod

    This year will be very interesting up top and almost not at all on the ice. Our top line now looks like Glencross, Stajan, and Stempniak, but let’s sub Cammy for Glencross when he gets back. Now our entire top line is made up of UFAs come July. So last year we shed our top forward, best defenseman, and franchise goalie. Next year we pitch our entire current #1 line. I love it. Now that’s a dismantling.
    What the Flames now need are draft picks, but not future ones. We need the picks of a few years ago. So management needs to scour the farms of other teams and yank young players out of their systems, which is exactly what Kent has suggested by leveraging our cap and taking on water.
    No doubt this year is a mess on the ice. Gonna be hard to watch when the top two lines and top four D are all still vets — No Monahan or Gaudreau or Seiloff or Poirier and maybe not even a Baertschi to tune into watch. I for one am stoked Burke is at the helm. Look for this pipsqueak team to get bigger quickly.

    • everton fc

      I like Linden Vey in Manchester, for starters. But the Kings aren’t one of the teams on Kent’s list.

      Mezaros seems to make the most sense, of the cast of characters mentioned. I’d personally rather have Tootoo than McGrattan, as Tootoo is more than a scrapper. He can actually play a little, and put more points on the board than Jackman. But his shoulder’s in bad shape. That said, Wings fans loved his hustle. They loved it in Nashville, as well. If you could get him with a prospect or pick, I’d punt McGrattan. But I know we won’t…

      Erne in Tampa would be a good guy to try and poach. Sobotka’s still young. Reaves could replace Jackman on the right side of the 4th line, but can he actually play hockey? Jackman can, most nights.

      Carter Ashton’s a big kid, and could fill a huge need on the right wing. I personally think their big d-man Mark Fraser might also be worth a look, if we’re taking any contracts from the Leafs.

      You move Butler somehow. Smith becomes the #7 d-man, because he’s cheap and has earned it.

      Perhaps they do put Butler on the waiver-wire. And Blair Jones. If Breen’s waived, who would pick him up? He’s not NHL-ready, is he?

  • DoubleDIon

    Feaster has long contended that cap space was an asset that the Flames valued. As a bit of a Feaster supporter it’s time that he proved me right. This weekend should be an opportunity to cash in on the cap space asset. I am hopeful that Burkes experience can help us to make wise moves with an eye on the target, “the future”. Having said that I imagine that hypothetical trades in a blog are far easier to make happen than they are in reality. We will know two things after the weekend. One, how desperate are other teams to free themselves from cap jail. Two, was Feaster correct when he trumpeted cap space as a valuable asset. Should make for some interesting moves.

    When will players who are placed on waivers become public? Is this the likely fate of Blair Jones? Who else might have to clear? I heard that Breen may have to clear, if we want to keep him what do we do to make space? I imagine that both Butler and Smith are feeling the pinch right now. I wonder how Hartley feels about these two guys?

  • RedMan

    So, do the flames owners want to fork out 10 to 15 million real dollars in order to get one more first round pick with a couple f long shot prospects thrown in?

    Would you do it if the millions were coming out of your pockets?

    I wouldn’t unless i got a top 5 pick or a couple top end – no, very top end prospects…

    • piscera.infada

      You still have to ice a team. As I said, I agree with you, if we’re talking about the ridiculous buyouts – but the fans are going to get antsy at some point here, if you can take a calculated risk to procure something more for fans to be excited about (ie. prospects by the way of picks) then you at least have to look at that.

      This may come as a surprise, but I don’t have millions to come out of my pockets. However, if I’m a successful business man who owns a sports franchise, and I want to put asses in the seats and maintain excitement around my brand, then yes, I at least take the time to understand the possible upside of a move like this.

    • 25cent

      Jeff…to answer your question YES!!

      Murray Edwards has nothing but money and I believe wants no part of a long rebuild. Brian Burke is of the same mold! $$$ are not a factor now, never have been and never will be with Mr. Edwards.

      If absorbing a couple of ridiculous contracts that you can either buy out or flip later in return for some high end prospects
      draft choices….go for it!!!!!!

      • flamesburn89

        If, like you claim, Murray Edwards is not whatsoever interested in a rebuild, why would he burn his cash to acquire draft choices? Draft choices need to develop, which takes time. If Edwards allows Feaster and Burke to acquire draft picks by taking other team’s unwanted contracts, he would be okaying a rebuild.

  • T&A4Flames

    Something that I think needs tk be brought up is our cap situation next year. This year we are sitting pretty and in a prime spot to poach quality ykuth and picks.

    Next year that cap space could hurt us. If the cap goes up and we move guys like Cammi etc or other high priced assets, we’ll be scrambling to add cap to get over the floor. This will work against us making quality trades. Short story we have to take advantage NOW!

  • RedMan

    Love the idea of providing relief by taking an unwanted salary and getting a 1st round pick from one of the other mid-to-bottom dwellers in need of shedding space. My question is, who do we give up? Our picks are going to be up (or down) there in the low numbers, so giving back picks for picks doesn’t have strong appeal. Are we going to send back minor-leaguers or high round picks?