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.
Bill Daly says the NHL's salary cap is projected to be $75.5M-$76M next season, but adds it will depend on inflator negotiations with NHLPA.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 8, 2017
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
- 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)
- 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.
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 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.