Rising salary cap will benefit Calgary Flames, but tough decisions still loom

Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
On Tuesday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Rory Boylen reported that the NHL’s clubs have been given direction from the league to expect the cap to go up a fair amount over the next few seasons.
The rise in the cap will help all the NHL’s teams, including the Calgary Flames.

The projected cap ranges

Per Friedman and Boylen, here’s how the cap is projected to move:
  • 2022-23: $82.5 million
  • 2023-24: $83.5 million
  • 2024-25: Between $87.5-88 million
  • 2025-26: $92 million
The numbers are obviously tentative, and are dependent on the NHL continuing to experience revenue growth (and the players’ escrow debt getting fully paid off following the 2023-24 season, as is currently projected to occur).

A projected 2022-23 starting point

Pals, let’s assume the Flames spend their season with a roster that looks roughly like this:
$5.9 million
$4.85 million
$4.25 million
$5.8 million
$7 million
$850,000 (est.)
$2.3 million
$5.35 million
$4.9 million
$5.25 million
$1.3 million
$3.25 million
$4.5 million
Extra D: Valimaki
$1.55 million
$4.95 million
$4.55 million
Extra F: Ruzicka
$2.5 million
$3.75 million
Extra F: Ritchie
$6 million
All-in, the cap hits for these 23 players combined is $81,862,500. This is meant to be generally illustrative of how the roster probably looks, but it’s mostly just meant to show that the Flames probably spend all their cap space. The above roster would give them $637,500 in cap space this season, and they probably spend that space between injury replacements and in-season moves.

2023 off-season

In the 2023 off-season, here are the changes from the prior roster and cap commitments:
  • The cap goes up $1 million to $83.5 million.
  • Dan Vladar and Juuso Valimaki become restricted free agents (freeing up $2.3 million).
  • Milan Lucic, Sonny Milano, Trevor Lewis, Brett Ritchie and MacKenzie Weegar become unrestricted free agents (freeing up $10.9 million).
  • Jonathan Huberdeau’s cap hit goes up $4.6 million due to his extension kicking in.
So the Flames would have about $73.263 million in cap commitments, and with the cap going up they would have $10.237 million of space. But that cap space doesn’t go very far when you remember that Friedman has suggested a Weegar extension would be in the Hampus Lindholm neighbourhood (around $6.5 million).
If Weegar signs such an extension, then the Flames would have just $3.737 million to cover a backup goalie, a depth defender, and four forwards. (With the league’s minimum salary going up to $775,000 in 2023-24, the cap space the Flames would have could cover only five of those six spots.)

2024 off-season

Following the 2023-24 season, another where the Flames probably stay close to the cap, a bunch of key players have expiring contracts (all are unrestricted except for Dube):
  • Mikael Backlund
  • Elias Lindholm
  • Tyler Toffoli
  • Dillon Dube (RFA)
  • Kevin Rooney
  • Noah Hanifin
  • Chris Tanev
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Oliver Kylington
These nine players combine for $33.75 million in cap hits. The cap is also projected to be going up to between $87.5-88 million, or a bump of around $4 million from the previous season. So that would give the Flames around $37.75 million of money to work with… but they’d need to re-sign or replace five key forwards and four key defenders.
It seems likely that Lindholm and Hanifin would get sizable raises. Dube and Kylington also feel like candidates for big jumps. Backlund may still be pretty effective, but he’ll also be 35 when his deal expires and so the Flames could start to get creative with bonus-laden one-year deals if he remains effective.

2025 off-season

After the Flames navigate all the decisions from the preceding off-season, the cap goes up another $4-4.5 million for 2025-26. The only big contract (as of now) that will be expiring that summer is Andrew Mangiapane’s (with a $5.8 million AAV).
Will the cap going up make life easier for the Flames? Somewhat, yes. But it’s not like the cap is going up rapidly enough to help Brad Treliving avoid any tough contractual decisions looming on the horizon.

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