Now that the expansion draft and entry draft have been completed, the final big piece of business for the 31 National Hockey League clubs is the opening of free agency on July 1. The Calgary Flames have arguably made their big offseason splashes already, adding Mike Smith and Travis Hamonic via trade. Can they make any other big moves? Do they have the roster spots or cap space to do so?
Let’s dive into the constraints facing the Flames as we approach July 1.
After all the moving and shaking of the past few weeks, here’s how the Flames’ roster looks in terms of players that look like locks (restricted free agents are noted):
- F Johnny Gaudreau
- F Sean Monahan
- F Micheal Ferland (RFA)
- F Matthew Tkachuk
- F Mikael Backlund
- F Michael Frolik
- F Sam Bennett (RFA)
- F Alex Chiasson (RFA)
- F Lance Bouma
- F Matt Stajan
- F Troy Brouwer
- F Curtis Lazar (RFA)
- D Dougie Hamilton
- D Mark Giordano
- D Travis Hamonic
- D T.J. Brodie
- G Mike Smith
I’ve got Lazar as a “lock” because he’s subject to waivers and it’s doubtful that management would send him to the AHL. I don’t have either of Matt Bartkowski or Freddie Hamilton as locks because both guys seem like they could easily be bumped to the AHL without much concern.
That leaves two forward spots, three defensive spots and a goalie spot open. But how much do the Flames have to spend?
The salary cap is $75 million for 2017-18. Right away, lob off $1.05 million as the last remnant of Mason Raymond’s buyout: the cap is now $73.95 million. Let’s see how it burns away.
- The eight forwards under contract make a combined $31.75 million.
- The four defensemen under contract make a combined $21.01 million.
- Mike Smith makes $4.25 million.
Combined, the 13 players under contract make approximately $57.01 million. That leaves $17.99 million for the four RFAs and the six remaining open roster spots. Now watch the RFAs burn away more cap space.
Let’s be nice and presume that Ferland and Bennett get “the Bouma deal” but take a minor pay cut and eat up $2 million each, Chiasson gets a bump up to $1.3 million and Lazar signs for $1 million – that’s $6.3 million combined for the four RFAs. That burns things down to just $11.69 million in cap space for the Flames to add two forwards, three defensemen and a backup goalie. It’s not impossible, but it leaves little wiggle room.
The Flames have 33 players under contract for 2017-18, as well as 11 pending RFAs – the Flames retain team control if they give them qualifying offers by Monday afternoon. The club also has six pending unrestricted free agents.
Needless to say, there will be some personnel changeover before next season. Deryk Engelland has already been claimed by Vegas, while Linden Vey and Ladislav Smid have reportedly accepted work in Europe. The changes probably aren’t finished, but the Flames have some contractual wiggle room under the 50 deal limit.
There are a few loose threads to the 2016-17 season which could play into the 2017 free agency season, particularly as it relates to three key pending free agents:
Kris Versteeg: A pending UFA, Versteeg expressed a desire to return to the team during postseason interviews. He probably won’t be too expensive, but he’ll likely get a decent raise from last fall’s bargain-basement $950,000 deal. He’s probably the UFA most likely to return.
Michael Stone: The Flames are probably still interested in Stone returning, especially since now it seems that would be as a third pairing guy. But would he be willing to take third pairing money to return, or will he opt to hit the open market and see what a right-shot defender can get?
Chad Johnson: The Coyotes acquired Antti Raanta over the weekend, and it seems that their goaltending is set with him and Louie Domingue. Will the Flames roll with an untested rookie as their backup? Or do they bring back Johnson, who seemed open to the possibility and was a good fit last year? (Does Johnson want to come back if it means he’s not the starter? Would he want to make backup money?)