67Mike Smith
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Mike Smith’s Flames tenure likely ended by cap crunch

Mike Smith played his best hockey for the Calgary Flames in the 2019 playoffs, making 188 saves during the five-game series. However, cap-related challenges for the 2019-20 season will probably end Smith’s tenure with the team.

A mediocre season followed by a great playoff round

Smith turned 37 years old in March. He’s missed time due to injuries in each of the past four seasons, and he was outperformed this season to the point where David Rittich started just over half of the team’s games. Statistically, Smith was in the bottom quarter of the league’s regular goaltenders.

But hey, he was admittedly fantastic in the playoffs and potentially that could’ve swayed Flames management’s feelings about retaining him. Would that be possible? Well, not really.

A cap snapshot

The expectation is the salary cap will be roughly $83 million for 2019-20.

Player Cap Hit
F Gaudreau
F Monahan
F Neal
F Backlund
F Lindholm
F Frolik
F Ryan
F Jankowski
F Czarnik
D Giordano
D Hanifin
D Brodie
D Hamonic
D Stone
D Andersson
Brouwer buyout

Based on the players that are signed to one-ways or otherwise seem like locks – sorry Jon Gillies, you’re not included – the Flames have $65.388 million allocated to nine forwards and six defensemen. Beyond those 15 players, the Flames have four key restricted free agents: Matthew Tkachuk, David Rittich, Sam Bennett and Andrew Mangiapane (whose waiver exemption has expired).

If there’s cap space left over, then perhaps the Flames can look at unrestricted free agents Smith and Garnet Hathaway.

The folks at Evolving Wild build a model that projects skater contract values:

  • Tkachuk – $7.889 million for six seasons
  • Bennett – $2.424 million for two seasons
  • Mangiapane – $0.938 million for two seasons

Let’s also take a stab at estimating Rittich’s new deal in the ballpark of $3 million for three seasons.

All of these models and estimate leaves the Flames with a cap spend of $79.639 million for 12 forwards, six defensemen and a goalie. That leaves them with $3.361 million to fill four roster spots.

Even if…

Even if the Flames wanted to keep Smith and even if Smith was willing to take a pretty hefty pay cut from his current $5.667 million cap hit, they won’t know precisely what they can afford to give him until they’ve locked down Tkachuk, Bennett and Rittich. Or they’ll have to trade some players with existing cap hits to even give Smith a short-term, $2 million deal without completely negating their ability to do anything else.

Long story short: between his age, expected cap hit and the complete lack of cap space on the Flames’ side, Smith’s time in Calgary is probably done.

  • Flint

    I think Smith doesn’t even want to be here unless he’s the bonafide #1. I think he sees and knows that Rittich is the current plan going forward and I think he’s too proud to admit he’s not got it to be a #1 and he’ll look elsewhere. He won’t come back for little money and big bonuses because he doesn’t like how Peters handles him (and thus he won’t get those bonuses).

    I also think similar for Frolik. I think he’d love to be here, but he doesn’t like Peters. The Flames need changes and he’s unfortunately going to be one.

    I think Brodie is gone. Maybe for the best.

    Neal is a huge question mark. Tre is going to have to do some serious voodoo to get rid of him, but I’m sure after being scratched by Peters, Neal has no interest in playing in CGY. He was uncertain about coming to CGY, got convinced had a disaster season…. doesn’t get along with Peters…. it’s a disaster.

    • MiamiRedhawks

      Brodie being gone isn’t a bad thing. Teams rush him and has a high frequency to turn the puck over and that isn’t good on an aggressive team. Neal doesn’t fit the system here, not a bad player for another team, just a bad player here. Czar, prolly an ahl player elsewhere, in BP’s system he can play (sometimes) at the nhl level.

  • VK63

    The Tkachuk deal will be interesting. When i consider a player and his growth potential MT strikes me as a tough projection to make. As in, how close to his peak potential does his current play represent, or, how much more is there?
    His playoff performance (or lack thereof) gives the Flames some measure of leverage in price negotiation but do they have the stones to use it? One would think that his inherent playing style would be made for the playoffs but that belief has not manifested itself. How disconcerting is that when the kid is standing in the “i want a massive raise” line?

    Interesting times for the Treliving and the Flames.

    • Loud_voices

      I believe Tkachuk will sign for less than we all think he will. I mean, I thought Gaudreau would sign for easily 8 million but settled for 6.75… that’s a really good contract considering he has been more than a point per game player ever since. And if you weigh in the factor Gaudreau was more productive I think they will try and sign him for 6.5 because he’s not quite as good as Gaudreau in his first 3 seasons but he’s been slightly better than monahan during his first 3 seasons who’s getting 6.375 million. Not only that I think Tkachuk wants to win, and he likes the young team.

  • BigChefJeff

    Fantastic by Mike Smith standards, yes. He elevated his game to playoff level, but so did every other playoff goalie–those who didn’t also had early exits. He was great in games 1 and 4. Very good in game 2. He was just okay in games 3 and 5. He currently sits in 8th among playoff starters in SV%, 13th in GAA, and 7th in GSAA. So, yes, he was markedly better in the playoffs than in the regular season. He was also the second best goalie in the series and three great playoff games should not make us forget the atrocity that was his regular season. There is no reason a 38-year old Smith should be re-signed unless in absolute desperation. The goaltending in Calgary has been a question mark since Kipper. We’ve seen multiple GM’s swing and miss on the older bargain bin former-starters with Smith, Elliott, Lack, and Hiller, and gave up a number of draft picks to do so. It’s time to either ante up and fix the problem properly, or run with Rittich and Gillies. If it were me, my first phone calls would be to the teams with multiple good goalies who won’t be able to protect both come Seattle expansion draft. Thinking Holtby or Samsonov out of Washington, Raanta out of Arizona (if they want to keep Kuemper), Juuse Saros out of Nashville, Campbell out of LA, or take a run at Lehner in free agency. Not sure how many of those names will be available, if any. But worth a phone call. Please, no more old guys with our fingers crossed they can squeeze a little more life out of their almost-over careers.

  • 谢谢兄弟,我爱你

    I think TJ and Fro will be traded. If cap space requires it, Stone can be bought out of his last year as well. Tre can probably find the cap space for Smith if he wants. I pray to all the hockey Gords that he does NOT do that. There are options that are better than Smith. Rittich, obvs. Broissoit. Lehner. Mrazek. Heck, maybe even Bob if Tre moves TJ, Fro, and Stone for picks and prospects. And those are just the UFA’s.

    Smith was terrible for at least a season and a half. His “great” playoffs included a few bad goals, awful decision making while playing the puck, lots of flipping and flopping on his stomach, and I couldn’t even count the number of times I heard PbP guy say “Smith doesn’t know where the puck is” after the first shot hit him. An actually good goalie would have made more saves, is what I’m saying. Smith is big, and that’s all he is anymore.

    • Vernon30

      I was really hoping Mrazek would have been signed last year. Keep BSD, trade Gilles…play the new Russian guy and Parsons in the A. See what’s out there for a 1B.

  • Em Durp Em Hrudey

    Two contracts that are sickening are definitely Neal and Backlund (Stajan2.0). You can throw in Stone as well. Along with Brouwer and the endless goalie train I am beginning to scratch my head as to why BT is regarded as a great GM. Bargin prices on Monahan and Gaudreau…..wasted cap space on some major plugs.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Good point on Backlund. That was an ugly deal when it was signed and his play last week did nothing to sweeten it. I wonder how many are finally going to see that WW was dead bang on when he called out that contract from the start and has been hammering it ever since. Backlund was bloody awful against the Avs and if Mack wins the Conn Smyth, I am sure he will give a special shoutout to Backlund, “who without him, I could not have won this prestigious award.”

    • Flint

      How in the heck do you compare Backlund to Stajan? Fine, be critical of Backlund, fair enough, but Matt Stajan never once scored 20 goals in his career, only once more than 40 pts (41). He also only scored more than 10goals (14) once in 9 seasons in CGY,

      Backlund has more than 20 goals in 3 of the last 4 seasons, and 45pts or more all 4… with a 50 pt season. Backlund in the last 4 years is twice the player Stajan ever was. He’s also better defensively. Would you put Matt Stajan out against McDavid… Stajan couldn’t even get McDavid’s autograph.

      Come on…. (and I’m not even the biggest Backlund supporter, but that’s just an absurd comparison)

      • Em Durp Em Hrudey

        The Stajan comparison has more to do with the boat anchored overpaying contract. Your stats are proof enough. 5 + million for 5 more years for a player that can sometimes get ya 45 points and has been exposed that he may not be the defensive juggernaut we have been led to believe. I argued with WW. I defended Backlund multiple times…..but I was wrong. He stinks.

        • Flint

          Imagine James Neal didn’t have a disaster season. He has averaged 25.5 goals and 45pts the previous 4 seasons before coming to CGY. So, you’d have expected that from him, no? 25 goals and 45 pts….

          Well, he signed for 5,75mil for that.

          Backlund gives you that offensive production and is 10 times the player defensively. So you think that’s overpaying for his offense? Then what was a good Neal worth? 3 million? Yeah,…. right.

      • withachance

        This is a case of knee jerking and not knowing what you have until its gone. Imagine if management actually did what some people are suggesting and trade away Monahan and Backlund.

        Oh no players didnt perform for 4 games lets trade away the core of the team

          • withachance

            Honestly all of us here GMing a team would not turn out well, myself included. So many things to consider that fans dont get to see. Thats why they get paid the big bucks – Just got to trust the people that have collected the biggest talent pool of players this team has had since the 80s

          • Brian Burkee

            You know what’s funny. The oilers have more playoff wins in the last decade. What does that say about the flames. Lol ohhhhh were so awesome yet we have only 1 win in our last 10 playoff games. Yikes that’s embarrassing. I’d say equally as embarrassing as the oilers. Out of the 2nd round twice in 31 years?? Yup oilers have the flames beat on that too. Calgary flames organization hasn’t done f all in well over 30 years. Now going to be in cap hell like the oilers and the flames are without a starting goalie and a 38 yr old captain and a top 6 forward group that are all lady byng finalists (minus Tkachuk). Riiiiiiiiiigghhttt.

  • sRo

    I’d say Hathaway is WAY more of priority than Mangiapane. They hopefully will learn from these playoffs that small guys with skill will only get you so far. When the games get tough, the small guys all disappear without help physically from other guys (i.e. Gaudreau got no help from Monahan).

    • Loud_voices

      This statement doesn’t make sense considering our smaller players were just as affective as the bigger players….. Ryan, Magnipaine, Gaudreau were probably some of our best players during the series…. Yeah Gaudreau didn’t show up on the stat sheet but he was also doing a better job of back checking than 80% of the team which is very sad… Which is a big problem. In my opinion, Sam Bennett was our best skater but his physicality was only a small reason why… He was also skating hard, getting in on the forecheck, backchecking, and making good passes.

      • sRo

        Ok. Fill the team with players Mangiapane’s size, see how far we go. No one is arguing his compete level, but when the games get tough, and guys over 6 feet and north of 200 pounds start leaning on those smaller guys with no consequences or push back, well, we saw the results.

        • Loud_voices

          What we saw was the result of a team that refused to adjust…. Their size doesn’t come into the equation at all… The flames played their system game 1 and won because of it, in game 2 Avalanche made adjustments to how they were playing and started playing more aggressive and came out with the win. By game 3 Avalanche knew what they had to do as evidenced by the win. From then on, it was the whole flames team who just couldn’t find a way to adjust to the aggression. By the player interviews they all knew what they had to do and Peters set adjustments but they either didn’t buy in or cracked under the pressure. Gaudreau played 82 games and had 99 points.. how does his size factor in to that equation?… It doesn’t… He wouldn’t have those points if he wasn’t capable of adjusting to big guys trying to push him around. He wouldn’t even be in the NHL if that was the case. It’s up to Gaudreau as a player to adjust to the aggression.. he can’t be turning and running to another player to some how do his job for him and he will be the first person to tell you that…

    • Chopper #2

      You know what???? You are exactly right…..may be if we had even 1 first overall pick, but the Flames have never drafted first overall. How many have the Soilers had again?

  • Off the wall

    Mike Smith will not be re-signed for another season.

    We need stability on our goalie front. The players love Rittich. They will battle with him and for him.

    Smith played awesome in the playoffs. We can’t take that from him. But Treliving will be looking for other options. He knows it’s the area he didn’t address this season.

    He didn’t have a lot of options at the TDL. Now he’ll have some.
    There’s going to be a lot of GM’s looking for changes, especially after witnessing the playoffs thus far. Top seeded teams brought down quickly. That’ll induce rumbles and trading.

    Whether a team signs Smith, is anyone’s guess. But it won’t be Calgary.

    And yes Neal will be gone too.
    You don’t bench a guy in the playoffs and have him stick around. He will demand a trade and Treliving will eat some money to move him.

    Stay tuned…

  • Just.Visiting

    Mike Smith greatly exceeded my expectations in the playoffs. At a time when the team was short of warriors, he was certainly one of the players who was heavily invested personally in the games, so I give him an A+ for that.

    As much as his play and his compete level significantly exceeded my expectations, there was no point at which I truly ever had confidence that he could lead us deep into the playoffs. I was always waiting for the next demoralizing goal or the next major puck handling mistake that would cost the Flames at a time of the year when one weak goal can make the difference between moving on or losing a series. The constant flailing and dropping forward to the ice like a scorpion were also not sustainable over the longer term, and many of the saves seemed a bit over dramatic.

    In simple terms, we needed a Kipper like performance that, despite his huge compete level, Smith never could have provided physically over multiple series. While I can’t suggest that the result would have been different in this series, I would have gone with Rittich as the number one from the beginning of the series. I think it would have positioned the Flames better for a longer run, and I continue to believe that the team plays with much greater confidence in front of him.

    As regards bringing Smith back, I think it would be problematic. If anything, his playoff performance has potentially convinced Smith that he is still “the guy” who deserves to be paid like “the guy”. Unless and until Smith accepts that he is a back up at this stage of his career, I don’t see how bringing him back would be a good move for the team and where they need to go.

  • snotss

    see ya mike your time has come to be tossed on the has been goaltender pile with all the rest of bt poor goaltending solutions…….please bt no more stop gap goaltenders that never pan out…fix the problem you know you have….do it!!!!

  • Joel Ottos Jock

    Hopefully the Boston pizza kid doesnt try another bandaid solution in net. Mike Smith was never a good option. Yes he had 2 great playoff games, but when I t comes down to it, his tenure as a Flames member was definitely below average.

    • Loud_voices

      In Smith’s first year with the team he was amazing… Finished with a .916S% and a 2.65GAA in 55games…… that’s way better than below average…. And he got injured at the end of the season which derailed the whole team… He was below average this year because he was trying to get back in game shape for that injury. The last 15 or so starts for Smith tell a way different story than the first half. Also… The team played way more defensively in front of Rittich because he can’t move the puck like Smith. When Smith is out there the forwards aren’t as quick to get back compared to when Rittich is out there because they are waiting for the 100 foot pass. If you don’t believe me, just go back and watch the games..

      • Joel Ottos Jock

        Amazing? No dice. As a whole, bug picture, Smith was below average. Not up to par. I’ve watched the games. Smith is not athletic enough, doesnt have enough poise, and over plays everything causing him to be out of position which results in him having to make a 5alarm bell save when it should have been a routine save. Outside of his puck playing skills, he is garbage. Never been a fan.

        • Loud_voices

          Yeah that’s fine that you don’t like him but that doesn’t make it a true fact just because you believe something. I’m sorry but a garbage goaltender doesn’t have a career save% of 0.912 And it’s not like you only have a small sample size… the guy has played 576 games which puts him at 56th on the all time games played by a goaltender. and that’s also with being on a garbage Coyotes team for 6 years…. Fluery is an awesome goaltender and his career save% is 0.913.

          You are right that he over plays things sometimes but every goalie does that just in different ways.. Smith is 37 and he’s a little old school in his style. But to me he’s also alot more fun to watch than some of the newer style hybrid/positional goalies, yeah there’s an odd heart attack in there but I think it’s worth it. His play in the final bit of the season and in the playoffs speaks for itself… and his puck handling skills are second to none in the league right now. So many people don’t realize how many rushes and zones possessions he denies the opposing team…

  • Jobu

    Please Tre, don’t blow your cap on a goaltending flyer. Rittich has proven he can carry the team and will continue to grow his game and become a better starter. And it has become abundantly clear this playoffs that goaltending is the least of our concerns (though without Smith we probably would have looked much worse).

    Focus on getting a hard working, locker room, gritty guy that can score (Jobu knows… easier said than done).

    And Jobu agrees with others that a Brossoit or a Stolarz would be good as a backup option at a very affordable price.

    As far as expendables go? Brodie, Neal, Frolik, Jankowski are all worth putting out there at this point.
    Jobu would even throw in a Kylington, a Dube or a 1st round pick as a sweetener if it meant getting us a player under long term control that fits our real need as a middle-six high-speed scoring center.

  • Flint

    Having heard a bunch of the players say today in the media interviews that they feel like they played too conservative, they sat back and let the Avs come at them, I can’t help but wonder if they truly were confident in Smith…. even a bit subconsciously. Sure, Smith got a shutout in game 1, but did you trust him to repeat it? I didn’t. Then he plays great game two…. but they lose. Then he plays ok…. game 3. Then he’s lights out game 4 but it’s too late. And even when he’s making saves he’s a disaster technically…. all over the place…. never calm. And prior the media was saying that he’s the weak link…..

    He played 40 some odd games, and let down the team so many times.

    You gotta wonder if deep down inside they all truly believed he had it in him. Then it’s too late.

    Just a thought. You can’t just say “we’ve got the goalie to take us to the Stanley Cup”…. you can’t just believe it…. you gotta believe it with swagger.

    Just a theory, because the regular season Flames were rarely a sit back team. Why now if not for that reason?

  • Loud_voices

    I think Smith will be back if they can get him signed. There are alot of question marks surrounding his return, but I believe they can make a deal with him. So many people point at how bad he was during the regular season but forget to mention that he was coming off of an injury, and by the end of the regular season was back to being his regular solid self. I also believe Smith will take a discount to come back as long as he doesn’t have any better offers on contending teams.

  • 谢谢兄弟,我爱你

    Apparently Rittch was playing injured since Dec 31. That means his stellar first half of the season is what we should expect going forward. No need for Smith at all, unless it’s as a cheap back up. BSD all the way!

  • oilcanboyd

    Peters said that the Flames will be signing a D-man who could compete for a roster spot next season. And I thought that the D was the Flames strong point.

      • Beer League Coach

        You can be certain that the coach and GM communicate daily on what the team needs to improve and what players are expendable in order to acquire the players they need. The coach will definitely have a good idea of what is being discussed regarding trades and/or FA signings. You think bringing in Ryan as a FA from Carolina or the trade with Carolina that brought in Hanifin and Lindholm happened by accident?

  • Albertabeef

    Well if Smith’s time is through and we don’t have enough space to sign a proven elite goalie, then you should’ve added Gillies. He will be the backup next season whether you want him to be or not.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Good discussion. I now expect one of two things to happen regarding Flames goalies but both based on other moving parts. Either 1) Flames go after a not-old goalie to be #1 or 1a with Rittich like Mrazek or 2) Sign Smith at $2M. Both may depend on cutting costs on D (perhaps Brodie trade) or F (perhaps Frolik trade). Simple-ish….not really.

  • Stu Gotz

    Don’t sign Smith he is done. Gillies contract will turn into a one way deal next season so he will get a shot. Yes the ‘high glove side’ has been an issue but he had a strong finish in Stockton. I’m still leaning towards signing an established vet – UFA. Will be costly.

  • tyhee

    From a Canucks fan (so take it with a grain of salt) …

    While quite a few would keep Smith over Neal, Smith is much easier to dispose of. Letting him walk as a free agent doesn’t require taking on negative value in another contract nor giving up useful assets. When an offensively inclined forward in his thirties scores 19 points in the regular season followed by a dismal playoff and has four years to run at $5.75 million per, finding a general manager to take him off your hands without pain would be a stroke of good fortune.

    I’d say it is best to hope Neal builds up some value early next season and sell him high (“high” being a relative term which in this case means non-negative) but that doesn’t help the team’s cap situation immediately.

    Congrats on a great season.