What could next season’s salary cap projection mean for the Flames?

This season, the salary cap is set at $71.4 million, so that’s an increase of $4.1 3.1 million – an increase that could really help the Flames, as the 2016-17 season suggests an impending cap crunch for the team.

As of right now, the Flames have roughly $2.2 million in cap space. That’s a far cry from the 2014-15 season, when Calgary seemed to be swimming in it. But adding Dougie Hamilton ($5.75 million), Michael Frolik ($4.3 million), and giving Karri Ramo a raise ($3.8 million) all took their tolls – and next season, things are going to get worse.

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are on their final years of their entry-level deals, which see the Flames’ two stars make less than $1 million apiece. They’ll need to be re-signed, and they won’t come cheap. Mark Giordano is about to cost another $2.73 million when his new deal kicks in, as well.

All the while, the Flames have a number of bad contracts that don’t come off the books until 2017-18. They include:

  • Dennis Wideman, $5.25 million
  • Ladislav Smid, $3.5 million
  • Mason Raymond, $3.15 million
  • Deryk Engelland, $2.9 million
  • Brandon Bollig, $1.25 million

That’s $16.3 million being held up in guys that either aren’t playing, or are playing minimal impact roles (i.e. bottom pairing defencemen, fourth line forwards). That’s way, way too much – and because they’re terrible contracts, it’s difficult to see anybody taking them on without the Flames having to take something equally bad back in return.

Fortunately for Calgary, there will be a number of contracts coming off the books following this season sooner or later, whether via trade or free agency:

  • Jonas Hiller, $4.5 million
  • Jiri Hudler, $4 million
  • David Jones, $4 million
  • Karri Ramo, $3.8 million
  • Kris Russell, $2.6 million

That’s $18.9 million in extra cap space the Flames should have to play with next year. Add that to the $2.2 million in space they already have, and the projected possibility of an additional $3.1 million, and that leaves the Flames with $24.2 in cap space – although that isn’t counting the small cap hits of the RFAs on the Flames who will require new extensions.

Right now, the RFAs actually on the NHL roster are the aforementioned Monahan and Gaudreau, as well as Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, and Markus Granlund. Those final three should all come relatively cheap, but Monahan and Gaudreau are going to be priorities to re-sign.

In addition to locking up two members of the new core, the Flames will also need to use that cap space to acquire two goalies. They have adequate enough depth at the forward and defence positions that free agency shouldn’t be a necessity for them, and any depth options could hopefully be filled from within.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume Monahan and Gaudreau take up a little more than half of that possible $24.2 million ($6.3 million cap hits each). Along with Giordano’s raise, that would leave roughly $14.33 million for the Flames to work with, which should be more than enough considering it’s only two players they really need to sign.

It’s important to keep in mind that these are best case scenarios, but even should things go south a couple million, the Flames should still have enough flexibility to ensure they ice a full roster – and maybe even enough to play in free agency, too (though that would be particularly reliant on $74.5 million being the correct figure).

And then, come the 2017-18 season, Calgary will be free of a whole lot more contracts, and have a whole lot more space to work with when it comes to re-signing Sam Bennett, and whoever else may stand out when the time comes. They just have to get through 2016-17 first, and right now, it looks like they’ll be able to make it through just fine.

  • Greg

    Gaudreau has looked every bit like a $6m player this season and is on pace to finish top 10 in scoring. The Flames have completed 26 games which is just under 1/3 of their season. Monahan has 7 goals, 11 assists. If he kept this pace up for the rest of the season he would finish roughly 21/33 or at 54 points. I don’t think that $6m performance unless he is rewarded for year two. My guess is Tre tries to sign him in $4.5-$5 range leaving a bit more cap room than we think.

    • piscera.infada

      If Gaudreau finishes as a point-per-game player (and even if he doesn’t), he’s worth a hell of a lot more than $6m a year. Look, there is no doubt after this season that he is the most valuable forward on this roster. You need to get someone going? Gaudreau. Need someone to generate something ever? Gaudreau. Need a player to put the team on his back? Gaudreau.

      Gaudreau has been the answer in basically every game he’s played since coming into the league. The kid is an absolute stud, and I think it’s going to be Brinks truck time to lock him up for the long haul.

      • TRAIN#97

        Hall signed a contract worth 6 ml 2years ago cuz the Oilers knew they could lock him up for a few years and end up with a value contract in the present .
        Saying that, in light of the O’Reilly contract , Gaudreau’s contract will be in the range of 7 ml per season .it would serve Calgary well to try to lock him up for max 8 seasons .

  • ClayBort

    With the 1USD=1.35CAD, I struggle to see how there will be a cap increase higher this year than last (assuming the PA does not trigger the inflator). Factor in Canadian teams being terrible and the league will see less playoff revenue. This feels like a perfect storm for the cap change to miss expectations to the low side.

    With that said, we can already see a drastic impact on the cap from the dollar. Around the time the TV deal was struck everyone saw way more growth [cited below]… then oil prices plunged and took the dollar with it.


  • Christian Roatis

    Perhaps the only silver lining to Sean Monahan’s precarious start is he may be playing himself out of a longterm, big money deal and into a reasonable bridge contract.

    Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but two more years of Sean Monahan at 3.5-4M would be real nice.

  • nikkomsgb

    Not a chance the cap will go up that much, if at all.

    The Canadian Dollar is likely to get crushed in the coming months. The US has for a long time put off a rate hike but sadly it looks like this is happening sometime mid month. One rate hike almost always leads to a second, consequently most estimations are for a sub $0.70 Canadian Dollar.

    This is likely just posturing by the NHL. With so much of their revenue coming from Canada and things here in the toilet, it’s hard to see where the increase comes from. Even with the NHLPA agrees on the escalator, the players will never see the money in Escrow.

    Flames need to be careful with these contracts, as it seems things will be crappy economically here for a little while yet.

    Sorry for the negativity

  • ClayBort

    As a second thought, It’s usually not in the majority of players’ interests to trigger the inflator. The inflator only really helps the UFA crop in the summer. They get their money, but it comes out of the pockets of the rest of the players. The notional value of all the contracts in the league goes up, but revenue doesn’t. This means players have more escrow removed from their cheques. Basically, players are taxed to fund the inflated contracts of the UFA crop. The NHLPA has always been very divided on the issue.

    • supra steve

      I think the PA does a criminally poor job of protecting the income of it’s masses. The top end players are paid a king’s ransom while the lesser players are shocked when they enter training camps with a PTO rather than a contract.

      Not sure exactly how the PA’s organization is structured, but if 20-30% of the players are eating up the majority of the dollars, then the bottom 70-80% are doing a poor job of protecting their own interests. The majority is getting steam-rolled by the “stars”.

      Not saying that Gaudreau is or isn’t deserving of $6-7 million, but should any player be worth what Kane/Towes are pulling down?

      • BurningSensation

        The thing is that players at the bottom are easily replaced, and rarely missed.

        Whereas Gaudreau brings something to the table few others have, and thus should be worth much more.

        • supra steve

          Yes, I know and understand basic supply and demand, and how it applies to Gaudreau. However I also understand that majorities generally rule.

          If I was say, Curtis Glencross (and I was still a PA member), I might attempt to band together with the majority of my professional association and vote for a cap on the amount that a top end NHL player (Kane/Towes) could earn per year. So once Kane/Towes are making their maximum, of let’s say $8 million/year, that would leave more money on the table for myself and the rest of the members of the PA. Then you boost the league minimum. Everyone’s not going to be happy, but the majority will be, and isn’t that the point of being a member of an organization like the PA?

          If things just continue as they are, where’s the roof for a top players earnings? For every extra dollar they take home, one less dollar goes to another player/team mate.

          • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

            That’s not how Union work. You cant just get guys together and vote on something. You can ask your bargaining team to bring issues to the table at negotiation time, maybe they are successful, maybe they aren’t…. common misconception about Unions, the majority RARELY rules, its usually a small group of people within the Union who are active, vocal and self advocate who motivate leadership to negotiate change…

    • nikkomsgb

      They fight over triggering this, but in the end it’s hard for the players with contracts to say no. It’s basically towing the line in a union sense. It allows for players to maximize the size of their contracts, in the hopes that revenues go up and the escrow is paid out rather than kept at year end.

      For the players to avoid triggering it isn’t impossible, but it would be a huge issue for those heading into contract negotiations.

  • piscera.infada

    Treliving seems to be ok giving 6 year deals, can’t see Gaudreau getting more than Gio, so I peg him at 6 for 6.5Mill per & Monahan I see at 6 for 5.5-6.0 mill per. Christian is right, Monahan hasn’t elevated his game like Gaudreau. But the season isn’t over yet & Monny could still hit 30 goals this year & if he does, that number probably goes to 6+ per. Anyone have any idea when the new cap is confirmed, by any chance will it be prior to the TDL? If not, I think realities are we can’t afford to resign Hudler, Russell & Jones. Maybe Russell if his contract demands will be 3.0 mill or under & maybe Jones if we are prepared to not resign Jooris or Colborne or Granlund.

    • EhPierre

      In all honesty I believe Gaudreau would get more than Gio. At this point, Gaudreau deserves it, he’s been pulling the team by himself. Mony hasn’t been playing great but to say he’ll sign for a long term contract below $6 mill is wishful thinking. He’ll prob get a $6 mill deal long term too even though right now he doesn’t deserve it.

      Russel and Huds should be traded at TDL. They both haven’t showed up this season so hopefully Tre can trick some GM to trade a first rounder.

      Granland, Jooris are all going to be cheap contracts and they deserve to stay on the team. Colborne, though I don’t like him, has been playing better than last year. He’s actually using his body for once!

    • piscera.infada

      Look, if Gaudreau’s production stays at it’s current level, the market will dictate that he will be paid more than Giordano. You can make all the nice arguments about “our captain makes ‘x'” all you want, but the comparables Gaudreau’s camp can (and will) use in negotiation are nothing to write off. Gaudreau’s contract needs to be long term enough to buy as many UFA years as possible. That means that a Gaudreau contract (assuming nothing crazy happens between now and the end of the year) is likely going to push north of $7m at least.

      Hudler is as good as gone, as he’ll likely garner the most in trade, and his contract demands will be too high to consider anyway (bad season, or not). Russell should be traded regardless of contract demands, because he’s simply not that good. He can still fetch something in trade to a team that values what he “brings”. Jones could be resigned if he’s willing to stomach short term–he will not command a large cap-hit in all likelihood. You still need to see what his trade value is at the TDL though.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Hudler and Jones NEED to be either retained or replaced from outside the system. Just as urgently as we need at least one new goalie from outside the system.

    If Hudler and Jones walk at the end of the season, the Flames will be left with unquestionably the worst winger depth in the NHL.

    We’d have a 1st line that looks more like a 2nd line:

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Frolik

    But then the rest of the roster looks like an Adam Sandler movie set on board the Titanic; just a complete goddamn disaster coming and going.

    Raymond – Bennett – Jooris?

    Bouma – Backlund – Colborne?

    Ferland – Bennett – Granlund?

    Shore – Backlund – Poirier?

    No matter how you arrange those pieces into a forward group, it is nothing but terrible.

    The Flames already have a serious need for goal-scoring wingers. Take away 2 of their current top 3, without replacing them, and this team is a lock for 30th overall.

    And there are no winger prospects in the system who are trending towards NHL top-6 level of play.

    I think Jones needs to be extended, and Hudler needs to be replaced by a UFA, but the Flames cannot fill those spots internally without becoming laughably bad.

      • The Last Big Bear

        Hamonic would be nice to have, for sure, but I think the Flames are already fairly well appointed at defence.

        All they need is to get one decent UFA, and to have one prospect develop into a decent 2nd pairing guy

        Giordano – Brodie

        Hamilton – UFA

        Prospect – Cheap Vet

        That is a defence that can win a cup, and we don’t need to give up any assets to get it.

        If we can get Hamonic cheap, then do it for sure, but a “fair” deal isn’t going to benefit the Flames.

        Okposo is the kind of player the Flames need. But the Isles are looking to do some winning, so I don’t see them letting him go before the summer. He’s a pending UFA though, so what we’d need to give up to get him is probably a $5m-ish contract.

    • supra steve

      I think we need to accept as Flames fans,the rebuild has a ways to go. A top 4 pick this year really would help out on the wing or center. The farm team really needs to realize spots are open and act accordingly.(or perhaps we have over valued our talent in Stockton).

      • The Last Big Bear

        The farm system is pretty sparse for forwards right now, all the way down to the junior level.

        The Flames can probably expect to get a 3rd line winger from the pipeline, with Agostino, Poirier, and Klimchuk all realistically having that kind of upside.

        Other than that, we’re pretty much left with guys who will likely top out as replacement-level 4th liners, like Arnold, Shore, and Hamilton.

        Maybe some of the junior kids surprise, like Karnaukov or Mangiapane. And Jankowski is still in the picture, even though I think his best-case-scenario is pretty much becoming what Joe Colborne is today.

        I have lots of good things to say about the defencemen in the system, and I think there will be a couple of NHLers to come down the pipeline in the next 3 or 4 years. But I think the forward pipeline is pretty much empty.

        Drafting an almost-NHL-ready forward in the 1st round this year would be a big deal for the Flames.

  • Denscafon

    I think 6.3 to 7 million will be around the ball park of where Gaudreau signs. Kane who in the 09-10 season scored 88 points (more than a point a game) signed a 5 year deal worth 6.3 mill per year. That was a long time ago yes, so maybe 7 mill will be more appropriate for inflation/salary cap increases. Either way, pay the kid. He’s been the best player for the flames arguably since he joined the team.

  • Greg

    If the cap is going up another $3M, I’m officially not worried about our “capegedon” next year anymore. With the season were having, most of the players I was worried about will either be cheaper than anticipated (Monahan) or expendable (Hudler). There’s quite a bit of wiggle room for BT to work now, and all the bad contracts come off the books the year after. Assuming he doesn’t repeat any mistakes from his first offseason (Engelland and Raymond), things are looking good for this team in 2017 onward.