The Flames have some cap flexibility, but many gaps to fill

We’re roughly halfway through the 2016-17 National Hockey League season. Given that players on one-year deals can now be officially re-signed by NHL clubs – meaning that tinkering for the impending expansion draft can begin in earnest – it’s probably a good time to take a look at where the Calgary Flames sit in regards to the salary cap.

To make a long story short: they have a ton of flexibility due to the big-money deals coming off the books, but they also have a lot of work to do and some decisions to make.

The Cap, This Year And Next

This season, the salary cap is $73 million. The early indications for next season are that the cap will be flat. Right now, the Flames are over the salary cap but are able to spend up to $76.49 million due to the exemption they get from Ladislav Smid being on the long-term injured reserve (or LTIR).

Based on NHL Numbers’ numbers, the Flames are presently sitting with $2.57 million in cap space to use between now and the end of the season. It’s not a ton, but it’s not nothing. In terms of performance bonuses to entry-level players – the thing that ate up $630,500 of this year’s cap space – my understanding is the LTIR-infused $76.49 million cap is the new ceiling and any spending (including bonuses) over that number comes off next year’s cap. 

With that in mind, there are six players who have spent time on the NHL roster who have bonuses on their deals: Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, Hunter Shinkaruk, Garnet Hathaway, Mark Jankowski and Brett Kulak. Expect Tkachuk and Bennett to get most of their bonuses, which could push the Flames’ cap spending up by over $3 million. It seems probable that they’ll get some amount shaved off of next season’s cap as a result.

Summer Space

Holy moly, the Flames have a lot of deals coming up for renewal (or abandonment) on July 1:

  • Unrestricted free agents: Kris Versteeg ($950,000), Brandon Bollig ($1.25 million, but $300,000 against the cap while buried in the AHL), Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million), Deryk Engelland ($2.917 million), Ladislav Smid ($3.5 million), Chad Johnson ($1.7 million) and Brian Elliott ($2.5 million)
  • Restricted free agents: Bennett ($925,000), Micheal Ferland ($825,000), Alex Chiasson ($800,000), Garnet Hathaway ($690,000), Jyrki Jokipakka ($900,000), Tyler Wotherspoon ($625,000), David Rittich ($925,000), Jon Gillies ($925,000), Kenney Morrison ($925,000), Linden Vey ($700,000), Ryan Culkin ($656,667) and Brett Kulak ($656,667)

The good news? That’s just over $18 million of space opening up, and presuming the Flames wrap up one of their goalies for a deal at around $4.5 million that leaves them with over $13.5 million to spend. That’s great!

The bad news? They need to figure out what’s happening with goaltending at both the NHL and AHL levels, they still lack proven wing depth beyond Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and once you remove Wideman and Engelland (and perhaps a third player via the expansion draft) they need to fill a lot of holes on their blueline.

Sum It Up

The Flames have oodles of big money deals coming off the books this summer, and the only internal pieces that will require decent raises are Bennett and whichever goalie they decide to re-sign. That said, they have their work cut out for them in terms of spending their remaining cap space to fill some holes on their blueline.

      • Sanintarious

        Giordano-Hamilton
        Brodie-Shattenkirk
        Kylington-Kulak

        Drool. Granted if Kylington is ready. Thou some team will likely give Shatt 6.5-7M x 6 years. Doubt Flames would go that high.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        I expect Las Vegas will be active in free agency this year for some key players like Shattenkirk, a top flight goalie and at least 1 proven top 6 forward. Could be an expensive year to pick up a quality UFA this year.

      • Backburner

        That would be worth it.. I feel like the top line RW needs addressing as well, but I think the smart move would be to focus on solidifying the top 4 D and add some size on the back end.

      • Parallex

        As nice a thought as that is Shattenkirk is gonna be heavily pursued and he isn’t a local boy (or even a west coast guy). Franson seems like a more prudent target, Not nearly as good as Shattenkirk but he’s more likely to sign here, to sign cheaper, and sign shorter. i mean by all means pursue Shattenkirk… but don’t wait on him and let other opportunities slip by.

        Given Gulutzan’s proclivities I could see a bottom pairing/7thD rotation of Jokipakka/Kulak & Andersson.

    • everton fc

      Of the UFA’s, sign;

      Versteeg, and one of Johnson or Elliott.

      Of the RFA’s, sign;

      Bennett, Ferland, maybe Chiasson, Hathaway, one of Wotherspoon/Jokipaaka, Rittich, Gillies, and Kulak.

      Let all others walk.

      Kylington may not be ready next season. Does anyone think Wotherspoon’s ready for 5/6 defender minutes every evening? Is he better than Jokipaaka?? I haven’t seen Wotherspoon live or on the tube yet – how has he fared thus far, albeit in limited duty??

    • Shattenkirk is a pipe dream. Rumors have said he wants to play somewhere out east, likely for the Rangers or another tri-state team. His hometown is in NY.

      My bet would be that he costs A LOT to keep out west.

      This summer is the time where Treliving really puts his stamp on the Flames roster, for better or worse. Do they outspend/outstupid other teams for mid-grade UFAs? Do they pick up someone quality at the deadline for picks/Wideman/whatever they can off?

      Many interesting choices to make now.

    • Baalzamon

      Shattenkirk would be ideal, but very very expensive.

      Fortunately, Franson is actually quite good. His underlying results are borderline excellent, though he’s definitely not utilized to the extent Shattenkirk is (he’s more of a third pair guy in Buffalo for some reason). The Flames would be very smart to target him, though. He’d be a good fit with Brodie or Giordano IMO.

      • Lucky 13

        I agree with you. Shattenkirk is probably going to sign in the $6M+range… maybe more. His talents will be sought after by many suitors.

        Franson is currently a $3M guy with good numbers. I could see this being a great fit for our D, while keeping our shopping list open for a RW.

          • everton fc

            A lot of old geezers on that list.

            The only guys I’d have even a remote interest in – and I mean remote – would be Berglund and Oshie, neither who we would want to break the bank on.

            A trade will get us a RW. That’s how I see it.

            (Speaking of RW who had a chance to resurrect their careers, amazing both Connelly and particularly Yakupov, have both been unable to do anything worthwhile, with their new teams. Connelly’s only 24. Seems like’s he’s been around forever, doing little. Yakupov’s destined for the KHL)

          • Lucky 13

            Perhaps you’re right, other than TJ Oshie , Berglund there isn’t a whole lot available that we don’t already have.

            Thanks for the link, my reality is up-to-date 🙂

    • PrairieStew

      I am hesitant to give big money to Shattenkirk; could be having some Wideman like regrets beyond 3 years.

      Offer twin deals to Johnson and Elliott of 3 years $9m. Expose one – if he’s not picked – trade one. Use Rittich or Gilles as $1m backup. $4m total for goaltending -same as this year

      Put $1.5 on the table for one year for either Engelland or Wideman to take as the RH 3rd pair. Switch Brodie back to the right side. Move either Wotherspoon or Jokipakka as the 7. Resign Kulak as the 6. Savings of about $6m.

      One year deal for Sam with no arb rights – about $2m. Resign Chiasson, Ferland and Hathaway for a total of $3m. Increase at forward – about $2m.

      Trade Stajan to a team that has cap space but lower budget – salary lower than cap hit next year – replace with Jankowski – savings of $2m.

    • deantheraven

      I say it’s time to get some of our Stockton depth moved up the chart.

      Regardless of where the team is at the deadline, let at least 1 of Wideman, Engelland, Kevin or Wotherspoon go. Wideman has to go and really he’s looked like a viable depth option for a team with a solid top 4(and of course he’ll waive his NMC if the buyer is out east and/or a contender)Should get rid of him regardless what the offers are, since he’ll go for nothing in July.

      If nobody bites on the other three, extend Engelland and make a deal with Vegas (he’d love to retire there) to protect the rest of our team from expansion. Then qualify the pending RFA’s. Surely one of Kevin, Spoon, Kulak, Kylington or Andersson can make the jump to bottom 3/top 4 next season.
      Lately Gulutzan has been pairing Giodano/Brodie and even Hamilton with the other three from time to time in an effort to keep the Top 3 on the ice as much as possible and it’s working, at least against the last few opponents.

      Don’t declare the rebuild over and try to buy an FA answer on defense. Save the money for a top 6 RW.Please.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Best advice is to not let Tre be within 5 metres of a communication device on 01 July if his Flames’ wallet is bursting with bucks. His limited track record on pricey FAs has not been stellar. Yeah, Frolik was a good signing, but I maintain he overpaid for him.

      By the way, the Flames’ best centre this season will become an UFA in 2018-19 and with Stajan being the only other pricey Flame whose contract expires at the same time, the Flames might want not want to blow their windfall this summer.

      • Parallex

        Bouma will expire as well (depending on how you define pricey… I think 2.2 for Bouma is pricey but in absolute terms it’s not). The trickier thing will be spacing out expiring contracts to accommodate the 2nd/3rd contracts for Bennett (who I think get’s bridged) and Tkachuck while hopefully keeping Backlund in the fold for another 3 years or so.

    • Brodano12

      https://www.capfriendly.com/armchair-gm/team/238829

      That’s a full team roster with only 1 spot at each position for a prospect (Shinkaruk/Janko/Poirier/Mangiapane/Klimchuk, Kulak/Tspoon and Rittich/Gillies).

      This includes bonuses, re-signing almost all our RFAs, retaining Versteeg @ 2.75 million for 2 years, Bennett @ 4 million for 6 years, Engelland @ 1.25 million for a year, Elliot (or Johnson) at 3.25 million for 3 years, and signing UFA Alzner @ 4.75 million for 6 years. Leaves us with 1.8 million cap space for this year’s bonus overages, but this is assuming there’s only a 1 million cap increase, when it’s actually projected to increase ~2-3 million.

      So to summarize, we can afford ~17-18 million between Bennett, a #4 dman, a top line RW, a goalie and bonus overages. Tight, but manageable.

      Even with MayRay’s buyout cap hit and Bouma and Stajan’s overpayments, we are in a good position. And once that 6.5 million is off the book in 2018, and is replaced by ~2 million worth of 4th line players, the extra >4.5 million can be used for Backlund’s raise and other signings.

      Until Brodie’s stellar contract is up in 3 years, our cap is in a great position going forward. BT has cleared up the clusterfuck that was left for him (that he also contributed to in his rookie year).

    • redwhiteblack

      It is exciting to think about the upgrade options to make the team better. Money to go shopping. FN should start a series on the options and the pros and cons of each. That would be fun.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Just a thought, but Thomas Vanek is a UFA at the end of the year. Hes on the older side, 32 next year, but still puts up decent points. Hes making $2.6 this year. While technically hes a LW, he actually shoots right, so no big deal to switch sides.

      Detroit looks to end their forever long playoff streak this year and will most likely be sellers. Could be good value in a deal there at maybe $1.5m. Versteeg 2.0..?

    • Brodano12

      https://www.capfriendly.com/armchair-gm/team/238829

      That’s a full team roster with only 1 spot at each position for a prospect (Shinkaruk/Janko/Poirier/Mangiapane/Klimchuk, Kulak/Tspoon and Rittich/Gillies).

      This includes bonuses, re-signing almost all our RFAs, retaining Versteeg @ 2.75 million for 2 years, Bennett @ 4 million for 6 years, Engelland @ 1.25 million for a year, Elliot (or Johnson) at 3.25 million for 3 years, and signing UFA Alzner @ 4.75 million for 6 years. Leaves us with 1.8 million cap space for this year’s bonus overages, but this is assuming there’s only a 1 million cap increase, when it’s actually projected to increase ~2-3 million.

      So to summarize, we can afford ~17-18 million between Bennett, a #4 dman, a top line RW, a goalie and bonus overages. Tight, but manageable.

      Even with MayRay’s buyout cap hit and Bouma and Stajan’s overpayments, we are in a good position. And once that 6.5 million is off the book in 2018, and is replaced by ~2 million worth of 4th line players, the extra >4.5 million can be used for Backlund’s raise and other signings.

      Until Brodie’s stellar contract is up in 3 years, our cap is in a great position going forward. BT has cleared up the clusterfuck that was left for him (that he also contributed to in his rookie year).

    • Newbietwo

      As I anticipate how this will play out I am not entirely convinced the flames won’t try to re sign Engelland as our 5/6 d man.. speaking of Defensemen I I think the Flames will get their man I just am not sure how and at what acquisition cost but I am confident they are fully aware they lack one top 4 defender

      Thing is we will have roughly $8 million available I believe after contracting out RFA’s and goalies and that includes Stajan in that equation.. I honestly believe the flames will try to trade Stajan even if they have to retain $1 million for picks because our farm player first rounder needs a slot to play in.

      So best case we have $10 million and we need to fill two major spots at $4-$5 million each. I still want us to go after Nisckunen or however you spell it from Dallas..

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Here is how I think it shakes out for Flames free agents:

        Goalie: Elliott gets better and gets $4M x 2 years but Johnson stays and gets $2M x 1 year.

        Defense: I honestly think Engelland will be back at $1.5M x 2 years but all of Wotherspoon, Wideman, Smid, and Jokipakka are gone, while Kulak and another 2 D prospects play in NHL or rotation of a 3-4 D prospects with waiver freedom play in NHL.

        Forwards: Versteeg signed at $2.4M x 2 years, Bennett at $2.1M x 2 years, Ferland + draft choice(s) are traded for a RW signed at $5M x 4 years (hoping Toffoli), Hathaway on 2-way at $0.750 x 2M, Chiasson at $0.850 x 1 year, and of course Bollig gone.