There’s no cavalry coming: Calgary’s solutions have to be from within

We’re eight games into the 2016-17 Calgary Flames season and our local hockey club is almost at the .500 mark. They’ve played a couple really good games against really good teams (on the road even), and they managed to course correct without any outside stimulus.

That last part is important because, given their salary cap situation, it’s extremely unlikely that the Flames will be able to bring in any outside assistance via trade, recall or even waivers. There’s no cavalry that’s going to ride in and galvanize the team or shake things up. 

They’ll have to do it themselves.

WHERE THE CAP STANDS

As of this morning, the Flames sit just under the NHL’s $73 million salary cap (at an estimated $72,991,734). They have roughly $8,266 in cap space, which isn’t even enough for a decent used car, and which would be used up almost entirely by a single day of a moderately-priced AHL call-up.

For reference, daily calculations based on the current 180-day NHL season:

Player
NHL AAV
AAV per day
Mark Jankowski $925,000 $5,139
Emile Poirier $863,333 $4,796
Oliver Kylington $761,667 $4,231
Garnet Hathaway $690,000 $3,833
Tyler Wotherspoon $625,000 $3,472

That doesn’t give the club much wiggle room in the event that a player goes down with a short-term injury, as you can replace a player’s roster spot if he’s on the “regular” injured reserve but you only get cap relief if he’s on long-term injured reserve. “Regular” IR is for a week or more. LTIR is for months or longer.

HEALTHY SCRATCHES

Last season, I wrote a lot about how the Flames wasted a lot of cap space on players that were paid not to play. That said, they had the cap space to do so last season and were only pushed over the salary cap by virtue of a lot of performance bonuses from their young players. This year, with zero wiggle room, perhaps they’d be a bit less freewheeling with their money?

Through eight games: Nicklas Grossmann and Freddie Hamilton have sat each for six games, Brett Kulak has sat five times, Dennis Wideman has sat three times, and Jyrki Jokipakka and Matthew Tkachuk have been scratched twice each.

Grossmann, Hamilton and Kulak are all quite cheap, all making below $700,000. Jokipakka ($900,000) and Tkachuk ($925,000) are a bit more expensive, while Wideman makes $5.25 million. Everybody but Kulak and Tkachuk are waiver eligible. Kulak can go to and from the AHL willy nilly, while Tkachuk can only be sent back to the OHL (and if he’s sent down he can’t return until the London Knights’ season is over).

If you’re like me, you may ask yourself, “Hey, why don’t they just send Kulak or Tkachuk down if they’re not going to play every game? Couldn’t they bank some cap space and use them on some injury call-ups when they actually need them?”

The answer, my friends, is “yes, but…”

LTIR AND THE CAP CEILING

As we’ve discussed before, the best way to maximize the potential value of LTIR space is to max out your cap spending before you place a player on the LTIR. As such, the Flames’ signing of Grossmann was an effort to bridge a gap between the club and the cap ceiling (in anticipation of eventually enacting the LTIR on Ladislav Smid’s injury). To maximize the potential LTIR relief if they choose to enact it on Smid, they’ll need to replace anybody they send down with somebody of approximately equal cap value.

In essence, to maintain their space (and their future flexibility) they’d need to replace Tkachuk or Kulak with players making about the same amount, and that doesn’t rule out those players occasionally sitting either.

IN OTHER WORDS?

Don’t expect the Flames to make any significant moves. Emerson Etem on waivers? They can’t afford to add him. Jacob Trouba on the trade market? Unless it’s a cap hit for cap hit trade, they can’t do it. Somebody gets injured and they need to bring somebody up from the farm? Expect them to dip into the LTIR space if they need to go that route.

But if the Flames hit another rough patch, the solutions will have to come from within because these guys have absolutely no financial wiggle room to call in any cavalry from the outside.

  • ronipedia

    I wonder why they haven’t put Smid on LTIR yet. Since the local scribes haven’t seen fit to uncover what the actual injury is, beyond a neck injury of some kind, I also wonder if they’re worried the NHL will question the actual severity of the injury. Worried it will be seen as circumvention?

    • cjc

      Smid hasn’t been LTIR’d because they already have a full roster (Smid does not occupy one of those spaces).

      If Smid could play I think he would. No player wants their career to end at 30.

      They’ll have to wait until someone gets injured badly enough to go on IR. Then Smid can be moved to LTIR to make the cap space for a recall (or far less likely, a trade).

  • redwhiteblack

    The CAP leaves no wiggle room at the moment and likely for the remainder of the year.

    However numerous players are coming off the books before this time next year. The handcuffs are on now but management is hopefully pre planning on how to best spend wisely when CAP space is available.

    The plan should be on optimizing the roster for next year. Be nice to get a top 4 D and top six winger to round out the core.

    • Oilerchild77

      Totally agree. They need a top-4 D who isn’t named Wideman or Engelland, and a veteran winger to play in the top-6 in a bad way.

      Been there guys.

  • KACaribou

    I think you are probably right about this Ryan.

    Today however, I mostly wanted to compliment you on how prolific you are. I also like how you are able to lay down your opinion and then just leave it to the contributors to discuss. Very professional. When you do thorough work like this, it is much appreciated by readers.

    PS: Thanks to Captain Ron, OnDaWagon, and Ghost for defending my right to an opinion prior to my latest FN “incarceration.” I may get banned again for saying so, but I wanted to get that out before I am punted forever.

    Because there is no way to contact any of you privately, I apologize for doing so publicly.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          First of all no offence, but I don’t get it? If you have such bad experience here and don’t respect any of the writers, or what’s written, why do you keep coming back?

          I’ll speak for myself and no other reader, I’m really tired of all the complaining. Why don’t you give Matchsticksandgasoline or Flamesfrom80feet a try?

          Maybe you find those sites a better fit.

          • MontanaMan

            I can handle all opinions including those of KACaribou. I have noticed his comments from a year ago resonated more with me than they do now but I am good with him voicing his thoughts. What I’m not okay with is trolls polluting this site with nonsense. I have left FN for days at a time frustrated with trolls but never once left due to KACaribou. Each of us has our own tolerance levels.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Fair enough, but as I said I don’t understand why the constant complaining. If you don’t like it leave.

            BTW, I’m with you. It got really noisy here till the a Flames started winning.

          • Greatsave

            I believe there’s a word for that kind of behaviour. I think it’s “trolling”?

            More so than the complaining, it’s the belittling and patronizing that make me roll my eyes.

          • KACaribou

            Normally I just write about the Flames. I enjoy discussion on my favourite hockey team. Sue me, I live near Edmonton for crying out loud.

            The incident in question began with me simply defending the comment of a fellow contributor. It wasn’t, but it could have been, you. I wasn’t disrespectful either. But my views were attacked, and so I defended myself. Sorry, alpha male. Couldn’t help myself.

            In any case, you are probably right. I was re-instated by BaggedMilk after reviewing the blog in question but it isn’t likely to last long. I just wanted to thank a couple of people who did enjoy my comments.

  • everton fc

    We can only waive players and hope they get picked up, trade players, or work from within.

    Me thinks things will work from “within”. Meaning “status quo”

  • Newbietwo

    We lose primarily

    Wideman: $5.25 million
    Engelland: $2.9 million
    Smid: $3.5 million
    Elliot and Johnson: $4.2 million

    Grand Total of $16.85 million plus my anticipated Cap up to $74.5 cause of the Vegas add gives you roughly $18.3 million

    Additionally we don’t have Bennet, Versteeg, Grossman, Gillies, Shinkaruk, Joki, Ferland, or Chiason locked up

    Also we still have Raymond buyout and Bouma on his contract

    Now let’s say we extend Bennet long term for say $5.5 million over 6 to 8 idk just shooting.. We re sign Ferland for $2 million and extend Chiason for $1 million, same with Gillies and Shinkaruk and i believe we will retain Engelland but for $1.5 million.. Total of $12 million for these players

    That leaves us with roughly $6.3 million in free cap space folks and we will need a top four defenseman and a top line RW.. not to mention a goalie if we don’t re sign either Elliot or Johnson!!

    Now you would want to ask yourself which players will graduate from AHL and most likely only have Shinkaruk, Jankowski, Wotherspoon and Gillies

    If we say trade Bouma to a Toronto and eat half his salary that will clear some space but only by $1 million

    So to consider in order to balance the team out and get one of those top ask defenders or RW do we
    – Trade Backlund to clear Cap space as we have Jankowski coming up
    – Buyout or trade Stajan and eat some Salary

    Point is everyone keeps saying we have some much free cap space next year.. sure butttt not really

    • Kevin R

      You forgot about Versteeg $975K & Bolland 1.27mill so I am coming in at close to $18.0 mill
      The must signs are Bennett & Ferland & a goalie. That should leave us with lots for some inexpensive depth signings. We won’t be able to go UFA for that RW we want but I agree Backlund may be a good trade chip for one if Janko is ready to step in.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      You lost me with retaining Engelland. Even at a discount, it is time to let him go. Team needs to get younger at the backend, and it isn’t going to be at the expense of the top 3. Besides, I am pretty sure Engelland hopes that come 01 July, Las Vegas will tender him an offer.

    • Greatsave

      It would have been easier and more accurate if you had just looked up CapFriendly and used their number which is $22.437m, even with a $73m cap ceiling. Not nearly as dire as you wrongly made it sound.

    • McRib

      “That leaves us with roughly $6.3 million in free cap space folks and we will need a top four defenseman and a top line RW.. not to mention a goalie if we don’t re sign either Elliot or Johnson!!”

      I’ve followed Brett Kulak closely for years and judging by his early play this year as well, I have no reason to believe he can’t be a fourth defender next year, which means we can add a veteran third pairing defender on the cheap (much like Versteeg) and one or both of Kylington and Anderson can make it next year as well. Considering the Flames have only played Kulak twice his year, it makes me believe he won’t see 40 NHL GP this season to protect him from Vegas. Don’t look now, but Stockton is 3-0-1 to start the year, a couple of good drafting years will start paying big dividends for the Flames, don’t worry.

      • cjc

        Kulak will be expansion draft eligible regardless of whether he plays 40 games this year. He has >2 years pro experience, just like Poirier and Shinkaruk. If he plays 40 games, then he will count toward the veteran exposure requirement.

  • MontanaMan

    Change of pace, I’m wondering where all the naysayers to the Weber trade are these days. The ones I battled when the trade went down. The ones who said he’s not a top two defence man on any team and that he was done. Well, the season’s young but he’s exceeded all expectations in Montreal and is laading that team to an excellent start to the season. And very popular with the fans and in the dressing room. Unlike the player he was traded for.

    • Greatsave

      Extremely high PDO still a major factor and severely skews perception of his performance and value at this point. I wrote a comment a while back defending him against his detractors but even I think we should wait a while before we claim that victory.

    • Greatsave

      Speaking of extremely high PDO skewing perception, guess who is right behind Weber’s All-Situation PDO of 113.55? That’s right, Kris Russell at 112.89. (All numbers from Puckalytics, prior to tonight’s games.)

      Good luck keeping that up. Although to be fair, Russell did somehow manage an All-Situation PDO of 104.72 over 2014-15.

  • Kensington

    Well after all the bad contracts come off next year we will still have Stajans for one more year. I for one have never been much of a fan of him but this year so far he has been probably the most consistent Flame player. If he keeps playing the way he is we will be fine paying him for one more year IMO.

  • freethe flames

    Heat win 7-5. Prybil/Klimchuk each with 4 points, Shinkaruk/Mangiapane/Andersson with 2 points, Janko,Poirier, Hathaway, Smith, Lomberg all with a point and Gilles with the win. There may indeed be help down on the farm.

    Culkan is injured might that mean sending Kulak back down? Is it better for him to be part of the 3 ring 2 sit in the press box here with the Flames or better top pairing with the Heat?

    • cjc

      Reading the score summary on the Heat website, 3 goals off rebounds from Gillies. May have some work to do on rebound control?

      Looks like Klimchuk may be having a bounce back year. That’s great to see.

      They could swap out players, but the only one who could really go down is Kulak. Per Cap Friendly his hit is $656,667. The only players cheaper than that are Culkin (injured), Kanzig (ECHL), Wotherspoon or McCollum (G). Kulak is the best of those 3 D right now.

      Stockton is more likely to recall Kanzig or Falkovsky from Adirondack to deal with Culkin injury.

      Edit: Or they could send Tkachuk back to the OHL and swap in (likely) a forward, probably Shinkaruk.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    As this is the last time the Flames and Blues will go at it for a while, I want to give a shout out to Colton Parayko. I had never even heard of him before the World Cup, but he was an absolute standout for the kids’ team in that tournament. You could not not notice him whenever he was on the ice. He looked pretty solid in both games against the Flames. Sure hope the birddog on the Blues who recommended him to management got a generous bonus for this third round stud.

  • Backburner

    I think even if the Flames wanted to trade for Lindholm or Trouba for example, they probably wouldn’t be able to protect them in the expansion draft anyway.. so I don’t see the point this year.

    • Greatsave

      Three aspects to consider in those trades, as I see it:

      1. The ask for Lindholm or Trouba, or maybe Fowler if Anaheim wants to move him to make cap space for Lindholm.

      2. The cap situation of the teams involved. Both Ducks and Flames are at the cap ceiling. Winnipeg has almost $10m cap space.

      3. The expansion draft protection situation of the teams involved.

      To expand on the above, #1 is obviously affected by #2 and #3. Ducks have to protect Bieksa (NMC), plus they also have Vatanen, Fowler, Lindholm. That’s already 4D. They could very well lose Manson or Despres. I can’t see them taking back another D. Plus, as both teams are cap teams, there’d have to be equal amounts of salary moving either way, which defeats the purpose of a trade (i.e. to get Lindholm signed and playing for a team).

      The Jets have a lot of cap space but also have Byfuglien and Enstrom on NMC, as well as Myers and Trouba to protect. I doubt they want to take a D back either, even if it was a Wideman/Engelland type with an expiring contract, unless there be a high pick involved. And while they can absorb salary, the Flames will have to ship out upwards of $6m (probably closer to $5.5m; can’t see Trouba eclipsing Hamilton’s AAV). Obviously Wideman’s number is close, but again I think the Jets will want something on top if it’s Wideman; a high pick or an A-prospect, in the form of Andersson/Kylington. Would the Flames be comfortable with that?

      And finally, the Flames’ own expansion draft protection list. This might amount to blasphemy also, but one way around it is exposing Giordano and hoping that Vegas pass him over. $6.75m AAV for years from age 34 to 38? Miiiiight be enough to scare them off. I know they have to reach the cap floor, but maybe there’ll be just enough salary exposed elsewhere that they don’t reach for Giordano.

      So that’s where I think it stands: a Flames-Ducks trade is a non-starter, and a Flames-Jets trade would require a few things:

      1. Enough salary going to the Jets to free up room for Trouba’s contract. Think Wideman, Engelland, Stajan, Bouma.

      2. A prospect with enough upside or a high pick or picks to provide value for the Jets. Think Andersson/Kylington or first-rounders.

      3. Willingness to risk losing Giordano in the expansion draft.