It’s no secret that the Calgary Flames have some decisions to make after the 2021-22 season is complete. They have several key free agents – restricted and unrestricted – poised for big raises, and the salary cap is only slated to go up by $1 million for 2022-23.
Let’s break down how much cap space the Flames will have to work with this off-season.
Let’s assume that the Flames will operate with a 22-man roster (two goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards).
Here’s roughly how things look roster-wise for 2022-23:
Goaltenders: This position is more or less locked in. Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar are a rock-solid tandem and make a combined $6.75 million against the cap. You’re not going to replace Markstrom and it’s impossible to find a better value number-two goalie in the league than Vladar at league-minimum.
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Defensemen: The top four is basically locked in, with Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin and RFA Oliver Kylington. Kylington will get a raise over his current $750,000 cap hit, but the question is how much (and for how long). Beyond them, they have Connor Mackey ($912,500) and Juuso Valimaki ($1.55 million) on one-way deals for 2022-23 and they may be depth options, but could the Flames want (and be able to afford) to bring back Erik Gudbranson?
Forwards: The Flames have seven forwards under contract for 2022-23 – Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic, Blake Coleman, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli and Dillon Dube – making a combined $33.275 million against the cap. Then they have UFA Johnny Gaudreau, their most important player, and RFAs Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane and Adam Ruzicka.
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If you add up the committed, regular NHL players, the combined cap hits are $54.025 million. If you want to plug in Valimaki and Mackey in, that’s another $2.463 million for a total of $56.488 million committed under an $82.5 million cap ceiling. So with one spots on the blueline and six in the forward ranks to fill, the Flames would have about $26.012 million to do so.
Here’s roughly how the Flames stack up within the positional depth chart.

Goaltenders

@Jacob Markstrom [$6.000m]
@Daniel Vladar [$0.750m]

Defensemen

@Noah Hanifin [$4.950m]
@Rasmus Andersson [$4.550m]
@Oliver Kylington [RFA]
@Chris Tanev [$4.500m]
@Connor Mackey [$0.913m]
@Juuso Valimaki [$1.550m]
TBD

Forwards

TBD
@Elias Lindholm [$4.850m]
@Matthew Tkachuk [RFA]
@Andrew Mangiapane [RFA]
@Mikael Backlund [$5.350m]
@Blake Coleman [$4.900m]
@Dillon Dube [$2.300m]
@Sean Monahan [$6.375m]
@Tyler Toffoli [$4.250m]
TBD
@Adam Ruzicka [RFA]
TBD
TBD
Obviously the first line left wing “TBD” would ideally be Gaudreau.
Here’s where the math gets tricky, pals. Back in December, we sussed out some general market valuations for the Flames’ big four free agents.
We’ve done breakdowns of likely signing ranges for the four pending key RFAs or UFAs. Here’s what we came up with at the high end of these estimates.
Collectively, these estimates come to $26.25 million AAV. Let’s also inflate these estimates by 10% for safety’s sake, for a total of $28.875 million AAV. (If we inflate by only 5% for safety, it’s still $27.563 million AAV.)
Now, Gaudreau and Tkachuk are having very good seasons which probably nudge their cap hits up – Gaudreau is probably in the $9.5 million range and Tkachuk is probably around $9.75 million, give or take a hundred thousand or so.
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Based on cap pressures – which we’ll get into in a moment – maybe assume that Mangiapane and Kylington get slightly shorter deals than we anticipated in December, which brings their cap numbers down a tiny bit – to around $5 million for Mangiapane and $3 million for Kylington. These tweaks still mean that we’re ball-parking the combined cap hits for those four key players to be a combined $27.25 million. For safety’s sake, let’s just say it’s a combined $28 million.
Remember the $26.012 million of cap space the Flames had to fill out their roster? It’s spent, all of it, on four guys, and they’re projecting $1.988 million over the cap… and they still need a seventh defender and four forwards. If you project a slight raise to $900,000 for Ruzicka and the other four spots are filled by league-minimum ($750,000) players, that’s another $3.9 million of cap hits and push the Flames to $5.888 million over the cap. (And that’s before dealing with in-season injuries and/or call-ups.)
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Yeesh.

How to make more cap space?

The Flames have a few options.
They could find less expensive depth defenders than Valimaki and/or Mackey, bearing in mind that Valimaki would count for $450,000 against the cap next season if he somehow cleared waivers and was hid away in the minors.
The Flames could trade Sean Monahan – his $6.375 million cap hit would cover the space they need – or failing that, they could buy him out and open up $4 million in space. He would need to be replaced, though, and so that would eat into any cap savings. Milan Lucic ($5.25 million) would be another trade candidate, but he has both a no-move and a modified no-trade clause in his contract that allow him to restrict where he would go.
The Flames are very much focused on the here and now, and in riding the waves of the current season until their conclusion. They’re going to figure out next season’s cap situation when they need to do so. But even looking at things very quickly, it’s quite clear that they have a ton of things to work through and figure out.
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