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Can the Calgary Flames fill out a roster without using long-term injury cap relief?

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Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
The name of the game in the National Hockey League is maximizing the talent level of your club’s roster within the constraints of the league’s salary cap. When it comes to this season, a lot of teams are bumping up against the salary cap ceiling – a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic wildly disrupting the league’s operations and revenues.
The Calgary Flames are facing some unique additional challenges, too. In the face of their current situation, can the Flames fill out a roster without using long-term injury cap relief?
If you’re looking to avoid the math, the simple answer is yes. Thanks for reading!
Okay, the more complicated answer is “yes, but…” We’ll get into the nitty gritty of it all, but long story short, the Flames can put together a cap compliant, bare bones opening night roster without having to break into the LTIR (long-term injury reserve) piggy bank. But they won’t have enough cap space to have extra players on their roster. Heck, even with putting Jakob Pelletier on LTIR, we’re of the mind that they wouldn’t have enough space.
Let’s get into the hows and whys.

“Dead money” on the Flames’ books

The Flames are operating under the constraints of three particular challenges. (Stick-taps to the fine folks at CapFriendly and Puckpedia for their extensive work on all of these complex items, as anybody who tells you they fully grasp LTIR is probably kidding themselves. Any type of LTIR discussion is indebted to the smart people that run both of those great resources.)
  1. They’re able to bury $1.15 million of any particular contract’s cap hit in the AHL. Last season they had Kevin Rooney ($1.3 million) in the AHL for much of the season. Our expectation is he’ll probably be there again, which brings with it a $150,000 cap penalty for the Flames.
  2. While we’re not going to speculate about Oliver Kylington’s particular situation – his private business is his private business and anybody giving him or the team guff about it are simply out of line – he carries a $2.5 million cap hit since he was on the Flames’ books last season. While our understanding is he is eligible for placement on LTIR, the Flames may not know enough about Kylington’s situation to make a definitive move on that front. (Any player placed on LTIR must be unavailable for the longer of 10 games or 24 days.)
  3. Jakob Pelletier is out indefinitely due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. Because he was on the NHL roster for part of last season and was injured in training camp, his $863,333 cap hit is pro-rated to $406,000 while he’s on the injury reserve. (He would also be eligible for LTIR placement, but his pro-rated cap hit is what the relief would be from, and $406,000 is way less than the league’s standard minimum cap hit of $775,000.)
The challenge of LTIR usage is it isn’t a magic wand. If you’re using LTIR space, you don’t accumulate your daily cap savings for use later in the season. There’s a future cost to using it, which is why teams often go to great pains to avoid it.

A compliant roster without LTIR

With that preamble out of the way, here’s the most probable, least expensive legal roster the Flames could put together – assuming they don’t get weird and waive any sure-fire NHL players (aside from one).
Left WingCentreRight Wing
Jonathan Huberdeau
$10.5 million
Elias Lindholm
$4.85 million
Andrew Mangiapane
$5.8 million
Adam Ruzicka
$762,500
Nazem Kadri
$7 million
Dillon Dube
$2.3 million
Yegor Sharangovich
$3.1 million
Mikael Backlund
$5.35 million
Matt Coronato
$925,000
Blake Coleman
$4.9 million
Dryden Hunt
$775,000
Walker Duehr
$825,000
Left DefenceRight DefenceGoaltenders
MacKenzie Weegar
$6.25 million
Rasmus Andersson
$4.55 million
Jacob Markstrom
$6 million
Noah Hanifin
$4.95 million
Chris Tanev
$4.5 million
Dan Vladar
$2.2 million
Jordan Oesterle
$925,000
Nikita Zadorov
$3.75 million
Between Kylington and Pelletier on the injured/non-roster list and the projected burial of Rooney, there’s $3.056 million of dead cap space.
Between the 20-man active roster, two players on the injured/non-roster lists and Rooney, that’s $83,268,500 in cap hits and a scant $231,500 in cap space. And bear in mind, this scenario involves the team waiving Dennis Gilbert (the anticipated seventh defender with a $762,500 cap hit) and rolling with a bare-bones roster. (Given how effective, versatile and dirt-cheap Gilbert is, throwing him on waivers feels super-risky.)

An LTIR roster scenario

Now, we’re pretty sure that Pelletier will be out long enough to merit placement on LTIR if the Flames feel they’ll need the cap space. And based on the prior scenario, it seems pretty likely that they’ll need the cap space. How can the Flames best set themselves up for LTIR usage?
Here’s the basic math: LTIR cap relief boosts a team’s cap hit by the difference between the cap value of the player(s) placed on LTIR and their cap space when LTIR is enacted. The team’s accruable cap space limit (ACSL), the cap number they need to get below to accumulate daily savings, is also reduced from $83.5 million by the amount of cap space they have when LTIR is enacted. In other words, before placing anybody on LTIR, it’s in a team’s best interest to get themselves as close to the salary cap as humanly possible.
Let’s try the earlier scenario again…
Left WingCentreRight Wing
Jonathan Huberdeau
$10.5 million
Elias Lindholm
$4.85 million
Andrew Mangiapane
$5.8 million
Adam Ruzicka
$762,500
Nazem Kadri
$7 million
Dillon Dube
$2.3 million
Yegor Sharangovich
$3.1 million
Mikael Backlund
$5.35 million
Kevin Rooney
$1,300,000
Blake Coleman
$4.9 million
n/aWalker Duehr
$825,000
Left DefenceRight DefenceGoaltenders
MacKenzie Weegar
$6.25 million
Rasmus Andersson
$4.55 million
Jacob Markstrom
$6 million
Noah Hanifin
$4.95 million
Chris Tanev
$4.5 million
Dan Vladar
$2.2 million
Jordan Oesterle
$925,000
Nikita Zadorov
$3.75 million
Dennis Gilbert
$762,500
So… this scenario swaps out Coronato (he’s waiver exempt) and Hunt in favour of Gilbert and Rooney. This move gets the Flames to within $19,000 of the salary cap. (They can also do this with Hunt staying around instead of Gilbert, which gets them to within $6,500 of the cap and gives them 12 forwards but runs the risk of losing Gilbert on waivers.)
In either Pelletier on LTIR scenario, the Flames file this roster with the league, then place Pelletier on LTIR. This bumps their cap ceiling by $387,000 (if they keep Gilbert and go 11 forwards, seven defenders) or $399,500 (if they keep Hunt and go 12 forwards, six defenders). If the Flames swap Rooney out for Coronato (as we imagine they would want to in order to roll out the best possible team), they still wouldn’t have enough cap space to call up an extra player – they’d have $618,500 in the Gilbert scenario or $631,000 in the Hunt scenario.
In other words, even with Jakob Pelletier on LTIR, cap space is at a premium. They can do as much financial cartwheeling as they possibly can, but if Pelletier is the only player placed on LTIR, they likely still wouldn’t have enough cap space based on our projections to call up an extra player. As much as the Flames have been (and will endeavour to continue to be) extremely respectful of Kylington’s situation, it would be in their best interests to get a bit of clarity on his status to open the season.
Get your tickets for the FlamesNation Season Home Opener party, and come hang out with us at Greta Bar while we watch the Flames take on the Winnipeg Jets in their season opener!

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