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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski

Flames’ cap situation heading towards the deadline is pretty complex

The Calgary Flames are among the best teams in the National Hockey League. As the Feb. 25 trade deadline looms, they’re undoubtedly considering ways to maximize this team’s performance down the stretch. But the salary cap – both this year and next – is a big constraint on what they can do.

Forwards

2018-19 2019-20
Gaudreau $6.750m $6.750m
Monahan $6.375m $6.375m
Neal $5.750m $5.750m
Backlund $5.375m $5.375m
Lindholm $4.850m $4.850m
Frolik $4.300m $4.300m
Ryan $3.125m $3.125m
Bennett $1.950m RFA
Jankowski $1.750m $1.750m
Czarnik $1.250m $1.250m
Tkachuk $0.925m RFA
Hathaway $0.850m UFA
Mangiapane $0.705m RFA

Defensemen

2018-19 2019-20
Giordano $6.750m $6.750m
Hanifin $4.950m $4.950m
Brodie $4.650m $4.650m
Hamonic $3.857m $3.857m
Stone $3.500m $3.500m
Prout $0.800m UFA
Valimaki $0.894m $0.894m
Andersson $0.756m $0.756m

Goalies

2018-19 2019-20
Smith $4.250m UFA
Rittich $0.800m RFA

A note on LTIR

The most common question we’ve gotten is some variation of “Hey pals, how come the Flames haven’t put Michael Stone on long-term injury reserve?” The short answer is because they haven’t needed the space, though it came close when Mikael Backlund got hurt and Mark Giordano was suspended and they had to swap players back and forth from Stockton to stay under the salary cap.

Teams tend to wait until they have basically zero cap space left before they put a player on LTIR, if only because the benefit of LTIR is defined as the difference of the player you’re putting on LTIR minus your existing cap space. (To maximize the cap relief from Stone’s $3.5 million AAV, it only makes sense to put him on LTIR when they run out of space… and they never quite did.)

The other issue with LTIR is when a player comes off LTIR, your team needs to be cap compliant. In other words: putting Stone onto LTIR and then bringing him back from it would require them to clear out whatever cap space they used when he was out, essentially negating most of the benefits.

This season’s cap outlook

The Flames don’t have a ton of cap space, but they have some flexibility as we get towards the end of the season. They’ve only been carrying 22 players rather than the 23-man limit for the last while, as any cap space a team doesn’t use each day is rolled forward. As a result, the Flames have around $1.14 million in cap space but can add around $5.3 million in cap hits on deadline day because of their accrued cap savings.

Next season’s outlook

The cap next season is projected to be around $83 million. Presuming that the signed NHL regulars all return (plus Troy Brouwer’s buyout), that amounts to a current cap commitment of $66.38 million and leaves around $16.62 million for six or seven roster spots.

  • Restricted free agents: Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, David Rittich, Curtis Lazar, Spencer Foo, Kerby Rychel, Brett Pollock, Ryan Lomberg, Alan Quine, Tyler Graovac, Josh Healey, Rinat Valiev and Mason McDonald
  • Unrestricted free agents: Garnet Hathaway, Dalton Prout, Mike Smith, Anthony Peluso, Marcus Hogstrom and Matt Taormina

Who’s definitely returning? Let’s pencil in Tkachuk at $8 million, Rittich at $3 million, Bennett at $2 million and a decent backup at $1 million. That leaves around $2.62 million to fill two forward spots – the ones currently held by Hathaway and Mangiapane. It’s doable, but it’s very tight.

Given all of this, don’t expect the Flames to add much (if any) salary for next season at the deadline without clearing out any of their own.

Tkachuk’s bonuses might make things tighter

Tkachuk’s in the last year of his entry-level deal and his contract carries with it $850,000 in what are known as “Schedule A” bonuses. Basically, if he hits certain thresholds for things like goals, assists, points, plus/minus and ice time, he can earn an additional $850,000 on top of his regular salary.

Because teams don’t know if players will hit their performance bonuses, the league allows teams to go over the cap by their bonuses. But whatever teams go over the cap by comes off next year’s cap – meaning that if the Flames spend to the cap and then have to pay Tkachuk’s bonuses, you could subtract the $850,000 from next year’s cap space. And given how tight things look to begin with, that could be a challenge for them.

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  • Skylardog

    For all those wondering about matching Tkachuk’s salary to Gaudreau’s % of cap hit, Johnny had a hit of 9.25% of the cap in the year he signed. Next season that would equate to $7.68 mill per season.

    However, while JG was a good player when he signed, his numbers were 64 in 80 in the signing year -2, and 78 in 79 in the season before he signed (year -1). He was not even a point a game player when he signed (darn close though)

    Matty was on pace for slightly less than JG in the signing -2 season, but is now tearing it up this season. At 54 in 47 games, he is on pace for 94 points today. He actually seems to be getting better each week, and will, barring slump or an injury may be pushing the 100 point mark by season end.

    What do you sign him for then?

    At 9.25% of $83 million, he is in line for at least $8.04 per season doing the math. The problem is, he may score 25% more points in his signing -1 year than Gaudreau did. What then? A home town discount?

    And remember, Gaudreau was good in his signing year, and is now elite. Tkachuk is entering elite territory with what he is doing. One could argue he is even better. He is doing what he is doing on the second line, not while playing with a Monahan.

    And what if he goes on a terror and pops in a bunch in the playoffs and wins a Conn Smyth? That scenario is not out of the realm of possibilities, especially if we get a winger that can help him put up more points than he already is.

    Right now if you could sign him for $8 for 8 years you do it, and run. The only break we have is that he is an RFA, and has some limits to the power he holds over the Flames. But watch out, offer sheets are coming, and our Chucky could very well get one.

    This may end up being a bonus at $8.0 a season. Right now, he is looking like well over $8.0 and likely above $9.0. He is better than Drysaddle.

  • BendingCorners

    Lots of good back and forth. I’m leaning towards doing very little at the TDL but bringing in one veteran with playoff experience to show support. It would be great to watch the Flames win the Cup this year but even if they only make it to the third round I would count that as a major success.

    • Skylardog

      It has been interesting that I have been pushing for a min of 3 players being brought in (depending on the health of Michael Stone), a goalie to swap with Smith, a 2nd line RW, and a defenseman with some size and ability. I would ideally like to see 2 top 6 forwards, either 2 RWs or a RW and a centre.

      I have always stopped short of using our 1st pick next season. That for me was a no go. But Pinder and Steinberg had a lengthy discussion on why using the first round pick on the right guy should be on the table. Their arguments were very good.

      First of all, it is not going to be a top 15 pick. Top 5 are almost certain NHLers, possibly impact players, but are definitely going to be NHLers. The next 5 are likely to be solid NHLers. The next 5 have a good chance, but could just as easily bomb. Realistically, we could pick anywhere from 16th to 31st, but 22 to late 20’s or even later is very possible. This is crap shoot range and quality. A player drafted in that range is unlikely to play for several years, if ever.

      Their second point is that the Flames are at this point relatively uninjured. The future could find us in a very different situation. It is rare to be this healthy at this point in the season.

      The third is that many of our core guys are having career years. It is rare that so many of the best guys on a team are “feeling it” all at the same time.

      The fourth is the cap difficulties that are coming. That starts next year.

      The last main point is that the Flames seem to have a leg up on competition in the West. To be 2nd in the NHL, and rolling is not easy. While it doesn’t guarantee playoff success, it is a very good omen as to what is possible.

      A first round pick will get you a Mark Stone or similar. They suggest that there are only 2-3 guys on the table that will command a first rounder as part of a deal. It is not needed to get the first 3 tasks on my wish list done (according to Pinder and Steinberg). A goalie is the least expensive on that list, a 2nd line RW, is not that costly either. Prospect(s) and a lower draft pick?

  • PasstheDube

    Realistically I don’t think they should do to much to this team.
    I’d like to see a veteran left hand defensemen in case Stone and Valimaki are out for a while yet. Looking at the guys who are pending UFA’s there’s not a lot there, but Sbisa could be a cheap option to fill that role.
    I’d like them to at least kick the tires on Chris Kreider. He has one more year on his contract which will make a tough cap situation tougher, but I think he’s just the right mix of size and skill this team needs. I imagine lots of teams are looking at him so the price will probably be high.