The Calgary Flames will be looking to retain most of their pending free agents during the offseason and they’re projected to have $19.1 million in cap space to do so. Their list of pending free agents includes TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone, Michael Frolik, Andrew Mangiapane, Mark Jankowski, Cam Talbot, Tobias Rieder, and Zac Rinaldo.
Related: Flames’ 3 Best Contracts for 2019-20
As the Flames assess their cap situation, looking to spend their projected $19.1 million wisely, they will see a few contracts that will hinder them during this offseason and in future offseasons, as well.
Milan Lucic’s contract will always be the most glaring when assessing the Flames’ cap situation. Lucic is set to make $6 million every year until the end of the 2022-23 season, with the Edmonton Oilers retaining $750,000 annually.
Lucic has eclipsed the 40-point mark six times in his career, including as recently as the 2016-17 season, which saw him put up 23 goals and 27 assists with the Oilers, but his numbers and play have been on a downward spiral the past couple of seasons.
Lucic currently has eight points (three goals and five assists) in 35 games this season while averaging 13 minutes per game. Since his 2015-16 season with the Los Angeles Kings, he has seen his points-per-game (P/G) steadily decline from 0.68 P/G to 0.23 P/G.
His hefty $5.25 million cap hit (taking into account retained salary) is similar to Teuvo Teräväinen ($5.4 million), Mika Zibanejad ($5.35 million), Jaccob Slavin ($5.3 million), and J.T. Miller ($5.25 million).
Lucic has a cap hit that puts him among solid contributors and first liners around the league, but his declining stats reveal his struggle to keep up with today’s NHL. His desperation to contribute might soon compare to the Flames’ desperation to get his contract and cap hit off their books.
The former first-round pick has been a solid two-way shutdown centre for the Flames in years past but as Backlund enters his 30s, his play this season has left the Flames wanting more from their second liner.
Backlund has eclipsed the 40-point mark in each of his last four seasons, but this season he’s on pace to miss the mark. He currently has 15 points (3 goals and 12 assists) in 37 games this season, and his 0.41 P/G this season is his worst since the 2011-12 season.
Like Lucic, Backlund’s $5.35 million cap hit is similar to Teräväinen ($5.4 million), Zibanejad ($5.35 million), Slavin ($5.3 million), and Miller ($5.25 million).
The Flames have the 30-year-old locked up until the end of the 2022-23 season. David Rittich, Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan will all need extensions before Backlund’s contract expires, which will likely become an issue at some point during the duration of Backlund’s contract.
His declining production this season, coupled with his consistent cap hit of over $5 million, could leave the Flames with a sour taste in their mouths while assessing their contracts in the offseason.
Hanifin, the former fifth-overall pick in 2015, who was taken ahead of Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, and Thomas Chabot, has struggled to find consistency this season.
Hanifin has nine points (three goals and six assists) in 37 games this season, and he’s a minus-18 as well. The 22-year-old is currently on pace to have the worst statistical season in his five-year career.
The Flames dealt Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox to the Carolina Hurricanes for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin in June 2018. Up until this season, the Flames looked like the clear winners of this trade, but that seems to have changed in 2019-20. Hamilton has 34 points (12 goals and 22 assists) in 35 games with the Hurricanes, which is the same amount that Hanifin (nine points) and Lindholm (25 points) have combined. Hamilton is looking like a Norris Trophy nominee this season, while Flames fans are hoping that Hanifin can be the smooth-skating talent he was just a season ago.
The good news for the Flames is Hanifin is just 22 years old. He still has plenty of time to develop and get back the success he found with the Flames last season. The Flames currently have him locked up until the end of the 2023-24 season with an annual cap hit of $4.925 million.
Other blueliners with similar cap hits include Charlie McAvoy ($4.9 million), Justin Faulk ($4.83 million), Ryan Murray ($4.6 million), Jakob Chychrun ($4.6 million), and John Klingberg ($4.25 million).
The salary cap should increase throughout the duration of Hanifin’s deal, so if he can get back to what made him successful as a Flame just a year ago and continue to grow his game, his contract won’t be bad at all.
With an array of key blueliners like Hamonic, Brodie, and Andersson being pending free agents, the Flames will be looking to keep most of their defense corps intact this offseason as long as the price is right.
The Flames have $10.6 million in cap space being taken up by just Lucic and Backlund, which doesn’t include other larger cap hits like Tkachuk, Gaudreau, Monahan, Giordano, Lindholm, and Hanifin. Those cap hits are slowly starting to add up for the Flames, who could struggle to divide their cap space among pending free agents for years to come.