What can (or could) the Flames do about their salary cap troubles?

Updated: September 20, 2016 at 2:00 pm by Ari Yanover

The bad news: the Calgary Flames are in tough times, salary cap-wise. They’ve incurred the wrath of bonus overages and/or buyout shenanigans, the guy who’s probably going to be their most expensive player remains unsigned, and they probably won’t be able to bring back Jakub Nakladal. Also, does anyone even remember Freddie Hamilton anymore?

The good news: the Calgary Flames still have about three weeks to figure it all out! Hopefully they do.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at what the Flames maybe should have done, and what they can still do, while we wait for them to actually do stuff again.

What they could have done

Not sign Troy Brouwer (or sign him at a lesser cap hit).

This has been referenced… a fair number of times since the Flames signed him. (My very first post on it was perplexed as to how his cap hit fits in, and I don’t feel that question has actually been answered yet.) With a $4.5 million cap hit, Brouwer costs a pretty penny. He’s the second highest paid forward on the Flames – should be third once Gaudreau is signed – and takes up a substantial part of the cap.

No Brouwer means an extra $4.5 million, which means overages and shady buyouts aren’t a problem, plus Gaudreau and Nakladal can come back.

No Brouwer also raises the question as to just who would play on the right side. Daniel Pribyl likely won’t start the season in the NHL; also, he’s a rookie. Asking pretty much every non-Gaudreau left winger to play the opposite side probably doesn’t make for a particularly good lineup. Very few of our bargain big suggestions were probably sure bets.

Then again, what are the expectations for this season? Does having Brouwer make them more likely to occur than putting things on hold for a year?

Buy out Dennis Wideman instead of Mason Raymond.

By buying out Raymond, the Flames saved $2.1 million on their cap this season. They don’t even particularly need to worry about replacing his spot, as various kids called up from the farm he was sent down to fulfilled that role easily last year.

However, if the Flames had retained Raymond and instead bought out Wideman, they would have saved $4 million in cap space. They would still need to replace him, though; and oh hey, look, there’s a shiny Nakladal here who probably isn’t going to cost much more than $1 million. If the Flames had done this, they would have upgraded their defence while still creating something like an additional $3 million in cap space: $900k more than they would have right now, which would at least cover the overage.

I would have trusted Raymond to have a bounce back season, especially under a new coach, more than I trust Wideman to do… well… anything other than shoot wide on the powerplay. Raymond also wouldn’t have been totally redundant on the roster. And if worst came to worst, at least he didn’t have a no movement clause.

What they can still do

Demote Brandon Bollig.

Bollig costs $1.25 million on the cap, which is a silly amount for a depreciating fourth liner and/or pressbox fodder. If he spends his season in Stockton, the Flames get an extra $925k in cap space. But they still need to replace him – and hey, Garnet Hathaway costs $690k, or Linden Vey is $700k, or if Freddie Hamilton is still alive he’d probably come in at a similar amount.

That’s only about $225k in savings, but at this point, every little bit counts. And besides, I think I’d trust any of those guys on the ice more than Bollig.

Make a trade.

I’m not talking about trading Wideman for a sixth round pick. That’s not going to happen. If it was going to happen it would have by now. Barring Wideman going nuts (in a good way, not in a possibly-concussed-cross-checking-officials way) this season, it’s hard to see any team genuinely wanting to take a flyer on him, at least without dumping a terrible contract in return.

(Besides, why would anyone trade for Wideman when Nakladal is out there for free?)

I’m talking about having to give up actual assets along with bad contracts. You know, like how the Flames were offering to do stuff like take on Cam Ward’s contract if the Hurricanes sent a first round pick the other way at the 2014 draft.

This seems less than ideal, because it’s mortgaging the future, which the Flames are finally just on the cusp of. But it does pose the question: what is a comfortable cap balance worth to you? Is an extra $5.25 million in cap space worth, say, Brandon Hickey and a third round pick? Getting rid of Bryan Bickell’s cap hit cost Teuvo Teravainen.

Because nobody’s going to take on a giant cap hit without getting something in return.

What about Smid and LTIR?

Assuming Ladislav Smid is not good to go for the start of the season, or ever again, really, then once their opening roster is announced – with him on it – the Flames can place him on the long-term injured reserve, and be allowed to exceed the cap by an additional $3.5 million for as long as he’s there.


Which is, you know. What we did last year. And he played 22 NHL games. So he wasn’t dead quite yet. And still isn’t. Because he’s skating. Which he was also doing at this time last year. And if Smid is medically cleared to play – which absolutely remains a possibility – then the Flames don’t have that $3.5 million to work with, because it’s all tied up in him. Short of the Flames hiring Tonya Harding, they may not be able to guarantee Smid staying on LTIR throughout the year.

So I’m not willing to write in an extra $3.5 million for the Flames in cap space. Not without knowing all the details. The Flames might not even know. And if he suddenly returns, they’d need to find a way to shed the extra salary they’d be carrying in his absence immediately – so it’s all very risky, at least from the outsider’s perspective.