The 2016 offseason is going to be an interesting one for Brad Treliving. On top of a probable top five pick and having to re-sign marquee youngsters Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, he is also facing a very difficult cap management situation.
With pending raises to the aforementioned kids plus Mark Giordano, the Flames are going to have to spend a lot more money just to run in place. On top of that, it’s entirely probable that the NHL cap will remain stagnant at $71.4M. That’s doubly bad news for a team that will want to improve a roster that is likely going to finish at the bottom of the NHL standings.
So what does the Flames cap situation look like heading into 2016-17, and what can they do to fix it?
As Things Stand
We have to make some assumptions in order to project Calgary’s roster budget. Although we can’t say for sure what Monahan and Gaudreau will sign for, let’s say they’ll cost a combined $13M to retain – $7.25M for Gaudreau and $5.75M Monahan.
We also have to read the tea leaves when it comes to new contracts for Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, Jakub Nakladal and Joni Ortio, but those deals (or their replacements) aren’t going to make a big difference either way.
Here’s how things look when we fill in some of the blanks with educated guesses:
Now you see why they couldn’t hope to re-sign Kris Russell. In this scenario, if Calgary keeps the same roster and adds a $4M starter, they’ll be over the cap by nearly $2M next year.
That is what even the most cockeyed optimist would call “not ideal”. The Flames desperately need to improve, but they’re currently looking at this tank roster plus an average NHL starter in order to be over the cap by at least one Joe Colborne.
What Can Be Done?
Brad Treliving only has a few options: trade (salary dump), buyout and AHL demotion. Not a lot of the Flames’ expendable contracts are very appealing, so we can dispense with the trade idea. That leaves buyout and demotion as the likeliest money saving routes.
So what happens if the Flames buyout Wideman and demote Mason Raymond?
Wideman’s buyout saves Calgary $4M next year and Raymond riding buses in Stockton saves another $950k. That’s almost $5M, which gets the roster into “legal under the cap” territory.
Of course, deleting two NHL players from the roster means the team has to add two others, which limits the overall savings (even if they are near league minimum guys). That’s why the Flames are only just under the cap ceiling (about $1.8 in cap space) in this scenario.
And, again, this is a rather static roster. Obviously a league average goalie would do wonders for the Flames’ overall results, but going into next season with “Calgary’s 2015 post-trade deadline roster” is going to be rather disappointing for fans and management alike.
The above chart also has a few other names highlighted, including Matt Stajan, Brandon Bollig, Deryk Engelland and Ladislav Smid. These are guys with poor value/dollar ratios, meaning the club should look to move on from each of them over the next 12 months if possible. Smid might be the easiest deletion if his recent injury proves to be the one that pushes him to LTIR permanently.
Unfortunately, this year may simply be a holding pattern for the club. Next summer the likes of Bollig, Smid, Engelland and Raymond all go away, giving the decision makers more budgetary leeway.