Looking at the recalls and cap space balancing act down the stretch

Photo credit:Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
2 years ago
There are 28 days remaining in the NHL’s regular season. Teams are in the middle of balancing their performance over the stretch drive, nagging player injuries, making a playoff push, and figuring out how to manage the salary cap and roster management restrictions they’re under over the last month of the season.
Here’s what you need to know to understand the roster moves the Calgary Flames will (or won’t) make between now and the end of the season.

Teams are limited to four non-emergency recalls following the trade deadline

Non-emergency recalls are effectively recalls you make to have extra players around for various purposes, usually for injury insurance. Because non-emergency recalls are finite, typically they’re used to bring a player up and keep him up fro the remainder of the season.
The balancing act for the Flames is how well Stockton is doing. With Oliver Kylington’s availability for Saturday’s game a bit fuzzy – he didn’t skate on Friday, per Pat Steinberg – the Flames still have a seventh defender in Michael Stone, so they’re not in an emergency situation. If they wanted to bring up an extra blueliner for insurance, that would burn one of their four remaining recalls. Plus, what’s the value of calling up a key Stockton player just to sit in the NHL press box?

Teams have unlimited emergency recalls following the trade deadline, but they’re directly linked to specific player injuries

Let’s just say that the Flames didn’t have Stone on their roster, as a hypothetical. In that case, the Flames could bring up, say, Connor Mackey on an emergency recall. But Mackey’s presence on the NHL roster would be directly linked to Kylington’s availability. Once Kylington was cleared to play, Mackey would either need to return to the AHL (or the Flames would need to convert his emergency recall to a non-emergency recall and use up one of their four).

The salary cap still exists, but space pro-rates (and escalates the longer you wait)

As we’ve noted previously, the Flames have $102,404 in cap space (per PuckPedia and our own tracking at FlamesNation). That cap space is prorated over the remaining days of the season, meaning that the longer you wait to spend it, the more things you can get. (But the way the NHL calculates cap space is based on the assumption that whoever you call up today is staying on the NHL roster until the end of the season, so you need to have enough space to keep them up.)
Here’s an example: As of this morning, the cap space pro-rates to $758,000 of full-year cap hits. If the Flames wait until Apr. 6, it pro-rates to $890,000. By Apr. 9, it’s $1.024 million. (And so on…)
Sufficient cap space is required to bring up anybody on either an emergency or non-emergency recall.

If they’re out of players and cap space, teams can bring up players with no cap impact after playing short for a game

Let’s say the Flames were in an emergency situation – they were below 12 forwards, six defencemen or two goalies – and they didn’t have enough pro-rated cap space to bring anybody up on an emergency recall. The Flames would need to play a game shorthanded on the skater side – they would be allowed to sign an emergency back-up goalie – and then they could call up what are known as “roster emergency exemption” (REE) players with zero cap hits.
The REE players have to have full-year cap hits of $1 million or less at the NHL level, and their presence is linked to specific player injuries, much like emergency recalls, so they need to go back to the AHL once the player they’re up for is available again. Similarly, once the Flames enough cap space, likely the league would require them to convert an REE call-up into an emergency call-up with a cap impact.

The exception to the prior rule is if a team is shorthanded due to players being in the COVID protocol: teams can immediately call up players with no cap impact to fill out a lineup

Because of the uniqueness of the pandemic era, the NHL and NHLPA okayed an exception to the prior rule for this season: if a team is shorthanded because of COVID testing results, they can call up players (with $1 million or less cap hits) at zero cap impacts to temporarily fill out their lineup.
But again: once everyone is available and the emergency conditions are gone, the recalled players have to go back.
Have questions about how this all works? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @FlamesNation on Twitter.


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