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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Cap space remains tight for the Calgary Flames’ stretch drive

Following the 2022 NHL trade deadline, the Calgary Flames have a stacked, upgraded roster, an eight point cushion on the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division, and very little space under the salary cap.

With 20 games left to go, here’s what you need to know about the Flames’ cap situation.

The roster

The Flames begin today with a 23-man roster. There’s no roster limit right now, but the team’s roster size is constrained by the salary cap:

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  • Goalies [2]: Jacob Markstrom and Daniel Vladar
  • Defensemen [7]: Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Oliver Kylington, Erik Gudbranson, Nikita Zadorov and Michael Stone
  • Forwards [14]: Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Tyler Toffoli, Milan Lucic, Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube, Calle Jarnkrok, Brett Ritchie, Trevor Lewis and Ryan Carpenter

They almost always dress 12 forwards and 6 defenders, so they have three extra healthy forwards. That’s great, and gives them both lineup depth and insulation against the minor bumps, bruises and other maladies that are bound to come up over the final 39 days of the regular season.

Of note, though: nobody on the current roster is eligible to go down to the AHL. So for everybody who keeps asking me on Twitter about when Brett Ritchie is going bye-bye: sorry folks, he’s here for good.

The salary cap

Math time!

A team’s projected cap space is calculated based on the previous days’ space that a team has saved and projecting the current cap spending over the remainder of the season. A team cannot make a move that would put their projected cap space into negative figures – unless there’s LTIR involved, which thankfully it’s not here.

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Through the first 151 days of the season, the Flames have banked $399,779 in accrued cap savings. This was usually due to being a little bit under the cap for each day and having those smaller savings accumulating until they acquired Toffoli, at which point they were over the cap by a little bit every day (but not enough to completely wipe out their savings).

For cap calculation purposes, here are the Flames’ cap commitments for the remaining 39 days of the season:

Details Cap Hit
F Matthew Tkachuk $7,000,000
F Johnny Gaudreau $6,750,000
F Sean Monahan $6,375,000
G Jacob Markstrom $6,000,000
F Mikael Backlund $5,350,000
F Milan Lucic $5,250,000
D Noah Hanifin $4,950,000
F Blake Coleman $4,900,000
F Elias Lindholm $4,850,000
D Rasmus Andersson $4,550,000
D Chris Tanev $4,500,000
F Tyler Toffoli $4,250,000
D Nikita Zadorov $3,750,000
F Andrew Mangiapane $2,425,000
F Dillon Dube $2,300,000
D Erik Gudbranson $1,950,000
Troy Brouwer’s buyout $1,500,000
F Calle Jarnkrok $1,000,000
F Ryan Carpenter $1,000,000
F Brett Ritchie $900,000
F Trevor Lewis $800,000
D Michael Stone $750,000
D Oliver Kylington $750,000
G Daniel Vladar $750,000
Juuso Valimaki’s buried cap hit $450,000
Total Cap Commitments $83,025,000
Projected Cap Space -$1,525,000

Because the Flames are projected to be $1.525 million over the cap for the final 39 of the 200 days of the season, that amount is pro-rated to $297,375 over the cap.

Combined, the Flames savings and projected spending shakes out to being $102,404 in cap space over the full season, with amount of pro-rated cap hits they’re able to accommodate depending on how many days remain in the season. As of this morning, it’s $525,151, but it creeps up in an escalating manner as the season comes to a close. On the final day of the season, they can spend $6 million over the cap because of how the pro-rating of cap space escalates.

That said, the Flames are constrained for additional recalls in the short-term. The way the NHL regulates cap room is this: you cannot add a player to your active roster unless you have sufficient cap space to keep them for the entire rest of the season. Right now, the Flames cannot afford to recall a $750,000 (league-minimum salary) player. In a week or so, they’ll be able to add a piece, and in a couple weeks their cap crunch will ease. But for the time being, they have to roll with the 23 players they have with them.

An X-factor to bear in mind: everybody’s favourite topic, COVID-19. Everybody on the team right now (except for Tkachuk and Coleman) has been in the COVID-19 protocol at some point. However, the 90-day testing holiday is over for the majority of players already (and will be over for everybody before the end of March). With some cross-border travel that will necessitate some mass testing, there’s always a chance a player or two go back into the protocol. The league allows teams to bring up players short-term with no cap impacts if a team is shorthanded due to COVID reasons, but a team that’s shorthanded due to non-COVID reasons has to play short before they get any cap relief.

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Suffice it to say: the Flames hockey operations department will need to continue to deftly handle their cap maneuvers, at least for another couple of weeks when their pro-rated cap space gets large enough to give them breathing room.

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