186Matthew Tkachuk
Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

If Matthew Tkachuk’s negotiations drag on, the Flames are in bigger cap trouble

There are two big storylines heading into training camp that will likely dominate conversation. The first is the ongoing contract negotiations with restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk. The second is the Calgary Flames’ tenuous cap situation for 2019-20.

But if the negotiations spill into the season, the Flames’ cap situation will get progressively worse.

Let’s do some math

Generally-speaking, most contracts are straight forward: an even distribution of cash over a number of years leading to a specific average annual value (cap hit). But when a player signs their contract into the season, the salary they get becomes pro-rated and impacts the cap hit of the deal in the rest of the deal.

It’s a bit complex – Cap Friendly has a decent primer to how it’s all calculated – but the idea is this: if a player is getting the same amount of salary during the first (delayed) season of their deal as they are throughout, the later they start that deal the higher their pro-rated cap hit in the first season is and the lower the cap hit is throughout the rest of the deal.

In other words: if Tkachuk signs after opening rosters are filed on Oct. 1, the cap hit for the first season will creep up and make life a bit more challenging for the Flames as they try to fit everyone under the cap.

Let’s talk about examples

Let’s say that Tkachuk gets a five year deal with $8 million of salary per season, evenly distributed across the contract. There’s 186 days in the NHL season for cap purposes. Take a look at how the cap hit would swing in 2019-20 depending on how late Tkachuk signs.

Date Day Average Salary 2019-20 Hit Rest of Deal
Oct. 1 0 $8,000,000 $8,000,000 $8,000,000
Oct. 6 5 $8,000,000 $8,176,796 $7,956,989
Oct. 11 10 $8,000,000 $8,363,636 $7,913,978
Oct. 16 15 $8,000,000 $8,561,404 $7,870,968
Oct. 31 30 $8,000,000 $9,230,769 $7,741,935
Nov. 20 50 $8,000,000 $10,352,941 $7,569,892
Dec. 1 61 $8,000,000 $11,123,200 $7,475,269

As we sit, the Flames are going to need to engage in some acrobatics involving burying contracts and leaning on waiver exempt players to fit under the cap on opening night. The later the Tkachuk saga drags on, the more likely it’ll be that Brad Treliving is going to have to take a wrecking ball to his roster and move out a significant player for pennies on the dollar in order to fit everybody in.

The Flames are a pretty good hockey club. But if they have to blow things up to fit in a late-signing Tkachuk, it’ll make life a lot more difficult for everybody wearing a Flaming C.