How much are remaining free agents worth?

The Calgary Flames’ roster appears to be mostly set. If anything, they now have to cut down players, rather than add more; particularly in the forward department.

Defence, on the other hand? The Flames may have fixed their top four woes by adding Dougie Hamilton, but there’s more that can be done, and some high profile, quality defencemen still left on the open market for the taking.

But here’s a pretty big problem to adding another high profile defenceman (i.e., not David Schlemko, although he’d be great, too): the salary cap. 

It’s not July 1 anymore, though. Mike Green and especially Andrej Sekera generated huge deals. Can the same happen for remaining free agents on the market, or does history say they’ll have to sign for less?

It all comes down to performance

Mind, not all of the following free agents are high profile players. Some of them had really poor seasons, some were already on the decline, some were just never worth as much as they first got. But there’s a fair group of players who waited until the doldrums of summer to sign their contracts, and in most cases, they simply didn’t cost that much.

For example: following the lockout, Eric Fehr was still a free agent. He was coming off of a three point, 35 games played season, so he wasn’t exactly in high demand. His previous cap hit was $2.2 million; on Jan. 13, 2013, the Washington Capitals brought him back for just $600K. It was a steep pay cut he’d earned, and his contract came only days before the new season got underway.

Coming off of a .44 point per game season this past year, though, Fehr was actually able to raise his salary, going from a $1.5 million cap hit over the past two years (signed after his $600K season) to $2 million over three, even though he didn’t sign until July 28, 2015. He showed an improved performance, and received a raise for it, even though that raise didn’t come until late July.

Free agents in 2013

In between the 2013 and 2013-14 seasons, a number of decent (or at least previously well-paid) players waited until later in the off-season to sign with a team. Almost all of them took pay cuts in their next contracts.

Player Position 2013 Cap Hit Points Per Game 2013-14 Cap Hit Date Signed (2013)
Jaromir Jagr F $4.5 million .78 $2 million July 23
Douglas Murray D $2.5 million .13 $1.5 million Aug. 22
Mikhail Grabovski F $5.5 million .33 $3 million Aug. 23
Ron Hainsey D $4.5 million .28 $2 million Sept. 12
Brenden Morrow F $4.1 million .57 $1.5 million Sept. 23
Mason Raymond F $2.275 million .48 $1 million Sept. 23
Damien Brunner F $925,000 .59 $2.5 million Sept. 24
Ryan Whitney D $4 million .38 $900,000 Sept. 25

  • Brunner, whose salary was the only one to increase, was coming off of an entry-level contract. He left the NHL before his new two-year deal was complete.
  • Also now out of the NHL: Murray and Whitney.
  • Morrow is now 36, and has yet to sign with a new team; however, over 2013-14 he scored .35 points per game – a year older and a drop in production – and yet was signed to a $1.55 million deal, giving him a small raise, on July 11, 2014.
  • Jagr actually scored less over the 2013-14 season than he did in 2013, but he took a raise to $3.5 million when he was re-signed by the Devils on April 30, 2014: much, much earlier than his previous summer deal.
  • The Leafs bought out Grabovski. Grabovski responded with .60 points per game over 2013-14. He was signed to a $5 million cap hit over four years on July 2, 2014.
  • Hainsey scored less over 2013-14, but was good defensively; he received a raise to a $2.833 million cap hit, re-signed before he ever hit free agency.
  • Raymond increased his offensive output to .55 points per game over 2013-14 and received a three-year, $3.15 million cap hit on July 1, 2014.

Free agents in 2014

As in 2013, there were a couple of stragglers when it came to new contracts in 2014, albeit not as high profile.

Player Position 2013-14 Cap Hit Points Per Game 2014-15 Cap Hit Date Signed (2014)
David Booth F $4.25 million .29 $1.1 million July 22
Daniel Winnik F $1.8 million .39 $1.3 million July 28
Devin Setoguchi F $3 million .36 $750,000 Aug. 23
Ryan Malone F $4.5 million .26 $700,000 Sept. 11
Raphael Diaz D $1.225 million .24 $700,000 Oct. 6
  • None of Booth, Setoguchi, and Malone currently have NHL contracts. Setoguchi and Malone failed to score a single point in the NHL before being sent to the AHL, while Booth’s production dropped to .22 points per game.
  • Winnik’s production improved to .43 points per game; he received a two-year, $2.25 million AAV as a result, signed on July 1, 2015.
  • Diaz was scooped up on July 1, 2015, to another $700K cap hit, even though his production (and general playing time) suffered a massive drop over his time with Calgary.

What does this mean for the Flames?

The general trend here is: the longer you wait, the less your next contract is going to be for. There are a handful of players over the past few seasons who went from late summer bargain bin finds to early signings that ultimately netted the player more money (Jagr, Grabovski, Hainsey, Morrow, Raymond, and Winnik, while Diaz received the same amount of money even though he showed less over this past season).

As you may have guessed from the picture, though, I’m primarily talking about Cody Franson: a relatively young top four defenceman who is still on the open market, and would bolster any team’s blueline, including the Flames’. 

As of right now, the Flames have just a little over $2 million in cap space, with only Micheal Ferland left to re-sign. This makes them a cap team once again, even if Ladislav Smid’s $3.5 million hit probably ends up on LTIR, and the forward situation loses a few bodies.

There’s a slim chance Franson may be able to fit under the Flames’ cap should that happen. He’s a higher profile free agent – who, after three straight years of one-year deals, wants something longer term – and you’d have to think he goes for more than Calgary can currently afford, even though late summer deals tend to not be nearly as kind to players as July 1 contracts do.

As the clock keeps ticking, the possibility remains open, maybe even without a single move by Calgary. There’s almost certainly no chance if a trade doesn’t happen, though, and there’s a reason Dennis Wideman is the name most commonly thrown about: he’s unlikely to repeat his past season, he’s costly, and he’s 32 years old.

But this has been a summer of sensibility, so it’s unclear if other general managers would even take the Wideman bait. And why would they, with Franson available on the open market?

Franson would be a nice addition – a top four of him, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton would be stellar – and the longer his free agency goes on, the cheaper he’ll probably end up being. But as of right now, there’s next to no room for him in Calgary.

Something will give. Eventually.

  • TX Flame

    Please, no more about Franson being a high profile player. If he was, he would have been signed by now, especially by the team up north. He wants multi year & wants a healthy salary. Why are so many people so down on Russell? No one having not even the slightest want to get Russell resigned to a nice cap friendly deal? If his numbers were so meh, & Hartley played him 27 minutes a game in the top pairing when Gio went down, why don’t we get him extended to another 3 year deal at 3.0-3.2 mill per?

    Here’s the thing, we won’t be able to keep Gio if we keep Wideman or run out & give Franson a 4-5 year deal at 4.0 mill per & plan to keep Russell. I would rather keep Wideman & moan next year that we waited 1 year too long to try & move that 5.25mill to make some cap space .
    Wideman most certainly has value now, There are a few teams he would be a good fit, but I am good with keeping him & trading him to a team that runs into injury issues. Detroit is one because tell me the last year Green played 82 games. That guy is a hurter & if he goes down, Detroit has issues & a Wideman would be a perfect fit. Buffalo would be another fit for Wideman. Let’s just give Brodie/Gio/Hamilton/Russell a chance to be our top 4. We have enough capable bottom pairing defenders already signed.

    • TheoForever

      The wings have $375000 in cap space, somehow I doubt they have the money for Wides. I doubt Wides waves his NMC to play in Buffalo.(would you?)The teams with cap space that he might wave his NMC for are likley the Islanders and Senators both of which made the playoffs.

      If you can extend Russell for $3ish for 3 years fine, but many on this site suggest $4 plus.

      At this point unless we get a good deal for Wides I would have no problem with Gio/TJ/Hamilton/Russel/Wides any of the following filling out the top 6: Nakladal, Spoon, Morrison, Culkin; whoever wins the spot. Eng spot duty and Smid on the LTIR would be the best.

      I was hoping this article would assess some of the other free agents that might be had cheaper and maybe fill the bill.

  • TheoForever

    If we can drop some of the more useless contracts (Raymond, Bollig, Smid, Engelland, Colborne, Sieloff) I wouldn’t mind Flames going on a bit of a signings splurge:

    2 Yr @ 1.1M – David Schlemko
    1 Yr @ 2M – Christian Ehrhoff
    ELC – Ryan Massa
    ELC – Brandon Hawkins
    ELC – Jason Fram

  • Slowmo

    I know we as arm chair management love to see trades just for the sake of trades but I think it’s time to sit and start advancing our kids we have some good players that are as good as some of the free agents out there we just need to give them a chance to prove them selves we have at least 2 very good 2 way lines defence and offensive abilities. We are a rebuilding team and we could us a couple more high draft pick yrs. What BT did with his top 3 picks could turn out to be the best moves since the Ramage trade way back when. Then again could turn out to be another T.O move which saw Gilmore and company head to T.O and a bag of pucks come back this way. That deal of course was grand theft. Time will tell on Dougie move but I think we did good. Now lets relax and give our propects some time to prove them selves or start moving some contracts and some rights like Rafikov. But wait till about 3 months into the season or even longer no rush really

  • DestroDertell

    Not going to pretend we don’t need another top 4 guy but signing Franson would be a precarious blunder. I think it’s wiser long-term if we wait until one of our many D prospects (Spoon,Kylington,Morrison,etc) becomes a #4 Dman because 1) we’re still in a rebuild so no need to put ourselves in even more cap hell and 2) we’ve got enough D prospects to expect at least one to actually reach Franson’s current level within the next two years and they’d be far cheaper than Franson.

    Even if you have absolutely no faith in Spoon & co., it doesn’t mean we have to go after Franson. What about we trade for Patrick Wiercioch of the Senators? The guy was already playing like a top 4 at the age of 24, his numbers are far less likely to regress soon unlike Franson based on his form, he’ll take a mere 2M$ of cap space next season (turn RFA after next year) and it’s clear the Sens’ FO isn’t high on him for some bizarre reasons.

    • FlamesRule

      What would you pay for Wiercioch? I just read an interesting article on him and his underlying numbers are way up there. He’s 6’5 210 and 24 with 3 seasons in the NHL.

      • DestroDertell

        Wiercioch has some great underlying numbers, yes, and I wouldn’t have mentioned him if it wasn’t the case but so does Franson. The main difference between Wiercioch and Franson is that while Franson has good possession numbers, I could see them falling down because his style of play require high condition (charging where the puck is to pinch it) that I don’t see him keeping as he gets older. I think of him as the new Shea Weber in that sense. Wiercioch’s awesome IQ on positioning reminds me of Brian Campbell, who keeps having high possession numbers even at 36. I can see Wiercoch sustaining his numbers a long time (well, maybe not as long as Campbell, but still).

        I wouldn’t mind offering a lot of assets for Wiercioch (like several players and a 2nd rd pick) but judging by their GM’s comments about him, I don’t know if it’s necessary to go too far.

        • RedMan

          So we offer Wides(who I have no problem keeping) one of our surplus forwards for Wiercoch and one of their young wingers and a prospect. They get a second PP specialist and another forward. (they move a player that they are not keen on) We get a partner for Hamilton and we upgrade our forward ranks and get some cap space.

  • FlamesRule

    When I read the title of the article I had hoped for more of a discussion on some of the other free agents. Here is a list of guys I was wonder what their worth might be and if there is value for the Flames to be on them: Meszaros 6’2″ 220, Ehroff 6’2″ 195, and Wilson 6’1″ 205 on the back end. Upfront Tlusty 6′ 210, Santorelli 6’190 and Sheppard 6’215. I am not saying we need any of these guys but was hoping there would be discussion beyond get Franson trade Wideman which we have been discussing for almost a month now.

    Someone mentioned Wiercioch as someone to trade for; I don’t know much about him. What are peoples thoughts. Ottawa is one of the teams with cap space that could take on Wideman.

  • fretsey

    I’m super confused with the Smid situation.Was he ever on LTIR? Why are we wondering if he is going to be put on LTIR? I know he had successful neck surgery recently but he should have been on LTIR from the beginning and stay there until he’s medically cleared.It would be nice to have that cap space.

    • T&A4Flames

      It resets each year. A team can go over the cap in the summer but must be cap compliant prior to the start of the season, including salaries of any injured players. Only after the season has begun can players and their salaries be put to the LTIR.
      that’s a big reason PHI traded Pronger’s contract to CLB, it frees them up to fill their roster without fear of making other moves just to get compliant for a few hours.

    • T&A4Flames

      I think most of us are confused about Smid we know he had a neck injury and had surgery how successful is still to be determined. Successful might be good enough to return to a normal healthy life or good be good enough to return to the player he was before the injury occurred. Most of what we here is speculation on what we hope will happen. For the Flames a return to form how he played in his best years in Edmonton would be great but so would a healthy return but not good enough to play putting him on LTIR. I believe he was on injury reserve the last part of the season.

  • T&A4Flames

    I always appreciate the research that is done that supports articles like this one, the perspective is always good to have.

    But was having a conversation with a buddy, and figure that a question that neither of us could confidently answer might play into discussions of what the Flames might do between now and opening night (including possibly signing a free agent).

    Is the salary cap calculated by the sum of the AAV of the 23 players on the roster at any given time (allowances made for per game values)?

    For example, according to General Fanager, the Flames have 24 NHL players (however that is defined) with a cap total of $69,205,066. But when the season opens, they would only have 23 of those 24 on the roster with their respective AAVs count meaning the Flames, in reality, would have MORE (theoretically) than the difference between that figure and the hard cap of $71,400,000. Or are all one-way contracts counted (i.e. if say Engelland clears waivers and is sent to Stockton, does his $2,916,666 count against the Flames cap?)?

    Can anyone (Kent?) clarify if that is correct and what numbers and who counts once the season starts? Thanks!

    • T&A4Flames

      I believe that players on one way contracts the team gets up to 900000 in salary relief. So if Engs was sent down the Salary cap hit for the Flames would be @2m a savings of $900000. I would have no problem standing corrected on this but this is what I believe to be true.

      • supra steve

        Appreciate your response, was using Engelland ONLY as an example. Was looking to determine whether its only the 23 on your roster that counts towards your cap level.

        If you have more than 23, like the Flames do (the Oilers have 26 per General Fanager) is it only the 23 on the declared roster that determines your cap figure? Teams would have to jettison (i.e. waive, trade) any contract above 23?

        That being the case, the Flames would have more cap room than outlined on the list by having to move one contract, the Oilers, likewise, would have to move 3 contracts.

        • Derzie

          General Fanager’s list is a bit misleading though. It has the Flames at 24 roster players (15 forwards, 7 defense, 2 goalies). But that’s not including Ferland (unsigned), Bennett, Ortio, and Nakladal.

          Bennett and (I believe) Nakladal are waiver exempt, though who really believes that Bennett isn’t making the team?

  • The Last Big Bear

    A 2010-vintage Smid would be an absolute game-changer for the Flames. He would be Hamilton’s defensive anchor, giving us a depth chart of:

    Giordano- Brodie

    Smid – Hamilton

    Russel – Wideman

    That’s a perfectly balanced group, and for my money would be the best in the NHL.

    I’m not holding my breath, but a return to form by Smid would completely change the make-up of the team.

  • Koolmoedee

    I still don’t get the hoopla on this website on Cody Franson. He’s lazy, big defenseman who can’t particularly skate well when he actually wants to. At least Engelland actually tries, even if he isn’t as skilled. If Franson was as good as you guys hyped him up to be, he’d have already signed. There’s obviously something you guys aren’t seeing that other teams are. Maybe watch the guy play instead of relying specifically on the stats sheet. This is why junior stats can’t be taken as gospel for drafting players either.

    • supra steve

      Franson remains the topic for exactly the reasons you state: eye test(your position) and underlying stats(many on this site are huge supporters). I for the most part would be happy with Gio/TJ/Dougie/Russell/wides as our top 5 going into the season. This would allow competition for 6/7 between Engs/Smid(if he is healthy)
      Nakladal/Spoon/Morrison/Culkin/Kulak/Sieloff/and Kylington.

      I wonder about the trade(read hate) Wideman sentiment found on this site. What is he being paid for? Be a top 6 defender(last year he was moved up in the rotation and survived, earned an A from his coach), signed to be a PP specialist and he finished top 4 in scoring amongst NHL defenceman, and when you look at the salaries paid this summer for guys with worse stats his contract is a deal. This being said his value is high and if we can trade him for a good deal(not just one where we can shed salary to sign Franson) then I would be for it. But if it is not a good deal then I have no problem with the value we got from him last season and I am not expecting him to drop off the cliff this year. I think he will respond to the trust Hartley put into him and be ready and raring to go this season. If we get the level of play from him and Russell as a third pairing as we saw the last 1/4 of the season and playoffs and a return of the play of TJ and Gio all we need is a solid partner for Hamilton and I think there is a good chance it could be one of the guys listed earlier. Three pairings all capable of playing Hartley’s system would significantly improve our chances of making the playoffs.

      • RedMan

        I like the idea of having Wides & Russell for our bottom pairing too, what a luxury to have. But that luxury is for only next year. Then Cap reality kicks in next summer. Decisions have to be made. You are right about what Wideman did last year. It clearly was the best year by miles of the 3 he’s been in Calgary. But next summer, his 5.25 mill has to go. He’ll be 33 then too. This team is in the last stretch of it’s rebuild, you go with the 26 year old Russell or 33 year old Wideman? Why not strike while he had that monster year last year. I just don’t see him getting the same minutes with Hamilton & a healthy Gio. I think Russell would give us a pretty decent deal like Brodie & do a a 2-3 year deal in the 3.0 mill range. Going forward, spending about 21-22 million on your top 4 defence (assuming Gio at 7.5mill) is pretty darn solid for that group. The 5-6 pairing is for depth & young up & comers. Look at Chicago, their 5-6 was Rozival & Van Riems Dyke & then Runblad when he got injured. Top 4 are key & I feel Flames right now can rival the Hawks. Our forward lines are a work in progress, but we have made progress.

      • supra steve

        I full agree. If you can get good value for Wideman you go with the trade, just like with anyone. But he really stepped it up last year for the Flames, took on the A and helped lead the defense core into a playoff push. Although the underlying stats aren’t great, the fact is he got results. And that’s what should matter most to people who are obsessed with stats. Or else we might as well have called the Oilers a top 10 team last year and crowned the Kings with the Cup on Corsi alone.

  • RedMan

    One other point I wanted to make about Franson is: once he is signed then the potential market for the rest of the Free agent defenders and the trade market for Wides would become clearer. If we signed Franson before trading wides then the value we might get for Wides might go down as teams would use our cap issues against us. The only way you could have them both is to move 2 of the 5 following contracts and I doubt there is much of a market for them: Engs. Raymond, Hiller, Ramo and Smid.

  • fretsey

    @coachedpotatoe

    @T&A4Flames

    Thanks for the info.I didn’t know the LTIR “reset” every year.As long as he was on LTIR last year then we got the cap relief…I guess we’ll have to see if he gets medicaly cleared for this year.

    • supra steve

      Some pre-teen from ON was stirring up some of our younger readers yesterday. Now, I’m guessing, they are attempting to pay that back. Oh, to be young and foolish.

      I like to visit ON from time to time, check out what’s happening. I even post a note from time to time, but always respectfully, as I am a guest on YOUR site.

      Thank you for being respectful on our site, enjoy your weekend.

      • fretsey

        I agree, most of the time I just read. There is some good information there at times. As is on some of the other sites. Interesting to see the same concerns about Franson surface on both sites.

      • fretsey

        I agree, most of the time I just read. There is some good information there at times. As is on some of the other sites. Interesting to see the same concerns about Franson surface on both sites.

  • Derzie

    Smid is only in the conversation because of his large salary/cap hit. He was not good enough prior to his injury. He won’t play for the Flames again, or at least he shouldn’t.