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Calgary Flames COVID-19 shutdown: what’s happening now?

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Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
The Calgary Flames were supposed to play three hockey games this week. Unfortunately, due to a slew of COVID-19 cases on the club, they’re shut down until at least Friday. Here’s a rundown of what happens, what might happen, and where things go from here – based on what we think we know as of Tuesday morning.

So what happened?

Six Flames players entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Monday: forwards Andrew Mangiapane, Elias Lindholm, Adam Ruzicka and Brad Richardson, and defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev, and the NHL postponed three Flames games (Dec. 13 at Chicago, Dec. 14 at Nashville and Dec. 16 vs. Toronto).
Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson had a really succinct summary:
Initial results Sunday turned up three positives for the Flames, and their afternoon flight to the Windy City was delayed so the entire travelling party — players, coaches and other staff — could be tested again.
When that number grew to seven, the NHL told the team to stay put at home.
The Flames’ season is on a short pause – at least through Thursday – while the extent of the outbreak is determined. The good news is that as of early Monday, the impacted players were all said to be asymptomatic (via Postmedia’s report).

When can the players in the protocol return?

The NHL’s COVID rules rely somewhat on provincial, state and local rules. If a player who tests positive remains asymptomatic, he has to be isolating for 10 days dating back to the initial positive test. Assuming all the positive tests came from Sunday and counting Sunday as Day 1, the six players would become available on Dec. 22. But they wouldn’t have had practised or skated in 10 days.

What’s the “best case” scenario?

If no additional players enter the COVID protocol, it seems likely that the Flames would practice on Friday and host Columbus on Saturday. However, the six impacted players would not be available, but they would still count against the salary cap.

Wait, what?

Under the agreed-upon rules for this season, players that test positive are considered “non-roster” players – they’re not on the active roster, so they don’t count against the 23-man active roster limit. But they do count against the salary cap.
Right now, the Flames have 24 players counting against the cap: the 23-man active roster (which includes Tyler Pitlick, who hasn’t played since Dec. 3 due to an injury) and Brett Ritchie, who is on the injury reserve dating back to early November.
The Flames have about $614,000 in total cap space right now and they can add $897,000 in cap hits while remaining compliant. That would allow them to add, at most, one replacement player from Stockton without running out of cap space.
As an aside, there are really two “cap space” numbers you’ll see bandied about. “Daily cap space” is simply the difference between a club’s total cap hits for a particular day and the $81.5 million cap ceiling. (Calgary’s “daily space” is about $648,000.) Their “total cap space” number is the sum of the cap savings from prior days and the anticipated cap savings from the rest of the season, assuming that today’s cap commitments are constant for the rest of the season.

Can the Flames use LTIR to get some cap relief?

It’s an option! Placing Ritchie and Pitlick on the long-term injury reserve (LTIR) would give the Flames $2.65 million of cap space (rather than $614,000) to replace any unavailable players, which would allow them to bring up a couple players on “regular” recalls.
Players placed on LTIR need to miss 10 games or 24 days, whichever is longer. But the time missed can be invoked retroactively. Ritchie has already been out long enough to qualify, while Pitlick has already missed four games and would have to miss six more before the Flames can activate him. Neither would significantly handcuff them.

So what happens on Saturday?

Under the rules of the CBA, a team who doesn’t have cap space to fill out a regulation line-up of two goalies and 18 skaters can call up players on an emergency basis to fill out the roster with zero cap impacts during the emergency situation.
However, there are two conditions:
  • The players they call up cannot have a non-emergency cap hit of more than $850,000.
  • They have to play shorthanded before an emergency situation is declared. (In other words, if the Flames play three players short on Saturday, they could call up three players the next day who would have zero cap hit until the emergency conditions are over.)
The $850,000 cap limit rules out emergency recalls for Connor Zary, Emilio Pettersen, Jakob Pelletier, Connor Mackey or Juuso Välimäki. However, these players would be available for “regular” recalls (provided the team has cap space) prior to an emergency situation being invoked.

What could the lineup look like on Saturday, then?

Assuming that (a) nobody else enters the protocol and (b) neither of Pitlick or Ritchie become available but are placed on LTIR, the Flames would have two goalies, five defensemen and nine forwards available for Saturday’s game – though they would likely recall somebody with their cap space to fill a hole in the lineup. They would probably need to play three players short.
Gaudreau – Monahan – Tkachuk
Lucic – Backlund – Coleman
Dube – Froese – Lewis
Hanifin – Andersson
Kylington – Stone
Gudbranson
Markström
Vladar
The Flames have two days off after Saturday’s game, so potentially going with a short bench might not be as detrimental as it would be in other situations.
We’ll have more on this story as it continues to develop.

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