Cap and Waiver Concerns Loom If Flames Ever Get Healthy

The Calgary Flames got marginally healthier this week, welcoming back Micheal Ferland to the active NHL roster. But this is probably the last of the “easy” injury activiations, as the eventual return of Jonas Hiller from the injured reserve will likely create some ripples and the resultant lack of cap space will probably cause more than a few grey hairs for Flames General Manager Brad Treliving.

Here’s how the organizational roster situation looks as of this morning.

THE FLAMES

The NHL team presently has 23 active bodies. That’s two goalies (Ramo and Ortio), seven defensemen (Russell, Giordano, Wideman, Brodie, Hamilton, Engelland and Smid) and 14 forwards (Colborne, Backlund, Gaudreau, Jooris, Stajan, Jones, Raymond, Monahan, Hudler, Bollig, Grant, Frolik, Ferland and Bennett).

The club also has two players on the Injured Reserve list: forward Lance Bouma (out until January/February with a broken fibula) and goalie Jonas Hiller (out week-to-week with a lower-body injury). Neither is currently skating with the team, for what it’s worth.

There are two looming concerns with the NHL club: waivers and the salary cap.

Mason Raymond cleared waivers on October 6 but has been on the roster longer than 30 days (and has played 10 games), so he’d need to clear waivers again to go down to the AHL. Derek Grant cleared waivers on September 28 and has played 6 games on the NHL roster, so after four more appearances – basically in a week – he’d need to clear waivers to go down, which he might not given how effective he’s been on the team’s bottom-six. Karri Ramo cleared waivers on October 22 and has since dressed for 5 games, so he’ll need to clear waivers to go back down after he’s dressed for another 5 games. I’m certain that Raymond and Ramo would both clear waivers, but much less certain that Grant would. (For what it’s worth, Brandon Bollig also probably clears waivers if they absolutely need the cap space.)

Calgary’s current active roster represents $67.08 million in cap space (including bonuses), giving them about $4.32 million in cap room for players being activated from the injured reserve. Once Jonas Hiller returns, cap space might get tight. There are three basic scenarios I have in my mind, considering they won’t keep three goalies again.

  • Scenario A: The Flames keep Ramo and Hiller and demote Joni Ortio to the AHL. Hiller makes $4.5 million against the cap, an increase of $3.9 million over Ortio’s cap hit. Swapping Hiller for Ortio would bump the Flames’ cap commitment to approximately $70.98 million and leave them with just $419,000 of wiggle room (and would probably be coordinated with the team reducing their roster to 22 bodies to compensate).
  • Scenario B: The Flames keep Hiller and Ortio and put Ramo back in the AHL. This move would see the Flames pay Ramo his $3.8 million NHL salary in the minors, of which $2.85 million would count against the cap. This move would give the Flames a cap commitment of around $70.63 million and $769,000 of cap space.
  • Scenario C: The Flames keep Ramo and Ortio and put Hiller in the AHL. This move would see the Flames pay Hiller his $4.5 million salary in the AHL, of which $3.55 million would count against the cap. Again, this move would see the Flames with a $70.63 million cap commitment and just $769,000 of cap space.

I have no idea which of these three moves the Flames will make, but as Hiller gets closer to returning, expect the Flames to waive some bottom-six bodies to give themselves a bit of wiggle room, as likely any goaltending scenario probably sees them carry 22 bodies for a while to maximize cap room in case of a last-minute injury.

THE HEAT

Calgary’s top affiliate in the AHL, the Stockton Heat, presently have roughly 24 active/healthy players.

That’s two goalies (Kent Simpson and Eric Hartzell), eight defensemen (Brett Kulak, Oliver Kylington, Tyler Wotherspoon, Dustin Stevenson, Kenney Morrison, Patrick Sieloff, Jakub Nakladal and Aaron Johnson) and 14 forwards (Garnet Hathaway, Freddie Hamilton, Turner Elson, Kenny Agostino, Austin Carroll, Emile Poirier, Drew Shore, Blair Riley, Markus Granlund, Colton Orr, Ryan Lomberg, Hunter Smith, Bill Arnold and Bryce van Brabant). The nice thing is they can rotate bodies in and out and typically they only have to scratch four healthy players.

Jon Gillies and Morgan Klimchuk are both nursing short-term lower-body injuries. Ryan Culkin is almost back from his shoulder injury suffered in Penticton.

ELSEWHERE

Michigan State senior Matt Deblouw, a Flames seventh round pick back in 2012, is currently out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury. Calgary Hitmen forward Pavel Karnaukhov is expected back in a week or so from his upper-body injury.

For the curious, with Keegan Kanzig back in the WHL, his entry-level contract is still running because this is his 20-year-old season. His deal counts against the 50 contract limit (as opposed to Mason McDonald, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson AND Nick Schneider, who are all under 20 and not in the NHL, so their deals haven’t activated yet).

    • cberg

      As things turned out, yes indeed it does. But apparently they had a trade for Hiller which if it happened then the signing would actually be quite good. Too bad the (apparent) trade fell through.

    • supra steve

      Absolutely….kinda adds more weight to the theory that a deal/trade for Hiller or Ramo fell through at some point before the season started.The signing makes no sense unless a deal fell apart or they were gambling that someones starter would be injured in the pre-season or in the first 5 games.

        • supra steve

          Carey Price…cool, calm, collective, standup style, skillful athlete.

          Karri Ramo….poor postioning causing a need to be acrobatic, poor glove hand, inconsistent, quick reflexes, out of shape.

          Jonas Hiller…inconsistent, drops to his knees, questionable glove hand, slow reflexes, experienced, dependable at times.

  • everton fc

    Why isn’t Morrison getting more ice time in Stockton? Is Kylington playing better? Maybe he should head over to the Wheat Kings so Morrison can get in the line up. Morrison looked great in Penticton and at camp, its a shame he isn’t playing.

    • everton fc

      Perhaps when he was, he wasn’t playing well. Where’s Mike, our expert on things “Stockton”?

      I’m still amazed Kylington wore the “A” in game two or three. How does one make sense of this? Or was I imagining this when I saw the box score that evening.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    I may be wrong, but isn’t the salary cap based on the whole season’s spending on salaries minus the amount spent on players on the injured reserve? So looking at individual salaries at one point in time to see how close to the cap you are is not the correct way to do it?

    For example, let’s pretend that the cap is 71 million and a team starts the season with 70.5 million in salary. The star player makes 8 million but is injured in game 1 and is placed on LTIR. He has made ~100000 so far toward the cap. Immediately a trade occurs which results in a player with 4 million in salary joining the team. Now it looks like the cap hit is 66.5 million. Great. The season continues and, amazingly, no one else gets injured or traded. Now, 2 games before the end of the season the star player is returning. According to Ryan’s calculations, this would put the team way over the cap at 74.5 million. So they would need to somehow get rid of a lot of salary for those last 2 games.

    But I don’t think that is how it works. I think it is based on the total amount spent at the end of the season. In this case, the team will have spent 62.5 million for most of the team. The player traded for will have nearly all their salary count (less the first game of the season before the trade) for a total of 3.95 million toward the cap. And the star player will have played 3 games for a total of ~300,000 against the cap. The overall total is 66.75 million which is way below the cap even though the last 2 games the apparent cap hit is 74.5 million. So the star player and the guy traded for can both stay on the roster for the final 2 games. And actually the star player could have been on the roster for half the year and the team will still make it under the cap.

    Assuming I am correct (I hope someone can confirm this), that means that you need to know how much cap buffer has built up already due to injuries etc before deciding if there will be a problem when players return from injury. Based on how things have been going for the Flames this year, I would guess that they have significant “cap reserves” and shouldn’t have a problem when injured players return.

  • supra steve

    It is what it is….at the end of the day, it is the end of the day.

    It will be interesting how this all unfolds this season and next. Will I lose any sleep over it? I think not. I will watch with interest and see how Tre deals with it!