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What if the Calgary Flames biggest contracts don’t age well?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
Pals, the Calgary Flames have made hefty financial commitments to a handful of veteran core players. If you look at the club’s roster, they have four players signed to deals that carry cap hits that are at $6 million or above: Jacob Markstrom, Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.
One of the common criticisms of these lengthy, hefty deals – and probably a fair one – is that these deals pay these four guys big money well into their 30s. If you’re nervous about these deals aging poorly, even if these guys are all performing well thus far, it’s not an unreasonable anxiety to have.
To illustrate what these deals could look like on the back end of things, let’s show what happens if the Flames decided to buy each contract out at the first opportunity after each player had their 34th birthday.
For those unfamiliar, buyouts for players of these ages would involve the players getting two-thirds of their remaining salary owed but spread out over twice as many years. So, for example, a player with $1 million of salary and one year left would get $666,667 (two-thirds of his salary) spread out over two years, or about $333,333 per season. Signing bonuses can’t get bought out, which adds some complexities. (Our pals at PuckPedia have much more detail on the buyout mechanics over at their site. Stick-taps to them for all the data!)
Let’s dive in!

Jacob Markstrom

Markstrom turns 34 in January 2024, so the hypothetical buyout would be prior to the 2024-25 season. This buyout would cover the final two seasons (2024-26) where Markstrom makes $7 million in salary and $5 million in signing bonuses.
SeasonOld Cap HitNew Cap HitSavings
2024-25$6,000,000$3,666,667$2,333,333
2025-26$6,000,000$3,666,667$2,333,333
2026-27$0$1,166,667-$1,166,667
2027-28$0$1,166,667-$1,166,667
The bonuses in Markstrom’s deal are evenly-distributed and don’t make this deal completely buyout-proof, but they mitigate the benefits of bailing on his deal early. The savings aren’t massive, but the cap penalty in the following seasons also isn’t massive, so it’s a fairly balanced risk on both ends.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri turns 34 in October 2024, so the hypothetical buyout would be prior to the 2025-26 season. This buyout would cover the final four seasons (2025-29) where Kadri makes $24.5 million in salary and $3.5 million in signing bonuses.
SeasonOld Cap HitNew Cap HitSavings
2025-26$7,000,000$4,541,667$2,458,333
2026-27$7,000,000$3,041,667$3,958,333
2027-28$7,000,000$2,041,667$4,958,333
2028-29$7,000,000$2,041,667$4,958,333
2029-30$0$2,041,667-$2,041,667
2030-31$0$2,041,667-$2,041,667
2031-32$0$2,041,667-$2,041,667
2032-33$0$2,041,667-$2,041,667
The bonuses are split between the 2025-26 and 2026-27 seasons, making the cap benefits of a buyout a bit uneven from year-to-year. The upside: nearly $5 million benefit in 2027-28 and 2028-29. But over $2 million in dead space over the final four years of the buyout isn’t ideal. Like Markstrom’s buyout, the deal structure of Kadri’s contract slightly mitigate the benefits on either side.

Jonathan Huberdeau

Huberdeau turns 34 in June 2027, so the hypothetical buyout would be prior to the 2027-28 season. This buyout would cover the final four seasons (2027-31) where Huberdeau makes $11 million in salary and $31 million in signing bonuses.
SeasonOld Cap HitNew Cap HitSavings
2027-28$10,500,000$10,416,667$83,333
2028-29$10,500,000$7,916,667$2,583,333
2029-30$10,500,000$10,416,667$83,333
2030-31$10,500,000$5,916,667$4,583,333
2031-32$0$916,667-$916,667
2032-33$0$916,667-$916,667
2033-34$0$916,667-$916,667
2034-35$0$916,667-$916,667
If you’re asking yourself “Hey Ryan, what’s the point of buying Huberdeau out for an $83,000 cap benefit?” well, that’s the answer as to why his deal is structured this way. He’s a premium player with a strong track record, and so he got a bonus-laden deal that’s structured in a pretty buyout-proof manner.

MacKenzie Weegar

Weegar turns 34 in January 2028, so the hypothetical buyout would be prior to the 2028-29 season. This buyout would cover the final three seasons (2028-31) where Weegar makes $18.75 million in salary with no signing bonuses.
SeasonOld Cap HitNew Cap HitSavings
2028-29$6,250,000$2,083,333$4,166,667
2029-30$6,250,000$2,083,333$4,166,667
2030-31$6,250,000$2,083,333$4,166,667
2031-32$0$2,083,333-$2,083,333
2032-33$0$2,083,333-$2,083,333
2033-34$0$2,083,333-$2,083,333
Weegar’s deal includes zero bonuses, and so his buyout is pretty cut-and-dried. The dead cap space at the tail end is more a product of his deal’s size than any type of structural shenanigans.
All-in-all, Huberdeau’s deal structure makes it challenging to buy him out since the benefits are so minor and variable. For Markstrom, Kadri and Weegar, the decent buyout benefits are off-set with a moderate amount of dead cap space. For the Flames’ sake, hope that it doesn’t come to this, but three of the four deals can be wriggled out of with only moderate cap pain.

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