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The Calgary Flames likely won’t buy anyone out this summer

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
The National Hockey League’s annual buyout period begins on Friday and runs through 3 p.m. MT on June 30. During that period, teams can buy out contracts they feel aren’t worth their cap value and, given the league’s cap crunch, you can expect some movement on that front.
However, don’t expect the Calgary Flames to buy anybody out this year.

How buyouts work

Via our pals at CapFriendly, here’s the gist of how buyouts work:
Teams are permitted to buyout a players contract to obtain a reduced salary cap hit over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract. The buyout amount is a function of the players age at the time of the buyout, and are as follows:
  • 1/3 of the remaining contract value, if the player is younger than 26 at the time of the buyout
  • 2/3 of the remaining contract value, if the player is 26 or older at the time of the buyout
Only salary can be bought out, not signing bonuses. Contracts that are bought out count against a team’s cap total, though. It’s not like they disappear, but the cap hits are reduced (which is the benefit).
There are two buyout periods. The “main” buyout period is the period between the end of the Stanley Cup Final to June 30. The second buyout period, unlocked only for teams that have arbitration cases, opens up three days after a team concludes their final arbitration case (either via settling or via an award) and lasts 48 hours.

A brief history of Flames buyouts

Since the 2012-13 lockout, the Flames have used buyouts six times – all under former general manager Brad Treliving.
  • 2014: Shane O’Brien
  • 2016: Mason Raymond
  • 2017: Lance Bouma & Ryan Murphy
  • 2018: Troy Brouwer
  • 2019: Michael Stone
That’s seven years worth of bought out contracts, all-told.

There aren’t any good Flames buyout candidates

The natural buyout candidates are players with big contracts that are buried in the AHL or playing well below their expected spot in the NHL – guys you could argue are “overpaid” based on a team’s typical cap structure. But the wrinkle is that the NHL raises the amount of cap space that can be buried as the league’s minimum salary rises. For 2023-24, the burial limit is $1.15 million per contract.
Kevin Rooney spent most of last season in the AHL. He has a $1.3 million cap hit, but all but $150,000 can be buried in the AHL next season – presuming he doesn’t make the NHL roster. Buying Rooney out would carry a $433,334 cap hit for the next two seasons. There’s no point in buying Rooney out.
Beyond Rooney, there aren’t any other contenders. Most of the team’s hefty contracts are for players that still have value (and could be traded) or are on deals with wild bonus structures that would make it super difficult to buy them out because they minimize the cap benefits of doing so.

Let’s talk about Jacob Markstrom’s deal

Before we get too far, let’s be clear here: the Flames won’t be buying out Jacob Markstrom.
But if they did, the structure of his deal would actually result in a negative cap hit for one season. (Though we imagine the league would intervene, because I don’t think there’s ever actually been a negative cap hit in the cap era.)
Right now, Markstrom has three seasons left on his current deal:
  • 2023-24: $8 million salary, $0 bonuses / $6 million AAV
  • 2024-25: $3.5 million salary, $2.5 million bonuses / $6 million AAV
  • 2025-26: $3.5 million salary, $2.5 million bonuses / $6 million AAV
A Markstrom buyout would give him two-thirds of his remaining $15 million salary, or $10 million, but spread out over six years – that functionally reduces the salary he’s receiving $1,666,667 per year, but doesn’t change the bonus amounts.
Here’s how his compensation, and the cap hits, would change:
  • 2023-24: $1,666,667 salary, $0 bonuses / -$333,333 cap hit ($6,333,333 salary reduction/cap savings)
  • 2024-25: $1,666,667 salary, $2.5 million bonuses / $4,166,667 cap hit ($1,833,333 salary reduction/cap savings)
  • 2025-26: $1,666,667 salary, $2.5 million bonuses / $4,166,667 cap hit ($1,833,333 salary reduction/cap savings)
  • 2026-27: $1,666,667 salary/cap hit
  • 2027-28: $1,666,667 salary/cap hit
  • 2028-29: $1,666,667 salary/cap hit
Based on how buyout structures work and how they change cap hits, this would reduce Markstrom’s 2023-24 cap hit into the negatives as his $8 million salary would be reduced by $6,333,333, more than his contract’s cap hit. (Again, though, the NHL probably wouldn’t go for it.)
Long story short, folks, don’t expect the Flames to buy anybody out over the next two weeks.

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