After all the razzle and dazzle of the annual NHL Draft, it’s now time for all the excitement of procedural restricted free agent qualifying as teams begin to figure out their contractual and cap hit situations as they approach free agency on July 1.
All potential Group 2 (restricted) free agents – players whose contracts have expired but aren’t 27 yet, basically – have to receiving a qualify offer by their NHL club by 3 p.m. MT on Monday for their rights to be maintained.
WHAT’S A QUALIFYING OFFER?
A qualifying offer is functionally
a token contract offer issued to maintain a Group 2 player’s rights.
Sometimes the player accepts the qualifying offer straight away, but
most often it’s used as a starting point for negotiations on a longer
And based on a player’s prior salary, a qualifying offer typically builds in a raise.
(A) if the Player’s prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary is less than or
equal to $660,000 for that League Year, 110% of the prior year’s
Paragraph 1 NHL Salary.
(B) if the Player’s prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary is greater than
$660,000, but less than $1,000,000 for that League Year, 105% of his
prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, but in no event to exceed
(C) if the Player’s prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary is equal to or
greater than $1,000,000 for that League year, 100% of the prior year’s
Paragraph 1 NHL Salary.
This is part of the
risk for a team. If the escalated salary in a qualifying offer is too
rich for your blood, you can get stuck with the player at that rate if
they accept the qualifying offer.
THE POTENTIAL RFAs
As mentioned, the Flames have 13 potential RFAs:
- F Kenny Agostino
- F Bill Arnold
- F Joe Colborne (one-way qualifying offer)
- F Turner Elson
- F Johnny Gaudreau (one-way qualifying offer)
- F Freddie Hamilton
- F Josh Jooris (one-way qualifying offer)
- F Sean Monahan (one-way qualifying offer)
- G Joni Ortio (one-way qualifying offer)
- G Kevin Poulin
- F Drew Shore
- F Bryce Van Brabant
- D Tyler Wotherspoon
The “fun” quirk of this year’s RFA class is that every single one of them has played NHL hockey, with all but Poulin having done so with the Flames. The other “fun” quirk is two of Calgary’s best players being RFAs at the same time.
Some of the Flames potential RFAs have arbitration rights. Per the CBA, players are eligible to
elect salary arbitration if they meet the following qualifications,
based on the year they signed and their years of pro experience.
Based on the CBA, Agostino, Arnold, Colborne, Hamilton, Jooris, Ortio, Poulin, Shore and Van Brabant have arbitration rights.
Under the CBA, if an arbitration award is $3.5 million or higher, the team has “walk away rights” – in that they can say “Nope!” to the award and let the player become a free agent. (The amount of $3.5 million is subject to inflation from the average NHL salary, so it’s definitely higher than that by now.)
The high threshold for walking away from an arbitration award may be a potential problem for the Flames.
MIGHT NOT BE QUALIFIED
The Flames have $19.133 million in cap space right now. Let’s presume that Gaudreau and Monahan combined get $14 million and that leaves just $5.133 million in cap hit for the remainder of the team (a goalie and four forwards). That’s not ideal.
Joe Colborne: Colborne scored many, many goals last year. In March and April, when the games didn’t matter. And he rode a sky-high shooting percentage. He’s bound for a Lance Bouma-style crash, and he’ll get a big raise if he goes to arbitration. But he’s not going to make enough in arbitration to give the Flames walk-away rights. Unless Colborne settles with the Flames for a teeny, tiny amount – like, sub $2 million – he’s going to hamstring the team’s cap space. (If he gets an award in the Bouma vicinity of $2.2 million, the Flames will have very little cap space remaining for anything else.)
Kevin Poulin: An AHL goalie at this point, Poulin’s roster spot in Stockton has already basically been given away to David Rittich. Mason McDonald’s going pro and Jon Gillies will be back. There’s nowhere to put him.
Drew Shore: Shore’s basically in the same spot as Poulin. He played a bit of NHL here and there, but he hasn’t really established himself, the Flames have more promising prospects going pro this season, and his qualifying offer ($893,000) is a bit pricey. If he accepted his qualifying offer, he’d basically price himself out of an NHL roster spot.
Bryce van Brabant: Van Brabant earned praise this season from the AHL coaching staff but, again, like Poulin and Shore he doesn’t seem to have an obvious path to the NHL (and his qualifying offer is $917,000, which seems really steep for what he is).