Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
July 1 is a fun time to be a hockey fan. For one thing, a lot of hockey fans are Canadians. Happy Canada Day, Flames Nation! Here’s to pancakes and beer and moose and whatever else that’s quintessentially Canada you want to celebrate. (Also, Calgary Stampeders home opener tonight!)
But one of the best parts about it? It’s the official start of the new season in the NHL. The 2015-16 season is dead, and the 2016-17 has come to take its place. Up first: starting right now, as of 10 a.m. MT, all unrestricted free agents are available to be signed by anyone.
Steven Stamkos contributed to the insanity that was June 29 by deciding to stay put, so Stammergeddon went out with a whimper. And the Flames don’t have a ton of cap space with which to work – not once they re-sign Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, which will be any day now, maybe – so we likely won’t get to partake in too much emotional investment while big names choose their new destinations.
But it’s still a fun day to sit down, relax, and watch some TSN or some baseball. Let’s hang out here while we do so.
Big(ish) names to watch for
- Eric Staal – to Minnesota; 3 years, $3.5 million AAV
- Brian Campbell – to Chicago; 1 year, $2 million
- Thomas Vanek
- Milan Lucic – to Edmonton; 7 years, $6 million AAV
- Dan Hamhuis – to Dallas; 2 years, $3.75 million AAV
- David Backes – to Boston; 5 years, $6 million AAV
- Andrew Ladd – to New York Islanders; 7 years, $5.5 million AAV
- Loui Eriksson – to Vancouver; 6 years, $6 million AAV
- Jiri Hudler
- David Perron – to St. Louis; 2 years, $3.75 million AAV
- Mikkel Boedker
- Troy Brouwer – to Calgary; 4 years, $4.5 million AAV
- Jason Demers
- Kyle Okposo – to Buffalo; 7 years, $6 million AAV
- Kris Russell
- James Reimer – to Florida; 5 years, $3.4 million AAV
- Joe Colborne
Little(r) names to watch for
So many, you guys. There’s going to be so many and you probably won’t care about most of them. I’ll keep a running tally here throughout the day, though.
- Darren Helm – re-signs in Detroit; 5 years, $3.85 million AAV
- Dale Weise – to Philadelphia; 4 years, $2.35 million AAV
- Colton Sceviour – to Florida; 2 years, $950k
- Jonathan Marchessault – to Florida; 2 years, $750k
- Frans Nielsen – to Detroit; 6 years, $5.25 million AAV
- John-Michael Liles – to Boston; 1 year, $2 million
- Chad Johnson – to Calgary; 1 year, $1.7 million
- Jason Chimera – to New York Islanders; 2 years, $2.25 million AAV
- Ben Lovejoy – to New Jersey; 3 years, $2.66 million AAV
- Chris Stewart – to Minnesota; 2 years, $1.15 million AAV
- Jamie McGinn – to Arizona; 3 years, $3.3 million AAV
- Vern Viddler – to New Jersey; 1 year, $1.25 million
- Tom Gilbert – to Los Angeles; 1 year, $1.4 million
- Carter Hutton – to St. Louis; 2 years, $1.125 million AAV
- David Schlemko – to San Jose; 4 years, $2.1 million AAV
- Klas Dahlbeck – re-signs in Arizona; 1 year, $750k
- Jonas Gustavsson – to Edmonton; 1 year, $800k
- Viktor Stalberg – to Carolina; 1 year, $1.5 million
- Al Montoya – to Montreal; 1 year, $950k
- Jon Merrill – re-signs in New Jersey; 2 years, $1.138 million AAV
- Shawn Matthias – to Winnipeg; 2 years, $2.125 million AAV
- Devante Smith-Pelly – re-signs in New Jersey; 2 years, $1.3 million AAV
- Alexander Radulov – to Montreal; 1 year, $5.575 million
- Jeff Zatkoff – to Los Angeles; 2 years, $900k AAV
The Flames’ current cap
I feel like I’ve written about this eight billion times already; what’s eight billion and one times?
Forwards: 8 signed at $19.3 million
Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Brandon Bollig, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, and Alex Chiasson are your current Flames forwards. That $19.3 million figure includes Bennett’s bonuses, of which he can earn up to $2.3 million. These can be deferred to next year’s cap – but it’s all the better if they can keep them under this year’s.
Monahan and Gaudreau will soon join this group, almost certainly as the Flames’ highest paid forwards. (This is what happens when you’re in your early 20s and keep scoring at least 60 points a season.) I’ve personally been estimating their contracts to come in at a combined $14 million, using Vladimir Tarasenko’s eight-year, $7.5 AAV contract as a rough basis. Maybe they accept matching contracts, but Gaudreau is the better player, so he should honestly be getting more.
Assuming the Flames will carry 14 forwards, they still need to add another four players to this group, particularly on the right side. There are some options to promote internally, such as Hunter Shinkaruk, Daniel Pribyl, Emile Poirier, maybe even Fredde Hamilton, or Matthew Tkachuk; they’ll have to earn it, though. The Flames could also go the free agent route: here are some cheap targets they could be considering.
UPDATE: Make it 9 forwards signed at $23.8 million with the addition of Troy Brouwer
Defence: 7 signed at $29.7 million
The Flames’ top three of Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and T.J. Brodie make for a combined $17.15 million. They aren’t the problem. The problems are Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, and Deryk Engelland: none of whom are particularly great, but who total $11.65 million in cap space. That’s an expensive, lacklustre bottom six.
Jyrki Jokipakka chilling at $900k is cool, though.
Smid is the big name to watch here, because he’s battled injury issues throughout his career. For all we know, his career is actually essentially over. But the Flames will have to fit his $3.5 million under the cap before they can put him on the long-term injured reserve, so he can’t be written off just yet (though teams can go over the cap by 10% through the off-season).
If Smid is out, the Flames will likely have to bring in at least one more defenceman. They qualified RFA Tyler Wotherspoon, so he’s a good candidate to earn a spot; they also have interest in bringing back UFA Jakub Nakladal, so watch out for his name today, too. Here are some other UFA possibilities if the Flames decide to go a different route.
Goaltending: 1 signed at $2.5 million
The Flames got Brian Elliott. This is awesome because he’s a starting caliber goalie with fantastic numbers at a really low cap hit, which they need for this season. They could extend him starting today, too – or they could wait to see what they have. There’s no rush.
The Flames will still need to add one more goalie to the roster. Whether they retread with Joni Ortio, who’s still young, has potential to grow into the role, and seemed to garner mostly positive receptions towards the end of the year, or whether they target other free agents, we might just find out later today.
Update: Make it 2 goalies signed at $4.2 million with the signing of Chad Johnson
Total: 16 signed at $51.5 million, plus $1.05 million on Mason Raymond’s buyout
That leaves seven players still to sign, and roughly $20.45 million with which to do it, with most of that money likely going to two very special boys.
Update: 18 signed at $57.7 million, plus $1.05 million on Mason Raymond’s buyout
This is, of course, barring any big trades (let’s do Dennis Wideman for Taylor Hall!) that could drastically alter the Flames’ cap situation. If they do end up spending money today – which isn’t expected – then watch out for an interesting summer down the line, as they’ll have to work to fit back under the cap.
In the mean time, let’s sit back, relax, celebrate the one-year anniversary of Frolik becoming a Flame, give thanks to Jarome Iginla on this holiest of days (his birthday) if you remain so inclined, and gawk at the teams who trip over themselves giving way too much money to too many mediocre players. That’s how the Flames got in their current cap conundrum – but it won’t be an issue 365 days from now. (We hope.)