Flames’ cap management has them ready for free agent frenzy

In the hockey world, Canada Day is always an exciting time. The floodgates open, and millions of dollars always get spent. This inevitably leads to a lot of regret, sometimes on the day of. 

Even Brad Treliving isn’t immune to this: see Raymond, Mason; and especially Engelland, Deryk; otherwise known as a little over $6 million of “wow, I wish I hadn’t done that.” (Jonas Hiller is okay, though, if only because he has just one year left on his deal, and he’s actually pretty decent at his job.)

With 18 players already signed, though, and just another five restricted free agents needing contracts, the Flames already have a full roster. They also have about $15.2 million in cap space, and those five RFAs aren’t going to cost that much.

Basically, that means: even after acquiring and signing Dougie Hamilton, the Flames can still play on July 1.

Looking to 2015-16

With 18 players actually signed, the Flames have $15.2 million to play with. It seems like a lot, but considering qualified restricted free agents who are likely to stick with the team, plus minor league players who will absolutely make the jump, it’s a little less. 

Without assuming any other changes to the roster (i.e. trades), consider:

  • Sam Bennett’s $925,000
  • Joni Ortio’s $600,000
  • The contracts of any other minor leaguers who may make the jump (ex. Tyler Wotherspoon, Jakub Nakladal)
  • Lance Bouma, Paul Byron, Micheal Ferland, Josh Jooris, and Drew Shore’s new contracts

Bennett and Ortio’s cap hits are already known, so that’s about another $1.5 million gone from the Flames’ cap space. It’s unknown if any of the other non-roster players will make the Flames, but their cap hits are all negligible (for example, Markus Granlund currently counts as a roster player, but it’s tough to see him make the team out of the camp). 

As for the five RFAs, they shouldn’t cost too much, as most are pretty unproven, and the only guy who’s likely to get a major raise is Bouma (and it still shouldn’t even be that much; “major” only applies because he’s coming off of a $775,000 contract). Being extremely generous, that group may only cost another $7-9 million or so.

That $15.2 million thereby drops down to $6.7-$4.7 million: still a fair amount, but not enough to sign a lot of players.

This is, however, counting 16 forwards, seven defencemen, and two goalies; not all of those forwards will make the roster, and Ladislav Smid’s $3.5 million will likely end up on LTIR. Still, it’s probably best to overestimate what happens to your cap rather than underestimate, so let’s go with the over.

That leaves the Flames able to sign maybe a larger contract – say, a Cody Franson or Michael Frolik – and a smaller one – like a David Schlemko – and be under the cap for the upcoming season.

The 2015-16 year isn’t going to be the problem, though.

Looking to 2016-17

This is the bad year. This is the year when Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell, David Jones, Joe Colborne, and Markus Granlund will need extensions. Those first four names are the biggest priorities, and probably the most costly; Russell would follow up behind, Jones probably let go, and Colborne and Granlund probably wouldn’t cost that much.

That’s assuming everyone is kept, and there could definitely be some casualties in there. Right now, Giordano, Monahan, and Gaudreau are the only certainties to keep.

About $23 million would come off the Flames’ cap, which – depending on how this free agency goes – could give them about $24-$30 million in free space. Giordano, Monahan, and Gaudreau should absolutely be able to stay on for that price, so re-signing them shouldn’t be an issue; someone like Hudler could end up pushed out, though. 

The Flames would still have a full roster of skaters, so they wouldn’t be forced to sell anyone off in that department. No goalies are currently signed for 2016-17, though, but the Flames could always exercise incredibly cheap, potentially successful options with an Ortio-Jon Gillies tandem.

Unless Calgary can move out some of its worse contracts – Raymond, Engelland, Smid, Dennis Wideman, Brandon Bollig, and maybe even Matt Stajan – the season after this upcoming one could get a little painful.

Looking to 2017-18

And then, all of a sudden, there’s a lot of relief.

This is still assuming no contracts are moved out, which is highly unlikely over the course of two full seasons. That said, by the time Sam Bennett will require his extension, every single bad contract on the Flames will be gone (Stajan would still be around, but he has his uses), and that’s $16 million gone with them.

An additional $16 million in space freed up, with only Bennett and perhaps Gillies requiring decently-sized extensions.

If Treliving – who is apparently magic, based on everything that is Dougie Hamilton – can find a way to get rid of some of those toxic contracts, though, then the 2016-17 season will go just fine. If he can’t, however, that’s the year that will be a problem.

For 2015-16 and 2017-18, though? The Flames rarely commit to long-term contracts – right now, it’s only TJ Brodie and Hamilton that are long-term, and they’re both young, elite defencemen signed to very reasonable deals – and it’s worked out in their favour.

Their young stars – and Mark Giordano – will be able to get paid, and at most, the Flames will have to sacrifice some depth for a year.

If, however, Treliving can worm his way out of his earlier regrets? The Flames may not have to lose a thing.

  • Burnward

    Excellent job outlining the particulars. As I’ve stated earlier, our biggest need this season is to move out a couple of the overpaid salaries, both for financial and prospect reasons.

    Let’s see what today brings…

  • Burnward

    Excellent job outlining the particulars. As I’ve stated earlier, our biggest need this season is to move out a couple of the overpaid salaries, both for financial and prospect reasons.

    Let’s see what today brings…

  • Burnward

    I know I’m in a minority here, but I don’t regret the Engelland signing. When Gio went down, he moved up to pair with Brodie and the two of them were part of the d core that not only made the playoffs, but went into the second round. Would that have happened if we hadn’t had Engelland? Maybe, maybe not, but I’d prefer not to find out.

    • Burnward

      Imagine though, if instead of signing Engelland, he signed a Dman who could play defense. And make some sound decisions. Engs was a warm body who stepped up and filled a hole, sure. He certainly wasn’t good at it, and Brodie’s play suffered huge. The money going to Engelland is and was decent-defenceman-money.

      • Brent G.

        In the realm of woulda, coulda, shoulda you may be correct. There are better defensemen out there. Whether we could have signed one is moot. We signed Engelland and he performed above and beyond what we should have reasonably expected. For that I am very grateful.

        Can we/Should we look to upgrade and get a better defenceman at that spot? We should be trying to upgrade everywhere, including his spot. Last year he filled a need (Cap Floor, toughness/protection) but that need isn’t here now so let’s see what BT can do.

        On a related note let’s give some of these guys a break (ie Engelland, Jankowski) as they are just doing their jobs, are committed and want to be here. It’s not like some others who are lazy, uncommitted or troublemakers… If we have problems with their circumstances its better to direct the angst/anger where it belongs… To the ones responsible for bringing them in.

  • RedMan

    right wing is shallow, and goal is unknown… it is on net that I worry for this team. RW can be filled in with excess centers for now but our goalie situation can come back to haunt us.

  • Brent G.

    Odds are the Flames will be able to give away players like Stajan and Raymond for cap relief as well as Wideman for a decent return (ie 2nd + B prospect). I like Stajan but do feel he should be traded to make room for Granlund at some point.

    I wouldn’t go too hard into free agency this year but would like to see BT acquire a top 6 RW while we wait to see if Poirier can play in the NHL. On the Fan yesterday they seem to think Boyes will not warrant a big contract. If he could be had on a 2 year contract for ~ $2 mill would be a great stop gap.

  • Brent G.

    Nice one, put a smile on my face. Probably the anti – Lambert article to our cap space situation.

    Happy Canada Dayeveryone, wonder what the beautiful mind of Treliving is up to this morNing? .

  • Brent G.

    Treliving will have to get creative and savvy. And he’s been nothing if that so far. I’m confidant he has all that planned out and am glad to say all the reports of him being good with running a team with limited money. He’s making great value moves. One after the other

    Backlund, Brodie Hamilton deal and sign

  • Brent G.

    Here’s hoping that one or two of the young guys (Poirier, Granlund, Arnold, Jankowski (please!!!)) can take a big step this year, and make guys like Hudler and Stajan expendable. Those two (plus Wideman) are likely going to get the most return for Calgary, and free up the most cap space.