Things are going well lately for the Calgary Flames. They’re riding a seven-game winning streak and they keep finding ways to win. When things are going so well, it’s probably prudent to think about the future and how to keep things rolling.
The best way to keep positive things happening? Smart salary cap management.
The 10 leading scorers
Here is a quick glance at the Flames’ 10 leading scorers this season, along with the relevant contractual information.
The good news is most of their important pieces are (a) under 30 and (b) under contract for a while.
The next two summers
When this season ends, Mark Jankowski and Mikael Backlund have their contracts expire. Jankowski will be a restricted free agent (RFA) while Backlund becomes an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
Jankowski will have one pretty solid NHL season under his belt, but his relatively small track record probably keeps his raise minimal – Sam Bennett got bumped to $1.95 million when his entry-level deal expired and he had two full NHL seasons on his resume. Something in the vicinity of Micheal Ferland’s current $1.75 million cap hit, or slightly less, is probably realistic.
Backlund’s deal is definitely a bit more expensive, but arguably a bit easier to define because of his larger track record and number of comparables. We’ll obviously get into this in much greater detail later this season, but between the comparables and the lack of a lot of big-name centers in the UFA market it’s probable that Backlund ends up signing for around $6 million. While Backlund will be getting a decent raise from his current $3.575 million cap hit, the space freed up by Matt Stajan’s expiring $3.125 million deal and the cap likely moving from $75 million to around $80 million probably covers the raise and allows for some summer additions.
The summer of 2019 is going to be a bit dicier, as both Ferland ($1.75 million) and Tkachuk ($925,000) have expiring contracts and based on their track records they’re in line for pretty big raises. Tkachuk likely gets a raise in the vicinity of Michael Frolik, probably around $4.5 million, while Ferland is probably in line for a jump to somewhere around $3.5 million. But given that the Flames will still have a lot of veteran deals on the books, and they’ll need to find a new goaltender or renew Mike Smith that summer, cap space is going to be tight.
The blueline bunch
At the same time as some big forward pieces need renewing, the Flames have their five veteran defensemen signed through 2019-20 with decent cap hits: Mark Giordano ($6.75 million), Dougie Hamilton ($5.75 million), T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million), Travis Hamonic ($3.86 million) and Michael Stone ($3.5 million). At the same time, the organization has Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington in Stockton and potentially Adam Fox and Juuso Valimaki going pro next season, all of them pushing for NHL jobs. With that quartet and Brett Kulak looking like good value options with upward mobility, at some point moving an established defenseman to open up cap space probably becomes a viable option.
If you’ve been paying attention to Stockton, the obvious move would probably be trading Stone (a right shot) to open an NHL spot for Andersson (a right shot) – a move that would produce a $2.744 million cap savings at the NHL level through 2019-20. But going forward, it might become tempting to make a move with a left-shot defender to open up a job for Valimaki – let’s face it, it might involve Brodie – or another move to otherwise shuffle up the defensive group’s mojo a bit. I wouldn’t bet on them moving their captain or Hamonic, the most recent big acquisition, but I wouldn’t rule out every other possibility.
Sum it up
Do the Flames need to make a move on their blueline? No, not right now. They’re fine cap-wise and the most obvious move, the Stone for Andersson swap, would give them even more breathing room going forward. But in terms of facilitating moves in the summer of 2019 and going forward, don’t be surprised if they make some moves on their blueline.