Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Flames face an off-season cap crunch

During his tenure as Calgary Flames general manager, Brad Treliving has gotten his heavy lifting done in the period from the annual NHL Draft to the opening of free agency. Big trades? Big signings? Opening up cap space? All dealt with during that period.

But the past few weeks have been relatively quiet for the Flames, which likely means that Treliving will need to deal with a looming cap crunch over the next few weeks.

Players under contract

The Flames made one significant addition since the season ended, signing Cam Talbot to a one year deal with a $2.75 million cap hit. Talbot joins a pretty lengthy list of established NHL players under contract for next season:

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  • F Johnny Gaudreau – $6.75 million
  • F Sean Monahan – $6.375 million
  • F James Neal – $5.75 million
  • F Mikael Backlund – $5.35 million
  • F Elias Lindholm – $4.85 million
  • F Michael Frolik – $4.3 million
  • F Derek Ryan – $3.125 million
  • F Mark Jankowski – $1.675 million
  • F Austin Czarnik – $1.25 million
  • D Mark Giordano – $6.75 million
  • D Noah Hanifin – $4.95 million
  • D TJ Brodie – $4.65 million
  • D Travis Hamonic – $3.86 million
  • D Michael Stone – $3.5 million
  • D Rasmus Andersson – $755,833
  • G Cam Talbot – $2.75 million
  • Troy Brouwer’s Buyout – $1.5 million

All these fixed costs add up to $68.14 million. That leaves the Flames with $13.36 million to cover the remaining roster spots, plus performance bonuses.

Filling in the gaps

The above section lists nine forwards, six defensemen and a goaltender. The Flames need to fill roster spots with five forwards, a defenseman and another goaltender.

Using Evolving Wild’s projections for restricted free agents, let’s fill in some gaps:

  • F Matthew Tkachuk for three years at $7 million
  • F Sam Bennett for three years at $2.4 million
  • F Andrew Mangiapane for two years at $900,000

And let’s presume that David Rittich gets a deal that pays him roughly as much as Talbot, or about $2.75 million. (Evolving Wild doesn’t have goaltender contracts because goalie deals are weird and aren’t easily modeled.)

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These assumptions eat up $13.05 million of the remaining $13.36 million cap space, leaving the Flames with $310,000… which would presumably be needed to cover the contracts of the likes of Juuso Valimaki ($894,166), Dillon Dube ($778,333) and Alan Quine ($735,000).

Factoring those deals in – which are the easiest and most likely deals to factor in to fill out the team’s 23-man roster – then the Flames are about $2.1 million in the hole before factoring in performance bonuses, injuries or in-season adjustments.

Possible solutions

The obvious solution is buying out Stone. Axing him would save the Flames $2.333 million for 2019-20. If the Flames have a player file for salary arbitration, and they will, they get access to the August buyout window. But buying out Stone would give the Flames about $230,000 of cap space – which wouldn’t be enough to cover likely performance bonuses – and they’d still need to replace him on the roster.

In short: buying out Stone would help, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Flames need to make further moves to be cap compliant by Oct. 1. Treliving is going to have a busy summer making the finances work.

  • freethe flames

    I have been saying for weeks that buying out Stone allows the Flames to come in just under the cap. The problem is that means we have a team that has stood still and maybe regressed while most of West has gotten better. Last year we had career years from a number of players and bounce back years from a few more but can we expect a repeat. Will Mangiapane, Dube, Bennett, and Janko show enough growth in their game to keep us competitive? Will Neal have a bounce back year? Can Ryan play a whole season the way he did the second half? Will BP look at some alternatives with the lineup; ie slotting Lindy as the second center and Backs as the third. These are all things that need to be considered if BT is not able to move some cap. The same issues in the line up remain and may have gotten worse with departure of Hathaway.
    Hopefully the Meier and Aho contracts help to define the Tkachuk deal. They need to get Rittich signed before arbitration b/c his case for a raise got better after signing Talbot; Bennett’s case at arbitration is less convincing than Rittich’s.

    Let’s also remember that clubs can be above the cap by 10% I believe during the off season but must be cap compliant to start the season.

    • Luter 1

      Your bang-on with your comments. Mangipane will be better no doubt, Dube has to be in the lineup and we lost the little sandpaper that we had with Hathaway. No room for Frolik and/or Brodie and their contracts on this team

    • everton fc

      I can see them trying to sign Tkachuk to a bridge deal. Buyout Stone. Move Czarnik. I think Ryan will duplicate last season – he’s the type of player who will play into his mid-30’s, and not hurt a team on the ice (his cap hit hurts, though). A perfect 4C, albeit too expensive.

      And I believe we’ll see them move Frolik and Brodie – if Stone’s bought-out, Valimaki/Kylington becomes the 5/6 pairing, with Davidson, or perhaps Valiev, as the #7. But, w/o Fantenberg, and w/o Stone, the 5/6/7 pairings are a dice-roll, sans Brodie. I agree w/one post that said Lomberg may be able to fill Hathaway’s shoes as an agitator. Lomberg can skate. He has NHL-wheels. He’ll draw penalties, and I don’t think he’ll be dumb enough to fight guys like Reeves, McQuaid, Johnston. I think Lomberg could be just what Kadri needs! ;).

      With Monahan/Backlund/Jankowski/Ryan/Dube… Maybe Lindholm… We are deep, down the middle. Could Dube push Jankowski out? I think we see some interesting young lines – Mangiapane-Jankowski-Dube, might be one. Stuff like that is somewhat exciting, to this fan. We are getting younger, even if it doesn’t look that way.

      I think we have opportunities to create cap space, and bring in someone like Ferland (yes, Ferland, whom one poster yesterday said was in Calgary this week). Ferland can skate – he can keep up w/Gaudreau. Maybe Gaudreau-Lindholm-Ferland could become a line? Or maybe Dube gets some time with Gaudreau?? But having Tkachuk and Monahan on the same line, when both are getting a little heat from Conroy about their skating… We need to find some speed, on RW. A lot of ground to cover this summer, for BT. He simply needs to avoid the UFA market, because this is not his strength. He has done far better, in the trade-space…

      • LannyMac

        So explain to us how we get RW help with no money to spend. Love Ferland but one more nasty concussion away from retirement. In fact I’m guessing Dr.s are urging him to walk away now. If it is the case hope the kid walks away with some good cash and enjoys his life.

        • everton fc

          We have money to spend, if;

          1. We buyout Stone
          2. Move Brodie
          3. Move Frolik
          4. Move Czarnik
          5. Move Gillies

          Ferland’s consistently played 70+ games since 2015-16.

    • Bawcos

      “maybe regressed while most of West has gotten better.” Okay you have made reasonable points. But I would take exception to the “maybe regressed while most of West has gotten better.” comment. First off there’s little to no regression, as of yet, for the Flames (losing a 4th liner is not a big deal). Secondly and most prominent, most of the West did not get better. Nashville got better. Dallas got a little better. The Avs got forward depth while sacrificing their best D-man as part of the worst trade this season (I don’t think any GM will do worse than the Barrie trade). But Vegas got a little worse. SJ is getting thinned out. EDM/ ANA/ ARZ haven’t really improved. Vancouver signed Myers but that still isn’t enough (yet). WPG just lost Trouba and Myers and I don’t think anyone knows right now what Stan Bowman is doing in Chi-Town. So no. Most teams in the West did not get better. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

    • LannyMac

      Thunder my god, so Gardiner did not get picked up. He is rated as a better dman than Brodie and he is as useless in his own end as is Brodie. There doesn’t seem to be an appetite for Gardiner even with the ability to acquire him without loosing assets. I’m also guessing at this point the length of the contract and AAV are not what he hoped for or he would have signed by now. So back to Brodie please tell me how many teams need a RD and have 4.6 to spend. Here is the caveat Brodie is a 3rd pairing Dman (any argument that states otherwise is ignoring his play of the last 3 yrs) that adds no physicality is unreliable and makes 4.6 as 5-6 dman. I swear if Tre gets a draft pick higher then a fifth I will eat my words. I’m guessing he will need to offer a pick. Frolik is a very similar situation. There is no money out there for middling to low level talent out there for players like these two that add very little to the teams they go to.

  • Theo 2.0

    So the plan is take a run at the cup with two goalies making under $3 million? Talbot said in his interview that he was told by Brad Treliving he would be splitting games with Ritter. Is that the GM’s call or is it not the coaches call? So Talbot has now earned half the games ???? Is brad just ignoring the fact that Talbot has given up 31 goals on the first shot of the game in the last 2 years!

    In Brad we trust…. 🤦‍♂️ 🤥🥴

    • CalgaryBornandRaised

      In fairness to Talbot, he was playing behind an AHL calibre defense in Edmonton, hard to keep the puck out of your own net when shooters are given every opportunity to score

      • Theo 2.0

        I guess you never watched most of the goals against Talbot. His biggest flaw was letting in softies from the outside. That’s not really on the defence. The flames don’t need to be letting in first soft goals on a consistent basis.

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    Oh the doom and gloom on this site. LOL!!!!

    First of all, the off-season has barely begun. Lots could happen between now and October.

    Even more can happen between now and the post season, and we were the second best team in the league during that time last year.

    I agree we have to fix the intensity and grit factors before the playoffs but that is well over 6 months away from now. Because it didn’t get fixed on day 1 does not mean it won’t.

    Also, everyone focuses on Talbot’s poor seasons while forgetting that he took the oilers fairly deep into the playoffs .

    How about we just let things unfold and see where we end up?

    • freethe flames

      It’s not one day; it is all the time since they got whipped in the playoffs. 1 day is the symptom of what is wrong. Could things change if BT can make a trade or two and create some camp space. Imagine if he move TJ and Frolik and creates the cap space to add Dzingle or Ferland (both but I doubt it) then the sun will rise for many on this site. But at the moment there is little to happy about. When the best thing you can say about the moves so far is;”at least he didn’t sign any bad contracts for long term” it is not that hopeful.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        But he did sign two ex-Oilers.

        Ever wonder why Calgary Stampeder free agents are so sought after by the other clubs? Talent plays a part obviously, but that they were part of a club that oozes professionalism and has a strong winning culture can’t be overlooked. In comparison, free agents from the Als and Argos are not usually at the top of any other team’s want lists.

        Sign free agents from the Oilers and trade for players from the Coyotes and Sens at your peril. Lesson to be learned the hard way.

    • Luter 1

      Can you fix that intensity and grit factor with the present personnel? Thats the problem and the reason a lot of people think Brodie/Frolik (not as gritty as people make him out to be)/ Neal for starters – need to go. Bigger moves would be a guy like Hanifin who brings very little for a big man and then a monster move would be Mony – who seems to be losing value every year as he becomes very one dimensional (great hands).
      Someone has to go for others to come in.

      • LannyMac

        Love people who make comments like “Neal has to go” without telling us how we do that. Probably a 1st and 2nd to the team that takes him so is that what you are willing to give up. Or yes a Lucic for him either way is that good for you cause that is the only way you are getting rid of a free loader like that. Better hope he shows up this yr.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Your thinking is what led to the pitiful playoff exit in April. Many of us said go with the guys that brung you when the playoffs began and Tre listened. Sadly, our bright beaus turned out to be spring busts and as we serenaded our bums off the ice at the end of Game 5 with boos, the chant of “fix it” could also be distinctly heard. So far, Tre hasn’t fixed it–not even close. Some might argue things are worse today than when the team lost their last game more than 2 months ago as the departure of Hathaway and the addition of Talbot have done nothing to better the club. I don’t think Tre can use Chucky’s impending big deal to justify his do nothingness as Dubas, who was arguably in a tighter spot than Tre, has been extremely active in shuffling personnel while balancing bucks. Does anybody else get the same feeling that this summer might play out like September a couple of years ago when the Flames great hope was to sign 97-year-old Jaromir Jagr and that was touted by Tre and management as a positive? Still lots of summer left for Tre to put on a glitzy magic show, so all hope is not yet lost.

      • buts

        BMN you hit the nail on the head. BT said he needed time after our exit to access and that he besically needed to calm down. Convoy said on the radio that JG had no one to dish too because his linemates weren’t fast enough and the Monahan and Tkachuk had to work on there skating. We have depth to deal from our defence and your right that Dubas was in a tighter cap crunch yet made made significant moves to free up space for Marner. BT has done nothing but overpay for a goalie he “hopes” has a bounce back year. I said it before and I’ll say it again this off season will define BT and it don’t look good.

  • freethe flames

    Trying to see a landing spot in a trade for either TJ or Frolik. There are three teams that have to make the floor but both will as soon as they sign there own RFA’s those being the Jets and the Av’s. That leaves the Sens. Both of these players would fit their immediate needs and also allow them to flip them at the TDL and Ottawa has plenty of picks. It would not surprise me to see one of them go there.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Dubas is kicking Tre’s tail in the battle of GMs under the cap crunch, and unless another club throws an offer sheet at Marner, Dubas looks like he might do what so many said he couldn’t do. Of course, we won’t know if his moves will make the Leafs better until the games begin, but as much as I dislike the Leafs, Dubas has been showing us that a GM under the cap gun can still swim like a shark rather than flop on the beach sucking for air.

    • withachance

      I wouldnt say that at all. Dubas is just kicking the can down the street. Leafs have only Reilly as a dman under contract next season.

      He lost the deal long term and Leafs are going to have big cap issues next year – Sakic got an underpaid center for an expiring dman.

  • _vntony

    I know that many of us were expecting a trade to be done at the draft and before the free agency. But I’m genuinely curious about the market for guys like Frolik and Brodie now.
    The Leafs were a great option but then Kadri nixed the deal, other teams like Van overhauled their entire defence corp, and frankly some many teams are cap strapped and cap space seems like the ultimate commodity now.

    Where is the market for these guys without overpaying on our end to ship them out?

  • freethe flames

    Is there a hockey trade to be made for TJ? Someone yesterday suggested a trade with the NYR for Kreider as the two players cap hits are identical. The problem with this trade is how the NYR have acted this offseason; by adding Trouba and Panarin I think they have announced that the rebuild is over and they plan to compete. Kreider with the group of forwards thay have make them highly competitive.

  • Rockmorton65

    I’m curious to find out what Tre is thinking. Everyone’s been talking about trading TJ and Frolik for picks. Bob MacKenzie recently reported there was a trade of Brodie for Kadri that fell apart at the very last minute. That’s almost even money. I’m curious to see how this plays out.

    I don’t get all of this sudden venom flying Tre’s way. The attempted Kadri deal tells me that he is actively trying to improve the team, not just dumping a bunch of salary and calling it a day – going into next year with essentially the same lineup. The fact that people on this board don’t know what he’s trying to do seems to be pissing a lot of people off.

  • Baalzamon

    Don’t be so quick to applaud Toronto’s cap management. They now have two additional RFAs to sign in Ceci and Kerfoot. Ordinarily I’d suggest they just let Ceci walk (reputation will make him somewhat expensive, but he’s also terrible) but he has arbitration rights and will certainly file. As for Kerfoot, he’s young(ish) and coming off consecutive 40+ point seasons. Zuccarello just got 6 per, and Donskoi (who scores less than Kerfoot does) got 3.9. That means Kerfoot likely comes in at at least 4 million.

    They appear at a casual glance to have cleared a lot of salary, but in reality they just spun their tires.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Unless a club drafts amazingly well and their babies mature at about the same time, every club that is in it to win will have ongoing cap problems. Hell, even the sad sack Oilers who haven’t won in almost 30 years ave major cap problems.

    • HarveysFleaCollar

      Saying Ceci is terrible is ridiculous! He is a solid number 4 dman. He was thrown to the wolves in Ottawa. Player placement and management. The kid is also what..24? Toronto is a better team today than yesterday with Ceci and Barrie. Not sure your hate for the kid. I’d rather him than Brodie on my team.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Not at all. They appear to have kept the window open for another year. For a club that hasn’t won the cup since ’67, do you really think they care about their cap situation in in 2024? They have a club geared to win now.

  • Off the wall

    I can read Mathew Tkachuk’s words in the photo. He’s saying,
    “Show me da money Tre”

    Lindholm, “ Can you get me a bonus as well Matty?
    I don’t even like Purple Gatorade”

  • MDG1600

    Trading Brodie and Frolik gets Calgary the cap space it needs to sign Tkachuk, Rittich and Bennet. What it doesn’t do is make Calgary a better team. Generally speaking Treliving gets a pretty easy ride on FN but IMHO he has really screwed the pooch. I read all the time on FN that Tre is great contract negotiator with the Gio cap and what not. The evidence however shows that we are in cap hell and stuck with huge overpays on Neal, Ryan, the Brouwer buyout and Stone. I think most would agree that some pretty significant roster shortcomings were exposed in this years playoffs and as a fan I find it frustrating to see how our salary cap hell is essentially preventing the team from addressing any of the problems.

  • drogon

    The failed Brodie-Kadri trade showed that management is very aware of our weakness down the middle and that’s great. I’m thinking BT will try again to upgrade in a near future. We need a stronger middle to go deep into the playoffs. Monahan is basically a shooter and can do the same on the wing. Backlund is limited offensively. Jankowski has limited upside and Ryan is overpaid for a 4C but doing a good job. Internally, we have 2 players that can be slotted in the middle for an upgrade: Lindholm & Dubé. Brodie is our best asset chip to get a C externally. That means the cap space relief to pay the kids will come from Frolik & Stone.

  • RKD

    Flames tried to trade Brodie to Toronto and Kadri vetoed it. Going to be awkward for Brodie to play next season here when Brad is trying to exit him. Try another team.