The Flames’ trade deadline activity is (somewhat) constrained by 2023-24 cap commitments

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
Folks, it seems pretty apparent that the Calgary Flames will make some moves prior to the upcoming trade deadline in March. They’re in the midst of the playoff pack, and they have some cap space for this season and some areas they probably want to improve on their roster.
But the club’s ability to do things that impact next season’s cap space are (somewhat) constrained by next season’s existing cap commitments.
For 2022-23 (this season), the salary cap ceiling is set at $82.5 million. For next season, the current indications we’ve gotten from reporting after recent Board of Governors meetings is that the cap probably goes up by only another $1 million for 2023-24 for reasons involving the players’ escrow debt coming out of the COVID seasons.
That means that, unless the NHL and NHLPA get creative and come up with a modified plan, the cap ceiling for 2023-24 will be $83.5 million.
And that’s a problem for a lot of NHL teams, including the Flames.

Flames’ cap commitments on the books for 2023-24

  • Goaltenders [2; $8.2 million]: Jacob Markstrom [$6 million] & Dan Vladar [$2.2 million]
  • Defencemen [7; $27.3 million]: MacKenzie Weegar [$6.25 million], Noah Hanifin [$4.95 million], Rasmus Andersson [$4.55 million], Chris Tanev [$4.5 million], Nikita Zadorov [$3.75 million], Oliver Kylington [$2.5 million] & Dennis Gilbert* [$762,500]
  • Forwards [9; $45.7 million]: Jonathan Huberdeau [$10.5 million], Nazem Kadri [$7 million], Andrew Mangiapane [$5.8 million], Mikael Backlund [$5.35 million], Blake Coleman [$4.9 million], Elias Lindholm [$4.85 million], Tyler Toffoli [$4.25 million], Dillon Dube [$2.3 million] & Adam Ruzicka [$762,500]
  • Buried in AHL [1; $150,000]: Kevin Rooney* [$150,000]
All-in, that means the Flames have 18 roster spots filled and cap commitments of about $81.325 million.
First, some notes:
  • The league minimum NHL salary for next season is $775,000, so Gilbert is the cheapest possible seventh defender because he signed a multi-year deal. He’s a placeholder.
  • Similarly, Rooney being buried in the AHL is cheaper than him being bought out from a cap perspective, so we’re including him here, too.
The Flames have about $2.175 million to fill out their forward group. Usually the Flames carry 22 players (e.g., a full 20-man lineup plus an extra forward and defenceman). If they fill their four empty forward spots with players on league minimum ($775,000) deals, then they would be $925,000 over the cap.
In other words: yes, the Flames can make moves. And yes, getting rid of $925,000 in cap commitments wouldn’t be the end of the world – even in an off-season when virtually every team will be trying to get rid of cap commitments for the 2023-24 season. But adding to that projected cap hole would create additional challenges for them for the off-season.
The Flames probably won’t let next season’s cap challenges stop them from making moves, but it will probably nudge them towards making rental deals rather than making swaps that add any additional commitments to next season’s cap.

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