Analyzing Calgary’s Cap Climate

A couple of weeks ago my colleague Ryan Pike assessed the Calgary Flames upcoming free agents and what they mean to the team.  Below I attempt to supplement that with an outlook on the Flames salary cap structure looks like next season and beyond. By breaking down the amount of cash they have to play with we can see what options Treliving and his staff have to address the team’s weaknesses. The analysis below will use the league-wide trends and Calgary’s current salary structure to paint a better picture of what opportunities or challenges they face with regards to the cap the next few seasons.

Restricted Free Agents

Joe Colborne

Current cap hit: $1.275M         Estimation: 2.5M/Trade         Difference: +$1.225M

After what happened with the Lance Bouma signing, look for the Flames to push for a one-year “show me” deal. However, it looks as though Colborne might be wanting to cash in on his best season in the NHL so far:


While the young forward did have 30 points in his last 35 games, it is far too little a sample size especially when you look at some more telling numbers. If Colborne is actually considering arbitration, it might be better for the Flames to shop him for help on the wing. If Bennett is to transition to centre full time, there is a logjam down the middle in cowtown. Of course, the team would like to relieve themselves of Matt Stajan, but he serves as a better fourth line centre than Colborne. The good news is that the raise for Colborne should not hamstring them in any way, especially if it’s short term. This situation will be one of the most intriguing to follow in the next few weeks.

Josh Jooris

Current cap hit: $975K         Estimation:1.0M         Difference: +25K

After an impressive rookie campaign, Jooris saw his production dip considerably this past season. Look for the Flames to give him another shot on a one year deal ala Colborne. He is still a versatile bottom six forward who can play on the penalty kill and provide energy. It will be up to him to prove he deserves a spot over some other depth forwards on the squad.

Johnny Gaudreau

Current cap hit: $925K         Estimation:7.25M         Difference: +$6.3M

Last month, Ben Shelley did a nice breakdown of what to expect for Gaudreau and Monahan’s next contracts. I have no argument in his assessment and it should be a fairly accurate estimate. Gaudreau has quickly become one of the top point producers in the league at only 22 years old. A good comparable to look at is the deal Tarasenko signed the last off-season which saw him earn 7.5M per season. It would be a surprise if this deal was anything shorter than the max of 8 years unless Johnny wants to keep his options open. Here’s a little taste of what he  can do:

Sean Monahan

Current cap hit: $925K         Estimation: 6.25M         Difference: +$5.3M

Another fixture of Calgary’s future is Sean Monahan. He’s undoubtedly their number one centreman and will be paid like one this off-season. Like Gaudreau, unless Monahan has undisclosed reasons for wanting out of Calgary sooner, look for him to be signed for the maximum of 8 years. This might drive up the price even more than what is listed, but only to a maximum of 6.5M. That may seem high for Monahan, but you must consider he has outperformed everyone from his draft class up until this point, and Nathan MacKinnon will be looking at a similar contract. Once Giordano is done in cowtown look for this kid to be handed the reigns as captain.

Drew Shore

Current cap hit: $850K         Estimation:$892K         Difference: $42K

I predict that the Flames will qualify Shore, hence the increase. He will have to battle to earn a spot in the bottom 6, but at worst he will be a good player for Stockton and depth for when injuries rear their ugly head.

Joni Ortio

Current cap hit: $850K         Estimation:$1.1M         Difference: +$250,000

It was a difficult season for Joni Ortio like any other Calgary netminder. However, with the goaltending carousel a thing of the past look for his numbers to improve. He is still capable backup and he should thrive in that role. Again, do not expect Joni to get signed to a long term deal but something that will have him for a maximum of two years.

Tyler Wotherspoon

Current cap hit: $850K         Estimation:$900K/trade         Difference:$50,000

Wotherspoon is stuck behind too many good defensemen in Calgary to stay much longer. If he remains this next season it will be on the bottom pairing. Wotherspoon is still a nice prospect and would garner interest around the league if the Flames choose to shop him. My gut says Treliving will deal him for an RFA forward in a similar situation. Kerby Rychel or Ty Rattie come to mind.

Unrestricted Free Agents

To be frank, the Flames do not have any noteworthy UFAs that need re-signing which will allow them to attack the market more than most teams. Here’s how it shakes out.

Derek Grant

Current cap hit: $850K         Estimation:Release to free agency         Difference: -$850K

With him not being waiver eligible next year, it’s possible the Flames will move on and use his contract spot on a different UFA that can have a larger impact at the NHL level.

Jakub Nakladal

Current cap hit: $850K         Estimation:$900K         Difference: $50K

Defensive depth is always a nice thing to have so look for the Flames to try to hold onto Nakladal; especially if they do find a way to trade some of their defensive depth for help up front.

Kari Ramo

Current cap hit: $3.8M         Estimation: Release to free agency         Difference: -$3.8M

Injuries and lack of consistency will have Ramo looking for jobs elsewhere as Calgary looks for a true #1 goalie to solve their woes.

Nicklas Backstrom

Current cap hit: $4.0M         Estimation: Retire/free agency         Difference: -$4.0M

Of course, the Flames were not liable for the entire $4.0M on Backstrom’s contract last year, but they will save money with that experiment now over.


Buy-Out Candidates

Ladislav Smid

Current cap hit: $3.5M         Estimation: Buy-out ($833,333)       Difference: -$2.7M

An update on #Flames D Ladislav Smid: According to a team source, likely no surgery required on the neck injury. Really good news for 30-year-old.

— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) March 13, 2016

With this news it’s safe to assume the Flames will not be able to bury Ladislav Smid’s contract in an LTIR spot while he recovers from his second serious neck injury. If he opts against retirement, the Flames might have no choice but to buy him out. The penalty this season would only be $833,333 this season with $1,333,333 the following year. Defensive depth, lack of cap space and big needs at right wing and in net needing to be addressed make this buyout necessary.

Mason Raymond

Current cap hit: $3.15M         Estimation: Buy-out ($1.05M)       Difference: -$2.1M

Raymond had a very disappointing season in Calgary and ended the season buried in the AHL. While that scenario is a very real possibility to happen again, a buy-out would save the Flames just over one million in cap space next season. The only issue is that it will cost them one million in dead cap space the following season. Who knows – Raymond might even be able to bounce back and be a regular contributor for Calgary next season. If not, Treliving may be able to get creative and pawn off his contract to a team like the Coyotes looking to reach the salary floor. Whatever the case may be, Calgary might be forced to shed his cap space in order to get that number one goalie they will be targeting.

The Result

Courtesy of cap friendly

21 $71,400,000 $65,088,733 $2,512,500 $6,311,267


Left Wing Centre Right Wing

Gaudreau, Johnny


Monahan, Sean


Frolik, Michael

UFA – 4

Colborne, Joe


Backlund, Mikael

UFA – 2

Shinkaruk, Hunter

RFA – 2

Ferland, Micheal

RFA – 1

Bennett, Sam

RFA – 1

Bouma, Lance

UFA – 2

Jooris, Josh


Stajan, Matt

UFA – 2

Bollig, Brandon

UFA – 1

Pribyl, Daniel

RFA – 2
Left Defense Right Defense Goaltender

Giordano, Mark

UFA – 6

Hamilton, Dougie

UFA – 5

Ortio, Joni


Brodie, TJ

UFA – 4

Wideman, Dennis

UFA – 1

Jokipakka, Jyrki

RFA – 1

Engelland, Deryk

UFA – 1

Nakladal, Jakub


This leaves the Flames with about 6.3M with two players to sign – a right winger to play on the top line and that elusive number one goalie. Good luck, right? This is where Brad Treliving has to look at his options. Although the Flames would very much like to get back into the playoffs, by no means are they in “win now” mode. This means they can be patient when it comes to filling holes. Obviously, the priority is to find a number one goaltender, but if Calgary does not like any of the options available via free agency or trade prices are too high it might be better to wait until next off-season for the expansion draft, where goalie prices will be significantly lower.

The Flames will also be relieved of a lot of “dead cap space” next off-season with the departures of Dennis Wideman, Mason Raymond (if not bought out), Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland. That’s over $11.6M gone from fringe players that can be replaced by those on ELCs. Of course, much of that money will be needed to negotiate extensions for Sam Bennett, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Michael Ferland. As we stand now, with the Flames cap crunch and number of RFAs, it signals that they will be active on the trade front (rather than free agency) to fill their needs.