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.

        • Sanintarious

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


          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.

    • 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.

  • 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

    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!

    • 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.

        • 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

        • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.