Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

How the NHL’s projected $73-$77 million salary cap for 2017-18 affects the Flames

While the salary cap was a thorn in the Flames’ side throughout the 2016-17 season, it likely will not be in 2017-18. And with reports that the cap could be anywhere from $73-$77 million, it could leave the Flames with that much more room to make use of.

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The Flames’ cap heading into 2017-18

The Flames currently have just over $51 million dedicated to their cap, the seventh lowest in the NHL (including the Vegas Golden Knights, who do not yet have a team assembled). This is with 13 players accounted for (plus the final year of Mason Raymond’s buyout), leaving the Flames with about $22-$26 million to fill out another 10 roster spots.

To recap, they are:

  • Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75 million)
  • Mark Giordano ($6.75 million)
  • Sean Monahan ($6.375 million)
  • Dougie Hamilton ($5.75 million)
  • T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million)
  • Troy Brouwer ($4.5 million)
  • Michael Frolik ($4.3 million)
  • Mikael Backlund ($3.575 million)
  • Matt Stajan ($3.125 million)
  • Lance Bouma ($2.2 million)
  • Mason Raymond’s buyout ($1.05 million)
  • Matthew Tkachuk ($925,000)
  • Matt Bartkowski ($612,500)
  • Freddie Hamilton ($612,500)

They still need to add five forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies.

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With multiple restricted free agents coming up, they should be able to add some of these players at a relatively cheap cost. Sam Bennett, Alex Chiasson, Micheal Ferland, and Curtis Lazar headline the forward RFA group, while Brett Kulak is the only truly notable RFA defenceman. Of those five players, only Bennett and Ferland should really get a notable bump in salary (perhaps about $5 million combined); Chiasson, Lazar, and Kulak’s salaries should be able to fit under $3 million when put together.

Re-signing those five players – and assuming they all get NHL spots – takes about $8 million off the Flames’ potential cap space, which would leave them with $14-$18 million to sign one forward, two defencemen, and two goalies.

This, of course, isn’t taking into account who Vegas claims in the expansion draft – it could range from $4.5 million (Brouwer) to say $1 million (Chiasson or Kulak) to totally inconsequential (i.e. Michael Stone is a pending UFA) – nor does it consider any other prospects who could make the team, all of whom carry cap hits under $1 million. The possibility of burying a player – say, Bouma – in the AHL would also save on some cap space if utilized.

Assuming the status quo, though, which is the best we can do at the moment, the Flames should have enough cap space to add a couple of significant pieces – say, a top four defenceman and a starting goalie – without hurting for space as they were this past season.

The Flames’ cap heading into the beyond

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Flames can go nuts with spending; they’ll still have their future cap to attend to, as well.

This season, the Flames are greatly helped by Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland’s contracts ending, giving them roughly $8.15 million more in space.

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Next season, they’ll be helped as Stajan and Bouma’s deals come off the books, giving them another $5.325 million to try to spend more efficiently. However, they’ll also be hurt as Backlund’s sweetheart $3.575 million cap hit expires, and he’ll get a much-deserved raise – perhaps one equivalent to Bouma’s current cap hit.

There will also be Tkachuk’s impending raise to consider, as his entry-level deal expires after the 2018-19 season, and if his rookie season is any indication, he’ll be trending more towards a Gaudreau or Monahan-style second contract than a Bennett one.

The point here being: the Flames need to be careful with how they approach this offseason, regardless of how much extra cap space they get to work with based on the NHLPA’s decision. We’ve seen just how badly throwing money around willy nilly at underperforming players hurts, and just when they were on the verge of getting out of all of their bad contracts, they signed another one in Brouwer.

Look at the cap hits of the two teams playing in the Stanley Cup Final. Both the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins have a fair chunk of change dedicated to their star players, and the rest of their rosters are filled out with relatively cheap deals. They aren’t teams with ineffective $10 million fourth lines; they’re teams that are able to swallow the occasional misfired contract here or there because they are extremely few in number, not that expensive to begin with, and they have capable depth on cheap deals to make up for it.

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For cheap deals the Flames have Tkachuk with two years left on his ELC, Freddie Hamilton, and Matt Bartkowski. There will probably be a couple more depending on RFA deals and prospect success, but that still does little to offset current problems.

Just because you can spend doesn’t mean you should. And if you’re going to, then be smart about it. There’s a very big difference between paying Monahan $6+ million and Brouwer $4.5 million: one is young and likely to contribute at a high level throughout the duration of his contract, and the other is not.

  • Backburner

    Flames are in pretty good shape, if Vegas takes either Bouma, Stajan or Brouwer even better. This is the first time in a long time I’ve seen Calgary in this good of a Cap situation. If Tre can sign his RFA’s to good deals, and extend Backlund, their should be more than enough to sign some good support players.

  • supra steve

    Probably best for the Flames if the cap is closer to $73 million, should reduce the competition for potential free agents. And if Vegas picks up any of Brouwer, Stajan, or Bouma (without incentive like a draft pick)…then god help them.

  • Parallex

    Yeah, echo the article. No more Brouwer deals.

    Go after Justin Williams and Cody Franson (who likely won’t require long term deals) instead of Shattenkirk and Oshie (who will). Oh, and do resign Kris Versteeg and try like mad to find the sucker at the table who thinks trading for Brouwer is a grand idea.

  • C Watson

    It would be very nice if Vegas could be convinced to take one of the Flames bad contracts bit it is not likely to happen. Vegas is in our division and McPhee will not be disposed to help Calgary unless it is one hell of a sweetheart deal.
    Two prospects to take Brouwer for example. Not probable.
    The other concern I have is Treliving falling into the black hole that is Free Agency again. The only marginal success he has had is Frolick. I say marginal because as much as I like Frolick he is still about 1M overpaid. All the other Treliving acquisitions in free agency have ranged from dismal to, at best, mostly failures

    • Kevin R

      Chances are we are going to have to dip into the Free Agent market for a goalie. I can see Mason being a doable option on a 2-3 year deal & let Gilles, Rittch & Parsons scrap it out for the backup in training camp. That’s if Tyre can’t make a big splash at the draft. I honestly see Vegas picking off Stajan, 1 year left & can easily fit as their 3rd line Centre. Vegas is going to need proven NHL players to ice their team & not a bunch of kids with a handful/partial season of NHL games under their belt. The only other one I can see getting picked off would be Chaisson. He’s more proven than Kulak or Lazar or any other kid we have on the farm.

      • deantheraven

        As much as I admire Matt Stajan and the job he’s done, his departure would make room for at least one of Lazar or Janko. It would be great to them both (and 1 or 2 defensive prospects on Opening Night.

    • Backburner

      Just saw the McPhee interview with TSN: he’s fully expecting to take any player for draft picks, he wants to build his team through the draft, not through the expansion draft. Can’t know for sure, but a very good chance Brouwer goes to Vegas.

      • Lucky 13

        I just saw that interview as well.
        McPhee is very astute and I believe he will be open to a lot of possibilities. Can you imagine how hectic it’s going to be for him in the next few weeks?

        I hope Tre can convince him to sign a player on our behalf (preferably a solid d man or top RW forward)
        Not sure what the cost will be but it may be worth future considerations and picks as he needs the picks to build for a competitive team moving forward.

        Can hardly wait to see how McPhee handles all this

        • Stu Cazz

          You feel McPhee is astute….IMO I have McPhee at the same level as Doug Risebrough for making what are perhaps the 2 worst trades in the history of the NHL…McPhee was the dunce that traded Johansson for Erat…enough said. lol!

        • Kevin R

          You wonder. What if Mcphee picks off the likes of Stajan or Chaisson, McPhee picks off Ranta among other decent goalies & makes a deal with Tre to flip Raanta to Calgary for Brouwer & our #16.
          Cant wait for the middle of June to arrive.

  • cjc

    I think the team would do well to leave a few million under the cap (whatever it ends up being) so that they can be a buyer at the deadline if they’re in solid playoff position. Caveat here is if they can somehow make a big trade for a top six forward.

  • Just.Visiting

    Just because we have an “allowance” doesn’t mean that we have to spend it. I continue to see the upcoming season as one to understand more fully what we have and where the gaps are to try to be a much more serious contender in the following year. I’d prefer to see a backup goalie from within, possibly two D spots filled from Kulak, Ras, Wotherspoon, Oliver, and Janko, Lazar, Hathaway, Hunter, Mange, Klimchuk, Lomberg, Poirier getting serious consideration for 2-3 spots up front. I agree totally with the concern about a $10MM fourth line, but believe that the best way to avoid repeating those types of mistakes is not to throw money around like crazy at the start of July. There will be a lot of PTO choices available in the summer that could fill in the gaps insofar as the kids aren’t ready.

    • everton fc

      I don’t mind this strategy. Look at our record after January last season. Looks at the rewards reaped by moving Ferland on the RW w/Gaudreau and Monahan. We are not far off here. Stay the course.

      Our obvious need is goaltending. I like Rittich as the backup, even Gillies. I like two of Parsons/Gillies/Rittich on the farm. I think we have three very good prospects here, but Rittich, to me, is most ready. And the backend, if Kulak is here when camp begins, and we re-sign Stone (5/6 option, unless he’s getting healthy)… And we have Andersson (Kylington needs another year in the “A”)… We can keep the cap issues at bay so we can prepare long-term.

      Our first and a prospect will get Brouwer off the books and into a Vegas jersey.

      • freethe flames

        Sorry but I can’t see trading a first rounder to get Brouwer of the books even in a down year for the draft. Personally I think it be a couple of prospects with waiver eligabilty so they can go up and down from the farm club. I can see using the first as part of deal to upgrade the d or the top 9.

        • deantheraven

          Yeah, McPhee’s got two teams to build. Maybe a brokered deal for a top 6 FWD or top 4 D, or even just a pack o’ picks. Still would be nice if he’d take an albaross with that…

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Pretty sure Tre values Brouwer a lot more than the fans. If not, why doesn’t he trade Brouwer to Dallas as Hitch clearly knew what buttons to press on Brouwer. In return the Flames get those two plugs who played net there last year. Three more years of Brouwer at $4M+ a pop versus one year for those goalies at $10M+. Last year of expiring contracts might make one or both of them highly motivated. Flames are not trading draft picks to rid themselves of Troy. If the experiment goes sideways, the team can bring one or both of Gilles and Rittich. Not saying that getting those two creampuffs is the best alternative, but it certainly is a tidy one.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Sounds like ALOT to give up to rid Flames of a guy with 1 bad year…what if he kills it in 2017-18? Maybe Flames trade 1st to get a high and low second then flip one of those and Non-APlus prospect to move Brouwer to Vegas via expansion. To me an APlus prospects are Kylington or Andersson, maybe Jankowski.

    • deantheraven

      Nicely put. So many guys that should be getting ice time on the big club. So many in fact, I gotta believe Tre’s gonna make a move or 2, before and between drafts. IMHO he doesn’t really need to go after anyone July 1. He ought to deal for some 2017 picks, stock the cupboard and play some of these prospects before he goes after a big ticket FWD or D. Let’s see where we’re at before Christmas. The Flames are not in ‘win now’ territory. It would be great if they could build on this year’s progress, and make the playoffs again. But… Let’s see if some of the names you mentioned can actually play before we start throwing money at players with history.
      Develop. Assess. Rebuild.

  • Garry T

    I would call Tampa who have a great team and really good depth on the farm. Gudreau for J Drouin and Braden Point plus their first or a 4D and a 2nd. Drouin and Point good for 50 plus goals easy. Move Point to right wing and with Monahan you have a terrific first line.
    collectively. Gudreau does not back check and he misses more chances in front of the net than I would care to count.

  • I don’t see Brouwer gone. Just think Vegas would be stupid to take him straight up and I can’t see the optics of giving more picks to offer another team to take someone you just signed last year as a prized free agent. I think he gives Brouwer another year to see what he can do before panicking.

    • Backburner

      Vegas will take anyone at this point for prospects picks. An expansion draft is a golden ticket to get rid of a bad contract.. you don’t think Tre will do anything he can to take Brouwer off the books? I’m not saying it will be there first round pick this year, but maybe a combination of picks/prospects over the next couple of drafts could make it happen.

  • Skylardog

    Vegas is not going to solve our cap issues. Not sure you could even give them a sweetener to take Bouma or Stajan. He may value Brouwer, but will likely leave him alone as he has to know Calgary doesn’t want him.

    McPhee has apparently said that they do not believe they can build their team depending on the 30 guys they pick up in the Expansion Draft. He has said that he believes many of them will be shipped out through trades before the trade deadline, because many will not clear waivers and he can’t keep 30 on his roster. He seems to want picks, and I assume, some good young prospects. I do think now that there are 3 guys he is interested in on the Flames.

    1. Kulak – He meets the good young prospect criteria. Flames may be considering a sweetener to have Vegas NOT take him. But is he good enough to pick up, when you could get a proven NHL defenseman? That brings us to…
    2. Stone – He is the one unprotected guy we have I think is young enough to give them a long term top 4 D-Man. He will be looking to solidify his place in the NHL, and when Vegas comes knocking on his door, I suspect he will be very interested at signing. I could see him getting 5 to 6 years for $4.0 mill. Flames are not making that offer.
    3. Versteeg – Another UFA that they may be taking a good look at locking down. Even with a healthy raise next season, he is still going to be a bargain. He played well last season, proved to be a great team player, and can play on the top 2 lines. He also had PP time on the point on the powerplay with great success. Vegas could lock him up at $ 3.0 to $4.0 mill for 4 years, and the Flames just are not going to offer that.

    For a long time I was throwing out the UFA’s as potential picks by Vegas, but the more I look at it, the more I am convinced that they are going to put in a core of solid UFA’s and then take prospects they can trade for draft picks, package up for top end players, or develop in their system. I think the Flames have protected their young guys, so a UFA Vegas will be taking from us. Stone, (or Elliott) makes sense to me. (but I think there are better choices out there than Elliott).

  • Puckhead

    One of the things that makes the expansion draft so interesting is that Vegas might pick a Flame with no intention of keeping him. They could turn around and trade him for picks, prospects, or another NHLer.

    Its Tre’s job to do some fishing to see what deals might be available. However, there’s an equally good chance that he doesn’t do a thing and let’s them pick who they want.

  • freethe flames

    One question to ponder in our search for more talent is who will be next years best bargain; there were many players who had good years around the NHL that were bargains like Eaves, Gagner and even Versteeg. Anyone have any idea as to who they think might be that kind of player next year?