We’ve talked a lot about the Calgary Flames and the National Hockey League’s salary cap so far this season, and for good reason. According to our friends at Cap Friendly, the Flames have $8,266 of cap room remaining… for the entire season.
That’s not good news for the NHL club, but it does provide a bit of a silver lining for the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat.
Right now, the Flames have $72,991,734 tied up in 24 NHL bodies: 23 active (two goalies, eight defensemen and 13 forwards) and one on the injured reserve (Ladislav Smid). That leaves them $8,266 beneath the cap ceiling, which leaves them in a good position if they want to use the long-term injured reserve exemption on Ladislav Smid (you get more relief the closer you are to the cap ceiling) but in bad shape otherwise.
How bad? Here’s some context. Let’s suppose that a Flames forward has a short-term injury to the point where he can’t play and the Flames would like to bring up a forward as a replacement. For comparison’s sake, Mark Jankowski’s $925,000 NHL-level salary amounts to a $5,139 cap hit per day he’s up with the big club. If the Flames want to recall one of their top AHL players without using LTIR space, they basically burn off the entire remaining salary cap room for the entire season… in a single day. Yikes.
But if you look at it from the AHL perspective, that might be a good thing.
STABILITY ON THE FARM
The biggest challenge for an AHL club’s coaching staff is you’re never sure how long you’ll have your best players for. Ryan Huska has seemed to take everything in stride, but you have to figure that on some level his staff got tired of having their best players snatched away. Derek Grant? Up to the big club! Goalies? A wacky rotation all year long. Defensemen? Yo-yoing all year!
But this season, since the Flames have a full roster and absolutely zero wiggle room with the salary cap, it’s looking a lot like the Heat will have their team intact for much of the season – barring trades on the NHL level that open up cap space, injuries on the AHL level that take players out of the lineup, or the Flames swapping Brett Kulak (or a veteran who clears waivers) with an AHL body.
Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, Hunter Shinkaruk and Andrew Mangiapane are all scoring at (or above) a point-per-game pace through the first couple of Heat games. Even if the Flames felt an inkling of, “Hey, maybe we should bring a kid up to shake up the room and get some energy into the lineup,” they can’t. They don’t have the cap space. The chances that a hot rookie will get yanked out of their AHL comfort zone and tossed into the uncharted waters of the NHL are extremely low, which means the Heat players are left alone to focus on learning and winning at that level.
IN OTHER WORDS?
The Flames are absolutely hooped cap-wise. Even if they do enact the LTIR exemption for Smid, they’re still in rough shape and won’t have very much flexibility. But that means that Stockton’s hot start may continue unabated, as the odds of a player being recalled and ruining their chemistry are microscopic. The Flames simply cannot afford to recall anybody and blow what little cap space they have left.
Look at the NHL and AHL rosters. These are the lineups, for better or worse, that both squads are going to have to live with for the foreseeable future.