The only thing that made less sense than starting Nicklas
Grossmann in the Calgary Flames’ first game of the regular season in Edmonton
last night was signing the brick-footed defenceman altogether.
But, as Brad Treliving explained hours after inking Grossmann
on Tuesday, there was a definite method to his madness. Ladislav Smid won’t
play for the Calgary Flames this season, but they’re still on the hook for his $4 million salary and $3.5 million cap hit. On the surface, there’s a
simple solution to this: throw him on long term injured reserve and redeem the $3.5 million in cap space to spend on a new shiny toy!
Not so fast.
We all laughed at the Flames when they submitted their
official roster to the NHL office on Tuesday with cap space totalling just over
$8,000. We also scratched our heads because the reason they had
zero breathing room under the cap was their bewildering signing of Grossmann which not only erased any space under the cap, but also muddied an
already unclear situation on the Flames’ blueline.
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What the heck, Brad? We thought you were a wizard genius?
Well, he is. As it turns out, LTIR space is only afforded to
the teams that actually need that space. As Cap Friendly explains, in order to get full LTIR relief, a team needs to have literally zero
cap space when they designate that player for LTIR, because the cap savings you
receive is calculated under this formula:
LTIR Cap Relief = Cap Hit of LTIR’d Player – (Salary Cap –
Current Team Salary Total)
Meaning, every penny the Flames are under the salary cap
when they LTIR Smid is deducted from the savings they would receive from his
contract. 
So, considering Brett Kulak and his $656,666 cap hit made
the roster, that left the team just a shade over $575,000 in cap space to play
with. Under normal circumstances, the Flames would take it and start the season
as is. However, this season, if they did that, then when they eventually LTIR
Smid, they would’ve received only $2.925M of his $3.5M in cap relief. Thus,
signing Grossmann to his gross, but very specific contract.
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“You’re adding a contract to help your cap situation,” Brad
Treliving noted on Sportsnet 960 after the signing.
My initial reaction to learning this quirk was “Why not just
call up someone from the farm to fill that extra space?” Well, as it turns out,
nobody comes that cheap. Any call up from Stockton would put the Flames over
the salary cap, thus the need to sign somebody from the outside to a very
specific deal.
At first, it sounded like the Flames were really high on
Lauri Korpikoski and might’ve actually gone down that road had the Dallas Stars
not stepped in with a contract offer – and a more lucrative one, at that. Since
Grossmann had history with Gulutzan and had been with the team since the
beginning of the season, the match was there. Plus, the Flames can option
Grossmann to the AHL and regain the cap space in full should they choose to do
so down the road. It’s not a good match by any means, but one can understand the logic thinking behind it. 
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So that is the reason the Calgary Flames signed the God-awful
Nicklas Grossmann to a contract. As for why the Calgary Flames played the God-awful Nicklas Grossmann in Edmonton to start the
season? I don’t think anyone – Glen Gulutzan included – will ever have a good
answer to that. Let’s just hope it never happens again.