The Calgary Flames have made a big splash over the past week or so. They re-signed Mikael Backlund. They brought in Dougie Hamilton and signed him long-term. They signed Michael Frolik.
Besides re-signing some restricted free agents to new deals, the Flames are seemingly done for the summer. But what implications do these big, new deals have for future seasons? Can the Flames stay under the salary cap long-term?
Here’s a quick glance at how they sit, as of right now.
The Flames presently have 26 players on one-way deals, or who would require waivers to go back to the AHL, or who are Sam Bennett, under contract for the 2015-16 season. (I use these premises to determine who is “on the team” during the off-season.) The cap hit, bonuses included, for this group is about $69 million. That does include some bodies that will undoubtedly be moved out, so I’d expect the Flames to begin with a 23-man roster with roughly a $65-66 million cap hit. The Flames will probably have around $5-5.5 million in cap space when the season begins.
I have zero inside intel, it’s just a hunch based on them needing to get down to 23 bodies for October 6.
Significant cap hits (at over $4 million) include Dougie Hamilton ($5.75M), Dennis Wideman ($5.25M), T.J. Brodie ($4.65M), Jonas Hiller ($4.5M), Michael Frolik ($4.3M), Mark Giordano ($4.02M), David Jones ($4m) and Jiri Hudler ($4M). Between the eight guys with big cap hits, there’s $36.47 million tied up in this group, which is just over half of the team’s cap.
Things get a bit hairy after that.
Significant cap hits (at over $4 million) include Dougie Hamilton
($5.75M), Dennis Wideman ($5.25M), T.J. Brodie ($4.65M) and Michael Frolik ($4.3M). Likely to join this group? Mark Giordano is in line for a big raise, as are Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. If we presume Giordano gets around $7.5 million and Gaudreau and Monahan each get around $5 million each, that puts the cap hit for this group at around $37.45 million and, presuming a 5% cap bump to $75 million, puts the hit at about half for the seven most important players on the team. It gives a bit of wiggle room for these cap hits to be a bit higher, but also doesn’t provide much space for an established goaltender or for retaining Jiri Hudler. Or for Kris Russell to get a really big raise. Or for Giordano get a bigger pay-day.
Or if they do some or all of those things, it makes the team reliant on inexpensive players for their bottom six and defensive depth. Based on the team’s salary structure, if David Jones comes back, he’s taking a haircut from his previous $4 million payday.
The 2016-17 season will be the biggest test; important players will have bigger cap hits, and suddenly their cap room will be at a serious premium.
If the Flames can survive 2016-17 without blowing their team up to fit under the cap, they get a lot of help once 2017-18 arrives. What kind of help?
Well, the contracts of Deryk Engelland, Ladislav Smid and Dennis Wideman will be off the books. That’s over $10 million of cap space freed up on the back end. Regardless of whatever mess they get themselves into the previous season, 2017-18 is the proverbial “get out of jail free” card. Granted, they’ll need to sign some defenders to fill those roster spots, but they likely won’t have the same ugly cap hits as those three gentlemen.
SUM IT UP
The only real salary cap trouble the Flames will get in will definitely be next season (2016-17). And that’s right when the team’s most important players will undoubtedly become their most expensive players.
So maybe, just maybe, Brad Treliving can con Giordano, Russell, Hudler, Gaudreau and Monahan to take cheap one-year deals, and then give them big raises afterwards?
Okay, probably not. But that’s probably the only way the Flames can avoid some tough decisions next summer.