Flames in Free Agency – Potential Paths


The Flames are entering the free agent season with the most cap room in the organization’s tenure in the cap era. As a result, the Flames have probably the most flexibility for rookie GM Brad Treliving ever – at least from a budgeting perspective. 

The club needs to spend more than $10M in cap space just to make the cap floor. On the other hand, they have over $25M if they decide to spend to the ceiling. They can pursue every big whale in the UFA pool if they so choose or they can decide to be as low risk and frugal as possible. And everything in between.

Here’s three ways things may go down for the Flames this summer…

The Go For It Option

The Flames have enough money to decide they want to sign all the big guns and make a go of it. Calgary isn’t going to be the first destination of choice for most of the available name brand UFA’s, but if they drive a dump truck full of money up to guys like Thomas Vanek, Mike Cammalleri, Paul Stastny, Matt Moulson, Matt Niskanen, Anton Stralman or Christian Ehrhoff, there’s a fair chance at least a couple of them would go for the long-term overpay. 

Here’s how that could play out:

Cammalleri (6.25M) – Stastny (6.5M) – Vanek (7.0)

Glencross (2.55M) – Backlund (1.5M) – Hudler (4.0M)

Colborne (900k) – Monahan (925k) – Jones (4.0M)

Bollig (1.25M) – Stajan (3.125M) – Bouma (750k)

McGrattan (750k)

Brodie (2.125) – Giordano (4.02)

Niskanen(6.25) – Russell (2.6)

Wideman (5.25) – Smid (3.5) 

Ramo (2.75M)

Hiller (2.5M)

Total – 68.5M

Benefits: You potentially shortcut the rebuild and get the Flames back to competitiveness sooner rather than later. This probably isn’t a championship squad, but its one that might hang around the middle the Western Conference if Ramo + backup can provide a decent level of goaltending. 

Risks: All those flashy new names are going to cost a lot in both money and term (assume 6+ years for each) and you’re mostly paying for what they’ve done than what they’re going to do. Vanek, Stastny and Cammalleri are quality NHLers, but they’re going to get paid more than they’re worth this off-season due to the paucity of options on the market. In addition, their on-ice value is likely to shrink moving forward.  

Cap space isn’t a concern right now, but a couple of years down the road when guys like Monahan, Backlund and Brodie will be looking for a raise (not to mention whoever amongst the hopefuls makes the grade – Baertschi, Granlund, Gaudreau, Wotherspoon, Bennett, etc), things will get a lot more complicated. Brodie and Monahan, at minimum, are good bets to see significant raises. 

Furthermore, if this gambit doesn’t make the team anything more than mediocre, the Flames would be back in the same situation they were when Sutter left – an expensive, middling squad saddled with big money and limited flexibility.   

The Powder Dry Option

In contrast the Flames could choose to go the complete opposite direction and only dole out as much as they have to to stay cap compliant. If possible, the deals would be either big and short, or moderately long and cheap – the goal would be to ice a respectable roster that maintains the clubs high degree. 

Here’s how that roster might look:

Cammalleri (6.25) – Backlund (1.5) – Hudler (4.0)

Glencross (2.55) – Monahan (925k) – Colborne (900k)

Gaudreau (925k) – Stajan (3.125) – Jones (4.0)

Bollig (1.25M) – Knight (900k) – Bouma (725k)

McGrattan (750k)

Brodie (2.125) – Giordano (4.02)

Gilbert (3.75) – Russell (2.6)

Wideman (5.25) – Smid (3.5)

Wotherspoon (.925) 

Ramo (2.75)

Hiller (2.5M)

Total: $55.22M

In this plan the Flames still retain Cammalleri (or a big FA signing) because it’s going to take a least one fair sized contract to get the Flames over the cap floor. Aside from that, the team could pick up a useful extra piece like Tom Gilbert for about 3 years to plug a hole in the blueline and then ink a Hiller-like back-up. 

Benefits: This lineup is a lot less expensive and retains much of the club’s budget flexibility heading into the future. There’s also a couple of open roster spots for Gaudreau/Knight/Baertschi/Reinhart/Granlund to fight for, yet enough veteran presence to not expose the kids to the tough minutes too early on most nights. 

Risks: This club would struggle to be competitive. All of the heavy lifting will be done by Backlund/Brodie/Giordano again and just a few injuries means a roster filled with fringe players and rookies. 

The Contract Dumping Ground Option

This is where the Flames would have to get creative. Instead of chasing free agents in order to get to the cap, Calgary could instead accept bad deals from cap strapped clubs in exchange for a sweetener. Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh and Toronto are just three of the teams who may be looking for some quick cap relief, for instance.  

Here’s how that could play out:

Lupul (5.25) – Backlund (1.5) – Hudler (4.0)

Lecavalier (4.25) – Monahan – (925k) – Colborne (900k)

Glencross (2.55) – Stajan (3.125) – Jones (4.0)

Bollig (1.25) – Knight (900k) – Bouma (725k)

McGrattan (750k)

Brodie (2.125) – Giordano (4.02)

Boychuk (3.27) – Russell (2.6)

Wideman (5.25) – Smid (3.5)

Wotherspoon (.925) 

Ramo (2.75)

Hiller (2.5M)

Total: $54.84M

Benefits: The Flames add some more assets (assuming they are “paid” to take bad deals) and they don’t have to go running after UFAs. The club would also be somewhat competitive, though not a legit playoff team. 

Risks: Adding washed up malcontents probably isn’t the best thing for a dressing room (though Boychuk would be more of a legit addition than Lecavalier or Lupul, who would have to be pushed out of the door by their current teams). In addition, the deals to the two forwards in this example extend for a longish time, making their addition riskier.


While each of these scenarios was presented as stand-alone options, it’s possible the reality will be somewhere in between. Maybe the Flames sign Niskanen or Stralman to a long-term, big money deal because they fit into the club’s future plans and then add a salary dump from Philly or Boston to round things out.

Whatever happens, we know the club will be active to some degree. The NHL rules will compel them to spend money this summer. The question just remains how they plan to do that.