What can (or could) the Flames do about their salary cap troubles?

The bad news: the Calgary Flames are in tough times, salary cap-wise. They’ve incurred the wrath of bonus overages and/or buyout shenanigans, the guy who’s probably going to be their most expensive player remains unsigned, and they probably won’t be able to bring back Jakub Nakladal. Also, does anyone even remember Freddie Hamilton anymore?

The good news: the Calgary Flames still have about three weeks to figure it all out! Hopefully they do.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at what the Flames maybe should have done, and what they can still do, while we wait for them to actually do stuff again.

What they could have done

Not sign Troy Brouwer (or sign him at a lesser cap hit).

This has been referenced… a fair number of times since the Flames signed him. (My very first post on it was perplexed as to how his cap hit fits in, and I don’t feel that question has actually been answered yet.) With a $4.5 million cap hit, Brouwer costs a pretty penny. He’s the second highest paid forward on the Flames – should be third once Gaudreau is signed – and takes up a substantial part of the cap.

No Brouwer means an extra $4.5 million, which means overages and shady buyouts aren’t a problem, plus Gaudreau and Nakladal can come back.

No Brouwer also raises the question as to just who would play on the right side. Daniel Pribyl likely won’t start the season in the NHL; also, he’s a rookie. Asking pretty much every non-Gaudreau left winger to play the opposite side probably doesn’t make for a particularly good lineup. Very few of our bargain big suggestions were probably sure bets.

Then again, what are the expectations for this season? Does having Brouwer make them more likely to occur than putting things on hold for a year?

Buy out Dennis Wideman instead of Mason Raymond.

By buying out Raymond, the Flames saved $2.1 million on their cap this season. They don’t even particularly need to worry about replacing his spot, as various kids called up from the farm he was sent down to fulfilled that role easily last year.

However, if the Flames had retained Raymond and instead bought out Wideman, they would have saved $4 million in cap space. They would still need to replace him, though; and oh hey, look, there’s a shiny Nakladal here who probably isn’t going to cost much more than $1 million. If the Flames had done this, they would have upgraded their defence while still creating something like an additional $3 million in cap space: $900k more than they would have right now, which would at least cover the overage.

I would have trusted Raymond to have a bounce back season, especially under a new coach, more than I trust Wideman to do… well… anything other than shoot wide on the powerplay. Raymond also wouldn’t have been totally redundant on the roster. And if worst came to worst, at least he didn’t have a no movement clause.

What they can still do

Demote Brandon Bollig.

Bollig costs $1.25 million on the cap, which is a silly amount for a depreciating fourth liner and/or pressbox fodder. If he spends his season in Stockton, the Flames get an extra $925k in cap space. But they still need to replace him – and hey, Garnet Hathaway costs $690k, or Linden Vey is $700k, or if Freddie Hamilton is still alive he’d probably come in at a similar amount.

That’s only about $225k in savings, but at this point, every little bit counts. And besides, I think I’d trust any of those guys on the ice more than Bollig.

Make a trade.

I’m not talking about trading Wideman for a sixth round pick. That’s not going to happen. If it was going to happen it would have by now. Barring Wideman going nuts (in a good way, not in a possibly-concussed-cross-checking-officials way) this season, it’s hard to see any team genuinely wanting to take a flyer on him, at least without dumping a terrible contract in return.

(Besides, why would anyone trade for Wideman when Nakladal is out there for free?)

I’m talking about having to give up actual assets along with bad contracts. You know, like how the Flames were offering to do stuff like take on Cam Ward’s contract if the Hurricanes sent a first round pick the other way at the 2014 draft.

This seems less than ideal, because it’s mortgaging the future, which the Flames are finally just on the cusp of. But it does pose the question: what is a comfortable cap balance worth to you? Is an extra $5.25 million in cap space worth, say, Brandon Hickey and a third round pick? Getting rid of Bryan Bickell’s cap hit cost Teuvo Teravainen.

Because nobody’s going to take on a giant cap hit without getting something in return.

What about Smid and LTIR?

Assuming Ladislav Smid is not good to go for the start of the season, or ever again, really, then once their opening roster is announced – with him on it – the Flames can place him on the long-term injured reserve, and be allowed to exceed the cap by an additional $3.5 million for as long as he’s there.


Which is, you know. What we did last year. And he played 22 NHL games. So he wasn’t dead quite yet. And still isn’t. Because he’s skating. Which he was also doing at this time last year. And if Smid is medically cleared to play – which absolutely remains a possibility – then the Flames don’t have that $3.5 million to work with, because it’s all tied up in him. Short of the Flames hiring Tonya Harding, they may not be able to guarantee Smid staying on LTIR throughout the year.

So I’m not willing to write in an extra $3.5 million for the Flames in cap space. Not without knowing all the details. The Flames might not even know. And if he suddenly returns, they’d need to find a way to shed the extra salary they’d be carrying in his absence immediately – so it’s all very risky, at least from the outsider’s perspective.

  • Other Options

    Trade Engelland to a team needing a depth tough play against D option.
    Trade Bouma
    Or for that matter play ice bowling wiht bouma as the bowling ball and Wideman, Stajan, and Bolig the pins. So they all get injured and placed on Injured reserve lol.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Both are possible. I don’t see any reason to use him at the NHL level if healthy. He deserves a long awaited vacation in Stockton. He can retire if he doesn’t want to stays with the kids there.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I agree. I can’t see Trelliving gambling by signing Brouwer without having a very good idea of Smid’s status short and long term.

      Frankly, there’s still a lot the team can do including trading one of Calgay’s valuable assets (I’m not advocating this) to get compliant, assuming they will need to. For me demoting Bollig is a necessary step for the betterment of the team and saving a few dollars of cap space is just a bonus.

      Eating salary on Wideman, Stajan, or Engelland (in that order) to get 1 or more trades done, would be my first choice, but I expect that a trade deadline deal is more likely on on of the expiring contracts.

  • ronipedia

    “the Flames can place him on the long-term injured reserve, and be allowed to exceed the cap by an additional $3.5 million for as long as he’s there”

    This isn’t quite right. According to Cap Friendly (sorry General Fanager, no FAQ there) it would be (Smid’s cap hit) – (Flames cap room at start of season) = (additional cap hit available).

    So $3.5m – (CGY cap space). Based on CF, which appears to have the overage penalty factored in, (GF does not) our heroes have $7,964,100 in space. If they sign Johnny before the season starts, that goes down, I’m guessing to $464,100. Smid to LTIR would then garner $3,035,900.

    If they start the season with more than $3.5m in cap space, I believe that means Smid to LTIR gets them nothing. They can’t use it to sign Johnny.

    Here is the CF link if anyone is interested. The CBA appears to me to back this up. Thank you for watching this episode of ronipedia procrastinates at work.


    • I’m no capologist by any means but the way i interpret the cap rules for the CBA is the relief is only given if the Flames reach/exceed the cap ceiling and then Smid’d 3,5 is applied. I believe teams can be over the cap ceiling to start the season (i think 80M is the number i seen dreger tweet once) by a by a certain percentage without penalties as well. So it doesn’t make a difference if they sign Johnny and say Nak for a collective 8.5m cap hit before the season starts. What does that mean?
      It means then that either A. If the Flames are say 400K below after signings johnny then once the season officially starts whether smid is on LTIR or not they stay at 400k.
      B. if they sign johnny and say Nak and end up over the cap by 1,500,000 it’s actually okay also because you’re allowed to be over without penalty until the end of the first day of the season at which time SMID goes on LTIR. Then once the season starts and Smid goes on LTIR officially there is no overage penalties applied. The issue would be if SMID returns from LTIR say mid thru season and they’ve used up all that space with other injuries on Stockton boys. Then they could find themselves into cap overage penalties.

      Either scenario though still doesn’t change just how tight thigns are or how much that brouwer contract + the shitty “veteran” insulation overpayments have handcuffed us from really being able to make a move this FA and summer and going forward as well.

  • Lordmork

    This is a request that fills me with fear and loathing, but let’s imagine a nuclear option. Could someone at FN do a post about trade targets if the Flames had to trade Gaudreau? What teams have the talented young players, picks, and salary room to get Gaudreau, and what players might fill needs on the Flames and fit our salary cap?

  • jakethesnail

    Sigh! Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve! Well, it didn’t happen that way…so I will just wait and see what Tre has up his sleeve in the next few weeks…as long as he signs Johnny before the start of the season, I would be happy!

  • MontanaMan

    Do we really think that Tre didn’t consider all the possibilities before signing Brouwer? The business side of hockey is huge and I can’t believe the Flames got caught with their pants down on this one. The plan would involve signing JG, Nak and likely Hamilton and reducing their salary by one or two players. As I stated in an earlier thread, I have confidence that this will be rectified by game one. It better.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Perhaps there are a few side deals in the works for teams to add a Flames player. These teams are up against the cap and are waiting for the season to start to LTIR their player.

    Think one of Wideman, Stajan, Bouma or Engelland. As soon as they announce the trade… they announce the Gaudreau signing.

  • everton fc

    I could see them moving Bouma. He might be the easiest to move.

    Can’t see how we move the others. Bollig should be waived for Stockton. (And yes, Wideman for a 6th!)

  • thumz

    Seems like taking shots at wideman is the in vogue thing here. Sure, he had a rough season, he is losing a step, and is overpriced, but he is a year removed frim a 56 point season and was a warrior in the playoffs that year!

    I predict a small bounce back foe him this year. Not quite to earning his full cap hit, but enough to garner a 2nd or 3rd rounder at the deadline.

  • Bananaberg

    Funny to see that now people are starting to come around to the idea of buying out Wideman (instead of Raymond). It always was just a basic math problem.

    What’s more, Raymond would be better to have to “compete” for a roster spot on Wing, whereas we have absolutely no need to keep Wideman around to “compete” for a roster spot on D. We should have severed ties and let some young guys battle for an earned spot at #6.

    As a GM, you avoid buyouts like the plague unless you have to make major commitments to foundational long-term assets. Now we’re watching tension build up between our most talented player and management because they didn’t prioritize things.

    I mean, will NJ really not have taken Wideman if we tacked on a 5th round pick and retained half his salary for their 5th round pick? That’s an even easier solution than a 2-year buyout hit. There has to be some ridiculously low price. And he’ll waive his NTC if he knows he’s not wanted.

  • Just.Visiting

    How about a specific suggestion about what not to do given the current salary cap challenge…

    Do not under any circumstance bring back Kris Russell for a year. (For context, this is coming from someone who loves his determination and work ethic, doesn’t have major problems with his play and hopes he lands on his feet somewhere else.)

    Bring back Nak or let one of the young guys fight it out for the last spot to keep the $ down and so that the guys on the farm can see that we are willing to allow the AHL players to earn a spot.

    I have no sympathy for being up against the cap if choices are being made now that add to that problem. This is particularly the case if that decision makes it more difficult to cut a deal with JG.

    As regards JG, I cannot say this often enough… The Flames are ultimately in the entertainment business, and JG compares to the very best in the league using that as a comparable while delivering very good numbers.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    It’s gonna be interesting but Treleving has this team right up against the cap and no wiggle room if he signs Gaudreau.
    Didn’t this cap issue happen to Feaster a few years ago too. If I remember right he couldn’t even dress a full lineup due to how bad he had the cap screwed.
    Anyone confirm what happened back then?

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Calgary is gonna get some big money off their backs next season, but as for this year they look handcuffed by the cap . Next season I think they will try to solidify the goaltending long term because I don’t think Elliot is going to be the long term solution.

      • piscera.infada

        Based on what, exactly? The fact that he managed to take the Blues as far as they’ve been in the playoffs since he’s been there (the conference finals)?

        Let’s be honest here. The Blues bungled up the situation with Elliott the previous two seasons (Miller and Allen), and that sub-par ‘tending cost them the chance to move on.

        I like Bishop a lot. But it’s funny that on an article about the Flames’ cap troubles, with some people still claiming anything over $7 million for Gaudreau is an overpayment, there’s a belief that the Flames would still pay $6.5+ million for Bishop. He’s good, but the days of spending a large percentage of the cap-space on goaltending are closing. Team’s will always opt for much stronger depth amongst forwards and defense. You can win with solid, but not otherworldly goaltending.

  • stumblintrucker

    Could we not sign Nakladal to a two way contract, put him in Stockton and then have him come up when or if one of the bigger contracts gets moved? I know he probably wants a one way deal but I would assume he would have signed with someone else if offers were out there.