Could the Flames move a blueliner to bankroll some contract extensions?

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.

Age Pts Cap Hit Expiry
Gaudreau 24 54 $6.750m 2021-22
Monahan 23 42 $6.375m 2022-23
Tkachuk 20 31 $0.925m 2018-19
Ferland 25 29 $1.750m 2018-19
Backlund 28 29 $3.575m 2017-18
Hamilton 24 22 $5.750m 2020-21
Giordano 34 21 $6.750m 2021-22
Brodie 27 19 $4.650m 2019-20
Bennett 21 17 $1.950m 2018-19
Jankowski 23 15 $0.925m 2017-18

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.

  • Stu Cazz

    Listening to Conroy on FAN 960 today I got the impression that they are happy with Mangiapane but it may be an opportunity to call up another young guy. He did mention how will Morgan Klimchuk has been playing…my bet Klimchuk will be one if the 3 call ups after tonight’s game in Stockton….

    • Mickey O

      There was a good phone in interview with the Sportsnet crew on Wednesday as well. Frolik didn’t need to have his jaw wired shut, and he’s been skating with Jagr.

      Treliving was impressed with Hathaway. There’s no way the team will risk him to waivers, so he’s as good as made the team going forward.

    • Mickey O

      Looking at the highlights on Stockton TV, it looks like Lomberg had a heck of a game. That was an amazing burst of speed to break up a 2 on 1. He’s relentless on the fore-check as well. You could do far worse than Ryan Lomberg as a cheap option on your 4th line.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Players like Mangi, Debrincat, and Keller have no business being on the fourth line. Now would be the time to try Mangi on the second line and see what he can do on the PP.

  • Greg

    I don’t get why everyone is jumping on this idea of trading Brodie… Gio will be tailing off in the next few years, and without Brodie in the picture, the gap between Gio and the, ahem, young guns on the left side D is huge. There’s a lot of promise in those prospects but no one that’s yet established themselves as sure thing. Meanwhile on the right side, Hamilton is going to be around for a loooong time, Anderson has already started pushing for an NHL role, there’s still prospects behind him (Fox), and you’d have whichever you didn’t trade of hamonic or Stone left as well.

    Brodie might fetch the most, but he’d leave the biggest hole. I’m not sure Hamonic would fetch much less (he’s still got a great contract) and leave a smaller hole.

    • Sensei

      I’m on record a number of times saying Brodie is more a liability than an asset. I like the guy but he’s not strong enough to handle guys in playoff hockey. At least Stone has a shot at scoring from the blueline and can lay a few guys out while doing it. If you want to succeed in the playoffs it won’t be with Brodie in the lineup.

    • freethe flames

      What then is Backlund worth? The general belief is he will sign for somewhere between $5 and $5.5m as that is what the comparibles are. The key is term and conditions. Even if the term is 5 years it can’t be tied down with a lot of conditions; he must be tradeable.
      The other thing BT has to consider is where is the most depth in this organiation both short term and long term and from my perspective it is on D, the LW and one could possibly argue LW. It is not at center and rw. The loss of Backlund as FA for nothing would be a much larger hole to fill than trading Brodie. At this moment we only have 1 center in the AHL that is ready and his track record suggests that he is a tweener and that is Hirvik; everyone else is an AHLer; period. While the future for Dube looks bright he still has a long road to hoe before he is ready and I would suggest once you get beyond him the gap grows significantly. We bemoan the lack of RW options in this organization all the time; it’s so bad that we have to have Brouwer playing on our second line; yikes.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        This is why Zack Smith’s name is being kicked around as a possible trade candidate for the Flames. He’s controllable for 3 years beyond the current year at $3.25M a pop. He’s big, can play physical and he is a Western boy. On the downside, he’s a year older than Backs and he is not as offensively blessed. He probably fits better as a third line centre than a second liner.

        One thing we know for sure about Backs is that if he re-signs with Cal, it will be a bad deal for the Flames either in bucks or term–hopefully not both. A potential deal with him looks–as others have said–like another bad Matt Stajan contract. Years 4 and 5 on Back’s contract could be plug ugly.

        Is it advisable to trade Backs before the deadline? Yes, but only if the club has fallen out of playoff contention or the return is solid.

        Unless Backs is determined to test his worth on the open market, he and the Flames seem destined to agree on a contract that the club will swallow hard on and the fans will deride and bemoan in a few years just as we do now over Stajan’s and Brouwer’s. Can’t see how the Flames can win on a Backlund extension.

      • Mickey O

        A couple of really good posts. Backlund on the open market has a 6M x 6 years contract written all over him. A close comparable would be Kyle Turris with what he got in Nashville. I don’t think Backlund has given any indication that he wants to move on, but Treliving is going to have to pony up. Another one of Treliving’s sayings is, “the term is the noose.”

        Pretty sure Backlund won’t accept a 4 year deal, so 5 years it will have to be from BT’s end. Then the dollar amount in the $5-5.5M range as mentioned. If Jankowski continues to progress then in a couple of years, you are paying your 3C in Backlund that kind of money. That isn’t ideal obviously, but it is still a contract that could be moved and that is a big part of the contract game in a salary cap era.

        The Flames are in a spot where they will hold their collective noses and pay the man. It is similar to the Giordano contract where you are likely not going to get your monies worth in the last couple of years of his deal, if Backlund is still with the team. That’s just the way it is.

        Even up to the trade deadline there is still 5 weeks left in the season. No team is really going to bail unless it is very clear they are out of it. The Flames have become thin on centre and Backlund’s agent will obviously be stressing that. His contract will be less than ideal from the Flames’ perspective, but again, that’s just the way it is.

        • Kevin R

          If you can get Backlund with 5’s in front of term & $$$ you do it. It’s an expensive 3rd line but he is also a capable 2nd line centre. Janko is a refreshing revelation but next year he may plateau. I hope not but it’s possible. I see value in Backlund for at least 2-3 years of a new contract, at which time you move him. There are always teams looking for 3rd line centre depth & cmon guys, 31-32 is not that old for pete’s sake.

          • rusty_shakleforde

            I was wondering if someone could help me out here: I really like backs and think he will get better as he gains more confidence/plays with better people, tho I do realize he’s kind of plateued. Yet it seems like most people aren’t really a fan of him or want to see him leave. Is it that he doesn’t produce enough points, or isn’t as good as he should be or something else?

            He’s been tasked with being a shut down C, but if his lack of scoring is the issue, perhaps him on a line with Bennett on his left and Chucky on his right would help with the points?

        • Off the wall

          I agree Mickey OYYC.
          Backlund has been a consistent centre for our squad five years running. Our lack of depth at centre doesn’t help Treliving when it comes time to negotiate his next contract. We need Backlund, there’s no way around it. It’s too early to start the, “ let’s trade Backlund” talk.

          Jankowski has come into his own right as a centre, I think we can all appreciate what he brings to the table. Bennett has been able to move to wing and it has relieved a lot of the pressure for him. Jankowski may usurp Backlund, but we also must remember this is his first (almost) full season.
          Not everyone is going to be a Tkachuk and seamlessly keep up the growth we expect from our new players.

          In two to three years we may be having a different conversation about this. As we will about other prospects graduating. It’s exciting times.

          Right now, we need to focus on our future and Backlund is an integral part of this.

  • Bawcos

    WPG – CGY Games just ended – winning streak is over – I don’t know what Goalie interference is anymore. nonetheless(They were outplayed), this Is the post I’ve been waiting for. We all know that next season there’s no cap problems… but what about the next season? Yes there are players that need raises, but also, make a spot for Fox/ Andersson/ Vilamaki/ Kylington/ Kulak. My concern is Fox. A possible 3rd RD steal with no contract and little compensation. Trading Stone at the draft and then buying out Brouwer in 2019 sends the right message to al their prospects