Although the Flames may be facing a challenging cap situation in a couple of years, for now they still boast a lot of budget flexibility. With the cap ceiling stagnating this upcoming, this may represent an opportunity to pry a few good players from clubs with budget problems. Think Johnny Boychuk from Boston last year.
So who should Brad Treliving be talking to? Candidates include the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s what each club could offer the Flames in terms of trade targets. All salary info from NHLnumbers.com.
Cap situation: Approximately $63M committed to 7 forwards, 4 defenders and 2 goalies.
Things get very expensive for Chicago next season. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews see their cap hits jump to $10.5M each. That’s $21M committed to two players. On top of those two, Chicago also has more than $5M each committed to five other players, including Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford.
Altogether, Chicago has about $8M left to sign five forwards and three defenseman, or 8 players ($1M per player). Which is next to impossible.
Potential targets: Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabook
Who Chicago will likely offer: Bryan Bickell, Kris Versteeg
As mentioned, both Sharp and Hossa bank north of $5M per year. Sharp is signed until the end of next season and Hossa has one of those back diving, long-term deals. His money drops down to $4M after next year and then $1M per season until he turns 40.
Both guys are still very good NHLers, but their ages may be a concern to the Flames. At 36 (Hossa) and 33 (Sharp), both are a risk to fall off just as the Flames are improving.
As for Seabrook, he’s a free agent after this upcoming year and it’s an open question whether the Hawks will be able to re-sign him given their cap position. At 30, he likely still has some tread left on the tire and would represent a big upgrade for the Flames back-end. He might be the best option for Calgary, though he’s going to be in high demand if the Hawks put him on the auction block.
Of course, it’s more probable Chicago will try to move expendable pieces like Bickell or Versteeg before they are forced to deal any of their main guys. Neither player should hold much interest for the Flames.
Cap Situation: Approximately $63M committed to 10 forwards, 4 defenders and 1 goalie (minus LTIR exemption to Marc Savard)
The Bruins cap issues aren’t as dire as the Blackhawks, but they do have one major concern: the re-signing of RFA Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins blueline has rapidly deteriorated the last few years with the loss of Boychuk plus the aging of Zden Chara. They pretty much have to re-sign Hamilton for whatever he and his agent demand as a result.
Boston also have a couple of players making too much money given their contributions, including David Krejci ($7.35M) and Milan Lucic ($6.0M). The new management regime in Boston will likely want to clean up some of that mess in the wake of Chiarelli’s ouster.
Potential targets: Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand
Who Boston will likely offer: David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Milan Lucic
Boston definitely has some pieces that would be of interest to the Flames. Eriksson and Marchand are both better than average top-6 possession wingers and neither makes too much money (4.5M for one and two more seasons respectively).
Milan Lucic is likely to be the bigger name of the three, both literally and figuratively due to his reputation as a youth guy who can score. The problem is he makes $2M more than either other guy and there’s indications he doesn’t drive play as well. That said, Lucic only has one more season left on his contract, so it’s relatively low risk. Unfortunately, he might cost you more to acquire and actually be the lesser player relative to the other two guys.
Of course, the Bruins will likely be more interested in dealing a player like Krejci, who is still pretty decent but makes $7.25M until 2021. His contract makes him a non-starter for the Flames. Beyond that, Sedeinberg might be the one veteran Boston would be interested in dealing, but at 33 has very little upside.
Los Angeles Kings
Cap Situation: $64M committed to 10 forwards, 6 defenders and 1 goalie (or $63M committed to 9 forwards if they demote Mike Richards)
Dean Lombardi is in a bit of a bind. His inability to move the Richards albatross means he either has to pay Richards $5.3M in cap space to play a 4th line role, or pay him about $4.4M in cap space to play in the AHL. Throw in the uncertainty around the uncertainty surrounding the (awful) Slava Voynov situation and you have a really problematic off-season ahead for the Kings organization.
On top of all that, LA has to re-sign RFA’s Tyler Toffoli and Martin Jones while also re-signing or replacing UFA’s Justin Williams and Jarrett Stoll.
Potential targets: Tyler Toffoli, Jake Muzzin
Who LA will likely offer: Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Matt Greene
The Kings are probably a bad fit as a trade partner. There’s almost no way they will be interested in dealing either of the trade targets I’ve identified here and their preferred trade assets are either lousy (Greene) or have contracts that are too awful to consider (Brown and Richards).
Tampa Bay Lightning
Cap Situation: $70M committed to 11 forwards, 7 defenders and 1 goalie.
No NHL team has more cap dollars already spoken for heading into 2015-16 than the Lightning. The good news is, almost their entire roster is sewn up. The bad news is, they are still probably going to have make a bit of room in order to be cap compliant come October.
Tampa also has a lot of big raises looming on the horizon, including Steven Stamkos ($5.5M), Nikita Kucherov ($700k), Tyler Johnson ($3.2M) and Ondrej Palat ($3.2M). That doesn’t mean Yzerman has to fix all of his cap problems this off-season, but he will have to have his eye on the long-term.
Potential Targets: Braydon Coburn
Who Tampa will likely offer: Ryan Callahan, Jason Garrison, Matt Carle
Calgary can try to pry a Coburn out of Tampa, but it’s almost a guarantee the Lightning will shop one of Carle, Garrison or Callahan before parting with the erstwhile Flyer. The two available defenders are just okay, which is damning with faint praise given they both make more than $4.0M in cap space over the next two years.
Callahan is in a similar situation: a good player who makes entirely too much money. He’s a decent 20-goal, 50 point winger, but he doesn’t drive possession and makes $5.8M until 2020.
There is definitely some players of interest out there amongst the teams in cap trouble. The Blackshawks and Bruins in particular seem to have more than a few guys that would be a fit with the Flames, ranging from Brent Seabrook to Loui Eriksson.
Of course, as mentioned, all of these clubs are going to try to part with expensive, expendable pieces before they move any of the bigger names. It will be interesting to see if they will be able to trim the fat without sacrificing anything worthwhile.