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If the Calgary Flames re-sign Elias Lindholm, is there enough cap space for a strong supporting cast?

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
Friends, there are a few things we’re pretty sure we know about Calgary Flames centre Elias Lindholm.
Lindholm is really good at ice hockey. Lindholm is one of the best centres the Flames have had in recent memory. Lindholm is in the final year of his current contract. And lastly, the Flames have a significant interest in retaining Lindholm past his current contract.
But if Lindholm is re-upped to a fair market value contract, with the other deals the Flames have on the books, does that leave them enough cap space for a strong supporting cast?

The Lindholm factor

Earlier this week, our pal Frank Seravalli (from Daily Faceoff) appeared on Barn Burner and made a strong statement:
“Pinder, you were just talking about Vegas sports books and you won’t find this line there but I’m going to give you one. I think it’s a better than 50% shot, actually significantly better, that the Flames have Elias Lindholm locked up before opening night.”
A couple weeks ago, we compared Lindholm’s situation to Bo Horvat’s and projected that if Lindholm signed the same type of deal as Horvat’s, when factoring in cap growth boosting the cap hit for Lindholm, we’d be looking at something like a $9 million cap hit over eight seasons. For the sake of this exercise, let’s go with that as the number for Lindholm.
Given the other major deals the Flames have signed, what does that leave Craig Conroy to work with for 2024-25 and beyond?

2023-24

For the sake of this general exercise, we’ll look at the cap hits for nine key, prominent players: Lindholm, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, MacKenzie Weegar, Rasmus Andersson and Jacob Markstrom. Admittedly, we’re cherry-picking, but we’re cherry-picking these guys because they’re veterans, play key positions, have big contracts, and are signed for another year or two (or more) apiece.
Combined, these eight players count for $55.2 million against the cap, or roughly 66.1% of the team’s cap hit. We got into it elsewhere on the site, but the top-heavy nature of the Flames’ cap structure – combined with a couple injuries and absences – have contributed to some cap challenges, and probably will for much of this season.
So let’s look ahead to what happens presuming Lindholm gets a raise from $4.85 million to $9 million…

2024-25

We’re projecting the cap to rise by about 5%, to $87.5 million. (5% is prescribed as the maximum in the current CBA.) With a bigger Lindholm deal, the nine key players combine for $58.5 million. Once again, that’s two-thirds of their cap space – 66.9%.
In essence, Lindholm’s raise is covered by Backlund taking a slight pay cut (from $5.35 million in 2023-24 to $4.5 million in 2024-25) and the cap going up. But the Flames don’t really gain much other wiggle room, and this might contribute to some contractual decisions they make with other pending unrestricted free agents in the coming months. To be more blunt: if they lock in Lindholm, they probably can’t afford raises for many of their other pending UFAs.

2025-26

Again, we’re projecting the maximum 5% cap rise, which would round off to $92 million. Mangiapane doesn’t have a deal for 2025-26, so we’re dropping him off and focusing on the eight remaining players – though we suspect the Flames would attempt to retain Mangiapane. The remaining eight combine for $52.7 million, about 57.3% of the team’s entire cap. (If Mangiapane is retained, and gets any type of raise, you’re once again looking at the core nine covering about two-thirds of their cap.)
If the Flames think Lindholm is their guy at centre, their top gun, then signing him to a long-term extension is a prudent move. But it’ll make things tight when it comes to the bottom half of the club’s roster, and put a lot of emphasis (and pressure) on their drafting and development to help fill out the rest of the team.
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