How can the Calgary Flames clear cap space this summer?
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
In Gary Bettman’s state of the union address at the Stanley Cup Final, he revealed that the salary cap is likely to only increase by $1 million next season. This is bad news for the Calgary Flames who are right up against the cap heading into their 2023-24 campaign.
The Flames are going to have a difficult time making moves or changing their roster because of their cap situation.
If the Flames were to make no moves this off-season, they could start with a lineup of 18 skaters and two goalies. In this configuration they would only have $324,167 worth of cap space to fill out the rest of the roster. Which isn’t even half the amount of money they would need to sign someone to a league minimum deal.
(Calgary Flames salary cap information provided by CapFriendly)
It’s obvious that Craig Conroy is going to have to make some moves to open up cap space.
What options do the Flames have to do this? Let’s take a look.
Buy-outs will not be an option for the Calgary Flames this off-season. The only player who you would consider buying out is Kevin Rooney because of how ineffective he is at the NHL level. But even that doesn’t make sense financially because it’s cheaper for the Flames to send him to the AHL where he would have a $150,000 cap hit. Whereas a buy-out cap hit would cost the Flames $434,000 for the next two seasons.
Every other player on the roster is either buy out proof (Huberdeau, Kadri, etc.), or worth something on the trade market.
The easiest way for the Flames to clear cap space would be via a trade. There are a lot of players who they could move and get something for.
Vladar’s cap hit is set to increase to $2.2 million in the 2023-24 season. If the Flames wanted to, they could move Vladar for a draft pick and call up Dustin Wolf to be the backup to Jacob Markstrom. That would save the Flames $1,386,667.
That would give them enough cap room to add a depth player to the NHL roster.
The more I think about it the more it makes sense to at least explore the trade market for Markstrom. He is 33 years old and has three years left on his contract with a cap hit of $6 million. Is Markstrom giving the Flames an extra $5 million or $4 million worth of performance compared to what you would get from Wolf and Vladar?
Trading Markstrom and calling up Wolf would open up an additional $5,186,667 of cap space this summer.
A Markstrom deal is way easier said than done as he is coming off a down year and he has a full no move clause in his contract. He controls his own destiny.
The seven pending UFAs
It’s been discussed at length that the Flames have seven pending 2024 UFAs that they will need to make decisions on. They could clear some cap space by moving out 1-3 of these players this summer.
Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, and Chris Tanev are all in their 30s. Now might be a good time to sell high on them and open up $4+ million worth of cap space.
The Flames could also sell high on Elias Lindholm or Noah Hanifin, especially if they let the Flames know that they do not want to sign long term extensions.
How could they use cap space?
Cap space has become one of the biggest assets in today’s NHL. It allows teams the opportunity to take advantage of capped out teams. They can take on the contract of a good player for next to nothing because other teams around the league need to get under the cap ceiling.
The Carolina Hurricanes did that brilliantly last off-season when they acquired Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty for next to nothing. The Seattle Kraken took advantage of the Columbus Blue Jackets last off-season when they acquired top-six winger Oliver Bjorkstrand for a third and fourth round draft pick.
Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks have taken on bad contracts and acquired draft picks in the process like they did in the Petr Mrazek and Jason Dickinson deals.
Those are the the ways the Flames could weaponize their salary cap space if they were able to open some up this off-season.
Recent articles from Robert Munnich