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The Calgary Flames need to be cautious with how much money they give to their 2024 UFAs

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Photo credit:@NHLFlames on Twitter
Robert Munnich
7 months ago
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The biggest topic of conversation this Calgary Flames season is what is going to happen with their six 2024 unrestricted free agents: Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington. Should they sign them? Should they trade them? How many will leave as a UFA next summer?
By the sounds of it, general manager Craig Conroy wants to keep a lot of those players, most notably Lindholm, Backlund and Hanifin.
One thing Conroy and the Flames organization need to keep in mind is that they’re going to have a lot of expiring contracts for younger players coming up in the next three years. Conroy is going to have to be very careful about how they spend their cap space when re-signing his 2024 UFAs.
The Flames already have a lot of money tied up in veteran players on long term contracts.
PlayerYears Remaining on ContractAverage Annual Value
Jonathan Huberdeau8$10.5 million
Nazem Kadri6$7 million
MacKenzie Weegar8$6.25 million
Jacob Markstrom3$6 million
Blake Coleman4$4.9 million
Calgary has $34.65 million in cap space tied up in five veteran players for at least the next three years.
Now consider how much cap space they will have to dedicate to Lindholm, Backlund, Hanifin, Tanev, and Zadorov. (I’m leaving Kylington out because we don’t know what his next contract could look like)
PlayerPotential Contract Length Potential Average Annual Value
Elias Lindholm8 Years$9 million
Noah Hanifin8 Years$6.35 million
Mikael Backlund3 Years$4.75 million
Nikita Zadorov4 Years$4.25 million
Chris Tanev2 Years$3.5 million
(Projected contract numbers are from an article I wrote during the off-season about how much it will cost to re-sign the players above)
Based off my projections, the Flames would be adding around $27.85 million in cap space for the players listed above. Combine that with the five existing contracts of Huberdeau, Kadri, Weegar, Coleman and Markstrom. That totals $62.5 million.
You’re probably screaming at your screen that the salary cap is going to go up and that will help justify signing players to big money deals. But the salary cap significantly increasing is not a guarantee. There are some economic factors that could come into play that could stop the cap from rising as much as we are anticipating. We are on the precipice of a potential recession. Inflation, rising interest rates and increased cost of living could play a role in a decrease in attendance. Important regional sports networks in the states are declaring bankruptcy. The next Canadian TV deal likely won’t be as lucrative as the one Rogers signed in 2014. There could be unforeseen events like we saw with the pandemic in 2020. That is why teams shouldn’t be banking on the cap rising $10 million (or more) in the next few years.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the upcoming contract negotiations the Flames are going to have to work out with some of their NHL players and prospects.

2024 Off-Season

UFAs: Oliver Kylington
RFAs: Dustin Wolf, Dillon Dube, Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruzicka
All five of these players are going to be looking for raises on their next contract. Especially someone like Dube who has proved he is a solid top nine NHL forward.

2025 Off-Season

UFAs: Andrew Mangiapane, Yegor Sharangovich, Walker Duehr
RFAs: Matthew Coronato, Jeremie Poirier, Connor Zary
The player looking for the biggest raise could be Matthew Coronato. What if he turns into a 25-35 goal scorer in his second season in the NHL? He is going to be looking for a large extension.
The same could be said for Mangiapane and Sharangovich. What if both players are 25 goal scorers? It’s not going to be cheap to sign them.

2026 Off-Season

UFA: Rasmus Andersson
The potential next captain has been playing on a discounted contract. He will likely be a $7-8 million defenceman by the time he signs his next deal.
I point all this out to show Flames fans the risk the team runs if they decide to sign a few or all of their 2024 UFAs to large contract extensions.
There will be sacrifices in the form of trades and bridge deals for young players in the Flames organization which will hurt the long-term health of their salary cap and roster construction.
Conroy will have to approach this situation using an attitude of ruthless pragmatism when deciding who to sign and who to trade. The Flames can’t afford to spend all their money now because it’s going to come back to bite them.

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