Here’s what we’re reasonably sure of right now: the salary cap probably isn’t budging next season. That means the Calgary Flames will have $73 million to spend on their roster for the 2017-18 season.
But, as always, there are some holes and some complications moving forward.
Right now, the Flames have around $3.196 million in cap space available to them by virtue of the long-term injury reserve cap relief they’ve received due to Ladislav Smid’s injury. So between adding bodies at the deadline and paying out performance bonuses to players on entry-level contracts – Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, Garnet Hathaway and Brett Kulak could receive them – the Flames can spend up to $76.49 million.
If they go over that level due to performance bonuses, whatever their overage is comes off 2017-18’s cap – their current cap number has been dinged by $630,500 because of last season’s performance bonuses. The Flames are also paying $1,050,000 to Mason Raymond against the 2017-18 cap as a result of this summer’s buyout.
The Flames have the following players signed to deals for 2017-18:
- Johnny Gaudreau – $6.75 million
- Sean Monahan – $6.375 million
- Troy Brouwer – $4.5 million
- Michael Frolik – $4.3 million
- Mikael Backlund – $3.575 million
- Matt Stajan – $3.125 million
- Lance Bouma – $2.2 million
- Matthew Tkachuk – $925,000
- Freddie Hamilton – $612,500
- Mark Giordano – $6.75 million
- Dougie Hamilton – $5.75 million
- T.J. Brodie – $4.65 million
Tally up the cap commitments the Flames already have and that leaves them $22.437 million to fill 11 roster spots. And that’s presuming that they don’t lose somebody currently under contract to Vegas in the expansion draft, in which case they’ll have more cap space but also have to replace an experienced player.
Restricted free agents, who may be re-signed to fill spots or may be shown the door this summer, include Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Alex Chiasson, Garnet Hathaway, Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Kulak, Jon Gillies, David Rittich, Kenney Morrison, Linden Vey, Ryan Culkin and Tyler Wotherspoon.
The good news is a lot of money is coming off the books as of July 1 for the Flames. The bad news is that the Flames then have to replace those players. Based on the above salary figures and who’s signed, the Flames will need to find:
- Two goaltenders (for the second consecutive summer)
- Four defensemen
- Four or five forwards, depending on if they plan on carrying a 22 or 23-man roster
If you look within the organization, there’s a decent chance that players like Morgan Klimchuk ($863,000), Mark Jankowski ($925,000), Hunter Shinkaruk ($863,000) or Oliver Kylington ($762,000) could slot into some spots vacated by more expensive veterans. That said, a look at the Flames’ depth chart shows a pretty stark drop-off between the handful of players who have had success in Stockton this season and everybody else. The goaltending question, in particular, is a challenge given that Jon Gillies and David Rittich have both been very good but have also faced consistency issues.
This is a long way of saying that unless the Flames have a ton of confidence in their organizational depth or simply wish to fill spots with RFAs, they’ll probably be heading to the free agent market for a lot of the things that they need. And as we saw over the past few summers, even if you’re filling a niche role (and signing a Deryk Engelland type) free agency isn’t cheap and cap space can only be stretched so far.
The Expansion Draft
As I was writing this, a thought came across my mind regarding the expansion draft. The Flames are probably going to lose one of Kulak, Jokipakka, Bouma or Stajan to Vegas on June 21. Would it be worthwhile for the Flames to send a mid-round draft selection (a fourth or fifth rounder) to Vegas to ensure that they take a specific player? Specifically I was thinking about the prospect of foisting Bouma’s deal onto Vegas and replacing him internally with somebody like Hathaway, who will make considerably less because he didn’t have a crazy goal-scoring season like Bouma did. The bottom six forward depth drops off a ton after Hathaway, but he’s a known commodity and a guy that could slot in without issue.
(The same process could work with Stajan heading out and being replaced with Jankowski, but he’s nowhere as established as an NHLer as Hathaway is so there would be arguably a lot more growing pains associated with the transition.)
In other words, my thought is: Would it be worthwhile to lose a mid-round pick in exchange for freeing up a million bucks (or so) of cap space for next season?