27Sam Bennett

NHL salary cap projected to go up next season; how does this affect the Flames?

The salary cap has been a bit of a headache for the Calgary Flames as of late. Thanks to numerous undesirable deals, they’ve been left at its mercy, even having to sign Nicklas Grossmann in order to be able to get as much out of it as they possibly could. (Remember when Grossmann was on this team? Time flies.)

The Flames are staring down a double barrel of good news, though. For one thing, their worst contract – Dennis Wideman’s – will be off the books in just a couple of months, as will Deryk Engelland’s overpay. That’s a little over $8 million freed, just like that.

For another thing, the salary cap is now being projected to go up next season: from the $73 million it’s currently at to $75.5 or $76 million.

The Flames should have even more space than anticipated to work with. Let’s recap what they’ve got right now, and what they’ll have to get over the offseason.

What they’ve got

Nine forwards:

  • Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75 million)
  • Sean Monahan ($6.375 million)
  • Troy Brouwer ($4.5 million)
  • Michael Frolik ($4.3 million)
  • Mikael Backlund ($3.75 million)
  • Matt Stajan ($3.125 million)
  • Lance Bouma ($2.2 million)
  • Matthew Tkachuk ($925,000)
  • Freddie Hamilton ($612,500)

Four defencemen:

  • Mark Giordano ($6.75 million)
  • Dougie Hamilton ($5.75 million)
  • T.J. Brodie ($4.6504 million)
  • Matt Bartkowski ($612,500)

And one buyout:

  • Mason Raymond ($1.05 million)

All together, that comes to just a little over $51 million, meaning the Flames should have about $24-$25 million to spend.

What they need

The Flames will still need to pick up five forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies.

Forwards

They have a number of internal options. Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, and Curtis Lazar are all guaranteed to be re-signed, while one would think both Kris Versteeg and Alex Chiasson would be able to come back, as well. Versteeg is the only future UFA of the group – everyone else is an upcoming RFA – and Versteeg has said publicly he’d like to be back.

This doesn’t leave much room to add a forward, but let’s keep things simple for now.

Bennett won’t be getting a big deal like Gaudreau and Monahan did coming out of their ELCs. He’ll most likely be signing a bridge deal; let’s benchmark that at $3.5 million. Let’s give Ferland Bouma money while we’re at it, because that would be a fair comparison for him to make – and he’s much more likely to actually live up to that contract, so he won’t be cut loose like Joe Colborne was.

Versteeg’s going to get a raise no matter where he signs, in all likelihood, so let’s just ballpark him at $2 million for now.

Chiasson is an established fourth liner who is actually being played as such at this point; keeping his $800,000 salary probably makes sense. Lazar is a wild card, but he’s not going to cost much at all given his recent production, so let’s put him at $800,000, too.

That’s five forwards all brought back at $9.3 million, leaving the Flames with roughly $15-$16 million to spend.

Defence and goaltending

The Flames are probably happy with Michael Stone’s play thus far, so let’s assume he’ll be back. His current cap hit is $2 million, thanks to the Arizona Coyotes retaining half of it. The ideal spot for him is probably as a bottom pairing guy, so they probably won’t want him at $4 million again; let’s give him Engelland money at $2.9 million.

Brett Kulak is an easy fill-in on the backend, and should come in at $1 million at most; let’s give him that. (Or Engelland, if you’re really feeling him coming back.)

Ideally, the Flames are able to bring in another top four defenceman somehow, and at this point, they have just under $11-$12 million left to spend on that and goaltending. Their current goaltending tandem comes in at $4.2 million. If they go all in on Brian Elliott and go with a cheap backup – or maybe even another internal option, like David Rittich – then they may be able to keep it at about that number, but probably closer to $5 million.

That would leave the Flames with $6-$7 million left to spend on a top four defenceman, with a bit of wiggle room to spare.

The expansion draft

Of course, this all ignores one key component heading into the summer: the Flames will be losing one of their players, and with him, his cap hit.

At this point, the most likely candidates to be snatched up are probably Brouwer, Stajan, or Bouma, so the Flames could find themselves with an extra $2.2-$4.5 million to work with. Of course, they’d have to acquire another forward, but they’ve have the cap to do that, too (and maybe even upgrade).

The future

The Flames should avoid bogging themselves down too much. They’ll likely be fine cap-wise for the 2017-18 season, but there will be years to play beyond that, and we know of at least one extremely important UFA the team will have to re-sign: Backlund. And he’ll probably cost more than his current $3.75 million; think something around $5 million. They’ll want to make sure they have space for him – plus for whoever else may need it that we can’t predict at this time. (Although, Raymond’s buyout coming off the books could go directly to Backlund’s next deal.)

This is all rough guesswork, of course. I have no idea what any of these players will re-sign for, or if all of them will be brought back at all. I have no idea of any future trades that could drastically alter the makeup of this team (who saw the Dougie Hamilton trade coming?). Roster makeup and what the Flames spend on it is rather volatile, and we really don’t have a clue what’s in store.

That said, this little increase in the cap certainly helps for next season – and it should leave the Flames with enough space to meaningfully upgrade their roster as they look to meaningfully turn the corner.

  • thymebalm

    Engelland is not overpaid. He might not have been up to that contract in year one but he’s been worth every penny this season. Maybe not a ‘steal’ but overpaid is ridiculous for what he’s given this club.

  • Locker Room Talk

    I like this, I’ve been trying to work out next year in my head and this definitely helps clarify the picture. For goaltending, if we go with Elliot I think I would prefer to bring back Johnson (he probably wouldn’t be more than he is now) rather than Rittich. Johnson is probably one of the best backups in the league, and if Ells performs inconsistently again it would probably be better to have a proven reliable guy to steady things rather than a rookie. Of course, Rittich could turn out to be great, maybe he’s the next Murray, but I’m not that much a gambler. Whatever the case, I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.

    • Avalain

      The goalie situation starts to get tight, however. I believe that Parsons will be moving up next year but where do we put him? In the ECHL with macdonald? I love Johnson. He signed my sons jersey at the practice on the weekend. He was throwing pucks out to all the kids. But I don’t know if we should keep both Gillies and Rittich in the minors next year.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Unless Bennett really turns it up, I dont see him getting $3.5m. Especially if it does end up a bridge deal. Id like to see that number closer to, or under $3m for 5-6 years. $2.2-2.6m for the 2-3 year bridge deal.

    The production just isnt there yet. haha…maybe thats why they put brouwer on his line? They are secretly trying to keep his numbers down so they can get him for cheap? 😉

  • CDB

    We should have resigned Colborne. Big Local has exploded for an astounding 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 52 games without Backlund carrying him and Hartley feeding him 1st pp and top 6 minutes.

    Who could have seen this coming…..

    Answer: Anyone who ever watched a game

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Are we forgetting Sam and Matthew’s performance bonuses? Aren’t those added onto next year’s cap? Could be around 3 – 3.5 million there no?

  • Atomic Clown

    Ideally, either Brouwer or Bouma get picked by Vegas. However, i have a feeling it will be Stajan. And i wouldn’t be surprised if he was wearing the a C on his jersey his first year with Vegas.

  • JumpJet

    Whoever we lose in the expansion draft it will open up a spot for Hathaway, Hamilton, Lazar, or Jankowski. I don’t think it’s crazy to think all of those guys could be NHL regulars next season, or at least replacement level. They also won’t cost much. As for goaltending, I think the Flames need to ditch one of their goalies at one level or another. They’ve got Gillies, McDonald, and McCollum signed for next season and potentially Parsons going pro. That’s enough goalies for the AHL and ECHL, which leaves Elliot, Johnson, and Rittich available for the NHL, assuming any of them get re-signed.

  • Zalapski

    Does anyone think that Brouwer will be left unprotected? I think he might be. Doesn’t he have an NTC after next season? Maybe the first two years of his contract are like that as protection for his poor performance?

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Brouwer has a NTC for the first two years of his contract. The second two are a limited NTC, in which he can specify 15 teams he would accept to be traded to. However, players with any form of NTC are free to be exposed. Players with a NMC, on the other hand, require protection.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    It’s hard for me to justify $2.9m for a bottom 3 defence man. $2M or less is where it should be at. Ideally, these positions should be held by younger players who can either move up the ranks as they improve or be traded when a new (cheaper) prospect is ready for the show. Big money should not be the tied up in the bottom 6.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    A team in rebuild should not be capped-out. It still surprises me when I look at the Flames roster and wonder where all the money went. Don’t get me wrong, their roster is decent and continually improving but they are nowhere near cap-out good.

  • Stu Cazz

    Ari…I think Ferland and Bennett can be signed for much less than you say. Ferland would jump at a 3 year term at $1.5 per. Bennett would sign a 1 year gap contract for less than $2M and perhaps a bit more if some term is added. As much as everyone likes Stajan he will be in his final year and a prime buy-out candidate. A nice transition for Jankowski to play next year and more money available as Backlund will be commanding significantly more once his contract is done.

    • flames2015

      Stajan’s not going to be bought be out. If he’s not taken by vegas, he will play out his contract. He still serves a purpose for this team, he’s a solid face off guy, strong on the pk and defensively responsible.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    Could FN please look at using another colour other than yellow? Red would show up better and would catch the eye. My eye seems to want to pass over yellow text as opposed to reading it. Thanks

  • Backburner

    It probably won’t happen, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Calgary make an offer to Shattenkirk. A young right shot D that would be a perfect fit for Brodie, and would take some of the heavy lifting from Gio and Hamilton.