Following the signing of restricted free agent Sam Bennett to a two-year contract, the heavy lifting is done for Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving… and just in time for training camp, too!
While there are always going to be murmurs about the various players that the Flames might add before the season opens – Jaromir Jagr and otherwise – at this point it’s probably useful to sit back and really appreciate the flexibility that Treliving’s built into his roster both for this season and looking ahead.
The 2017-18 Flames
Locked into spots, primarily by virtue of contracts, performance and waiver status, are (cap hits via NHL Numbers):
- Goaltenders Mike Smith ($4.25 million, 25% retained by Arizona) and Eddie Lack ($1.375 million, 50% retained by Carolina)
- Defensemen Mark Giordano ($6.75 million), Dougie Hamilton ($5.75 million), T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million), Travis Hamonic ($3.857 million) and Michael Stone ($3.5 million)
- Forwards Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75 million), Sean Monahan ($6.375 million), Troy Brouwer ($4.5 million), Michael Frolik ($4.3 million), Mikael Backlund ($3.575 million), Matt Stajan ($3.125 million), Sam Bennett ($1.95 million), Kris Versteeg ($1.75 million), Micheal Ferland ($1.75 million), Curtis Lazar ($950,000) and Matthew Tkachuk ($925,000)
The locks add up to about $66.082 million, plus the cap overage from last year’s performance bonuses ($600,000) and the three buyouts (Mason Raymond, Ryan Murphy and Lance Bouma; $1.817 million). All told, the commitments and locks are $68.56 million – leaving $6.44 million to fill three forward spots and two defensive spots.
The rub is this: basically everybody who would be in the running for the empty spots have really, really low cap hits. On the blueline there’s Brett Kulak ($650,000), Tyler Wotherspoon ($650,000), Matt Bartkowski ($612,500), Oliver Kylington ($730,833) and Rasmus Andersson ($755,833). Among forwards, aside from Mark Jankowski and Spencer Foo’s entry level cap hits ($925,000), there are cheaper bodies like Marek Hrivik ($650,000), Garnet Hathaway ($650,000), Luke Gazdic ($650,000) and Andrew Mangiapane ($705,000). The Flames could have their most expensive bubble players make the main roster and still have millions of dollars left for wiggle room.
(So yes, the Flames can probably afford Jagr, though they’d probably go bonus-heavy if they signed him just to maintain some mid-season wiggle room.)
The summer of 2018
Here’s how cap hits for contract extensions work in the NHL during an active season. A team can sign extensions for the following season and add cap space based on a specific formula: Current Cap Space plus the Cap Value of Expiring Contracts. The Flames are reportedly hard at work at an extension for Backlund, who’s one of five projected main roster players with expiring deals – also Stajan, Versteeg, Lack and Bartkowski – worth a combined $10.44 million. Thus, the Flames have ample wiggle room to sign Backlund to an extension. Heck, if you simply take Stajan’s expiring value ($3.125 million) and give some of it to Backlund the Flames probably still have wiggle room to add over the summer.
Every big piece is signed through 2018-19 except for Backlund, who they have the cap space to keep, and Lack, who they are probably hoping to replace with a younger, cheaper backup from within the organization (*cough* Jon Gillies or Tyler Parsons *cough*). With everybody important (except for Backlund) signed, the Flames have about $17.8 million in cap space (assuming a flat cap).
The summer of 2019
Following 2018-19, four key contracts expire which will probably lead to some decisions being made. Bennett, Tkachuk, Ferland and Smith will all need new deals – or new addresses.
But here’s the list of names signed until the end of 2019-20: Gaudreau, Monahan, Brouwer, Frolik, Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, Hamonic and Stone. Backlund will be on his new contract and there’s a chance that the Flames will have finally figured out their goaltending succession problem that’s persisted since the day Miikka Kiprusoff hung ’em up.
In other words…
The Flames have everyone signed for this season and have cap space remaining. They have more than enough money coming off the books after this season to have Backlund’s extension settled well before the season is over. And even though several key deals are up in two seasons, they have enough time and cap flexibility that they probably won’t be bumping up against the cap ceiling for a little while.