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How the Calgary Flames can maximize their trade deadline cap space

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Photo credit:Chris Mast-Seattle Kraken
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
The National Hockey League’s trade deadline is 1 p.m. MT on Mar. 21 – that’s next Monday! In case you haven’t noticed, the Calgary Flames are leading the Pacific Division and well-positioned for a strong run to the playoffs (and possibly during the playoffs).
Heading into the trade deadline they have some areas they can strengthen, and a bit of cap flexibility that could help them address their needs.
One area the Flames likely want to address is their blueline depth. Last week, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli framed the Flames’ approach very succinctly: “This is already shaping up to be a buyer’s market. I think they’re going to wait until the last possible second and find out who’s available and pull the trigger on the best available defenseman at the moment.”
If you’ve watched the Flames recently, you’ve probably noticed Darryl Sutter’s constant shuffling of the forward lines – particularly the bottom two lines. An additional forward could provide some upgraded depth and versatility to the group – ideally a right shot forward.
We’ve written on the site recently about depth blueliners, identifying four that seem to fit the Flames needs: Kevin Connauton (Philadelphia, $825,000 cap hit), Brad Hunt (Vancouver, $800,000), Dean Kukan (Columbus, $1.65 million) and Nick Seeler (Philadelphia, $750,000). Vancouver’s proximity to the playoff pack may lead them to keep Hunt, but the other three could be good fits.
Up front, we identified three that may be a good fit: Arizona’s Johan Larsson ($1.4 million), Seattle’s Calle Jarnkrok ($2 million) and the Islanders’ Zach Parise ($750,000). Larsson had surgery for a sports hernia in early February and should return to action in early-to-mid April.
Daily Faceoff’s recent trade targets rundown included Jarnkrok, but also noted Ottawa’s Nick Paul ($1.35 million) as another possible fit for players looking for a good, checking depth forward.
Teams in the market for a rental with a bit of a grind to his game will have to choose between Jarnkrok (understated/productive) and the guy below him on the Trade Target list in Nick Paul (big/heavy) – and it will most likely come down to identity of the acquiring team.
Can the Flames get a quality depth blueliner and a quality depth forward, avoiding having to choose what area to shore up by doing both?
Yes, but they’ll have to be flexible.
Right now, the Flames have a 23-man roster – 14 forwards, seven defenders and two goalies – and are projected to have $935,731 in cap space on deadline day, per PuckPedia and FlamesNation’s daily cap accounting. They have one waiver exempt player, forward Adam Ruzicka ($801,666).
Here’s how deadline day works: the trade deadline is at 1 p.m. MT and teams need to have cap compliant 23-man rosters as of the deadline. As of 1:01 p.m. MT, the cap still applies but the roster limit does not. (Teams are limited to four non-emergency call-ups from the AHL after the deadline, though.) The easiest player to float down to the AHL roster in the event the Flames make a trade for an NHL player, which seems like a virtual certainty. If Ruzicka is sent down, the Flames have $1.737 million in deadline day cap space.
Now, the odd men out on the NHL roster among the established NHL players seem to be blueliner Michael Stone ($750,000) and Brett Ritchie ($900,000). Stone has barely played this season, while Ritchie has zero points in 28 games. One or both could easily be waived to provide some flexibility in the cap structure – and neither has played as often as Ruzicka lately, which might make moves simpler. Traditionally, a dozen or so players are waived by contenders the weekend before the trade deadline for the express purpose of giving teams the ability to make roster moves if they consummate trades.
For the curious, sending Ruzicka and Ritchie down would allow the Flames to add $2.637 million in cap hits on deadline day, while Ruzicka and Stone would give them $2.437 million in space, and Stone and Ritchie would give them $2.535 million in space. If they could convince Seattle, for instance, to retain some salary on Jarnkrok, they could easily add him and a solid depth defender.
Long story short: if the Flames are willing to dangle a player or two on waivers next weekend, they can easily upgrade their roster without completely handcuffing themselves cap-wise for the remainder of the season.

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