As of this morning, the Calgary Flames had accumulated just $19,000 in salary cap room for the remainder of the season. For an admittedly underachieving group with higher aspirations, that couldn’t continue. As a result, the Flames consummated a trade that sent fourth line winger Michael Frolik to the Buffalo Sabres for a fourth round selection (originally San Jose’s) in the 2020 NHL Draft.
There are several interesting aspects of this swap, so let’s roll through them, friends.
#Flames GM Brad Treliving says "it is our intention" to use the cap space they've acquired by sending Michael Frolik to Buffalo. Treliving joined us minutes after making the deal. https://t.co/O4lqAxH0Rm
— Sportsnet 960 (@Sportsnet960) January 3, 2020
Flames general manager Brad Treliving chatted with Pat Steinberg and Peter Klein of Sportsnet 960 The Fan on Thursday, whee he broke down the roster-based reasons for the move. Pointing to the emergence of players like Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, he noted that a move was necessary to ease a roster glut.
“Now that we’re, touch wood, 100 per cent healthy there was a little bit of a glut in terms of our forward group,” said Treliving. “We wanted to make sure we’re giving ample opportunity to the young guys I mentioned, among others, as they progress.”
While Treliving acknowledged he had chats with Frolik’s agent, Allan Walsh, about potential opportunities to move the player he emphasized that no formal trade request was made.
Frolik, 31, was in the fifth season of a five year deal with a $4.3 million cap hit – more on that later. As a player that wasn’t going to be re-signed, the Flames were likely hoping to get something for him. Well, they did.
The fourth round pick – originally San Jose’s but subsequently sent to Montreal so San Jose could draft Yegor Spiridonov, and then to Buffalo for Marco Scandella – replaces the pick the Flames sent to Los Angeles in the Oscar Fantenberg trade. Now the Flames have a pick in every round of the upcoming draft.
From a Sabres perspective, they get a useful NHL veteran for half a season whose salary is just $3 million. Because we’re midway through the season, Frolik will cost Buffalo just $1.5 million in real cash. That’s a huge bargain for Buffalo.
The cap situation
This is the big value here for the Flames.
Before the trade, the Flames were carrying 23 players and were a smidge above the $81.5 million cap ceiling – and using Juuso Valimaki’s long-term injury reserve space to keep the lights on. The problem is that the Flames could not accumulate cap savings while above the LTIR-adjusted cap ceiling (the “accruable cap space limit”) of $81.345 million.
Valimaki’s still on LTIR, but the move drops the Flames’ cap number to $77.448 million. That means that until Valimaki is taken off LTIR, the Flames accumulate $21,000 to their cap savings per day. Once Valimaki’s off LTIR, that daily cap savings bumps to $22,000.
Speaking with Steinberg and Klein, Treliving didn’t mince words about how he’s going to use that extra cap space:
“It’s our intention that we will look to find ways to use that cap space and help our team.”
The mechanics are a bit muddled because the Flames are using LTIR right now, but the Flames can add $3.864 million in cap hits to their roster today and remain cap complaint at season’s end. (That number will grow depending on when Valimaki comes off LTIR.) As the season chugs along, that number will nudge in an upward direction. And if the team decides to use up Valimaki’s full LTIR space, assuming he’s not coming back this season, that’s another $894,666 they can add.
In other words: for the first time all season, the Flames have cap flexibility. Let’s see what they do with it.