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A (way too early) Calgary Flames 2023-24 salary cap rundown

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
9 months ago
The Calgary Flames have begun prospect camp, and before you know it, training camp will begin, too. As players begin to vie for roster spots on the big club, it’s probably worth taking an early look at how the Flames’ salary cap picture looks.
Things can, and inevitable will, change, but here’s how things look as of mid-September.

Goaltenders

Locks (2): Jacob Markstrom ($6 million) & Dan Vladar ($2.2 million)
Waiting in the Wings: Dustin Wolf ($813,333)
Likely opening cap hit: $8.2 million
Here’s the rub: Dustin Wolf is quite good, but he’s waiver exempt for two more seasons and the Flames’ AHL team plays in the same arena as their NHL team. Depending on how the team’s overall cap situation looks, they can bring up Wolf to do spot starts in specific games during the season. The Flames are not in a situation where (a) they need to carry three goaltenders like they attempted to do in 2015-16 or (b) they need to jettison Dan Vladar into the sun for the sake of putting Wolf into the NHL.
Swapping Wolf in for Vladar would save the Flames $1.687 million in cap space, but it’s not something they absolutely need to do regardless of how bad a hypothetical return for Vladar would be. They don’t need to go hat-in-hand to the other 31 NHL clubs tearily asking them to take Vladar off their hands.

Defencemen

Locks (6): MacKenzie Weegar ($6.25 million), Noah Hanifin ($4.95 million), Rasmus Andersson ($4.55 million), Chris Tanev ($4.5 million), Nikita Zadorov ($3.75 million) and Oliver Kylington ($2.5 million)
All But A Lock (1): Jordan Oesterle ($925,000)
There’s A Chance (1): Dennis Gilbert ($762,500)
Likely opening cap hit: $27.425 million
There are eight NHL blueliners for seven spots, more or less, with six spots seemingly set in stone and the last one all but that. Dennis Gilbert was quite good last season down the stretch for the Flames, but Jordan Oesterle’s been a full-time NHLer for the past six seasons while Gilbert hasn’t carve out a full NHL season yet. Oesterle’s versatility and seniority seem to give him the inside track on the seventh spot, even if Gilbert costs $162,500 less against the cap.

Forwards

Locks (8): Jonathan Huberdeau ($10.5 million), Nazem Kadri ($7 million), Andrew Mangiapane ($5.8 million), Mikael Backlund ($5.35 million), Blake Coleman ($4.9 million), Elias Lindholm ($4.85 million), Yegor Sharangovich ($3.1 million) and Dillon Dube ($2.3 million) (And the AHL burial penalty of $150,000 for Kevin Rooney)
Strong contenders (4): Matt Coronato ($925,000), Jakob Pelletier ($863,333), Walker Duehr ($825,000) and Adam Ruzicka ($762,500)
Dark horses (3): Connor Zary ($863,333), Ben Jones ($775,000) and Dryden Hunt ($775,000)
Likely opening cap hit: $47.326 million
The established NHL forwards have eight spots locked up. The next four spots probably go to Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, Walker Duehr and Adam Ruzicka, but since none of those players have been NHL regulars before – Ruzicka was on the roster all of last season but was scratched half the time – they’re not quite locked in. If one or two of those players falter, Connor Zary, Ben Jones and Dryden Hunt seem like the next-best players on the depth chart.
From a cap perspective, there’s no massive savings between most of the bubble players.

Overall cap picture

Likely opening cap hit: $82,950,833 (21 players: 2 goaltenders, 7 defencemen, 12 forwards)
Likely opening cap space: $549,167
So here’s the thing… The Flames don’t have enough cap space to carry more than one extra skater – because Oesterle seems so obvious, he’s the guy we’re assuming gets that gig. But with a $775,000 minimum NHL salary this season, the Flames don’t have enough cap space to carry anybody else.
The Flames don’t need to make any moves to open up cap space necessarily. Such a move would be beneficial, but it’s not a necessity to file a cap compliant opening day roster. But they’re extremely vulnerable to mid-season shocks, and they’re an errant blocked shot or a flu bug away from either playing short or dipping into the Long-Term Injury Reserve for cap relief. Neither would be ideal.
But we have just shy of a month before the Flames need to file their opening roster with the league. A lot of things could happen before then.

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