Saturday, July 28, 2018

State of the 2018-19 Roster: Flames Tracking to Squeeze in Under the $79.5M Salary Cap

Embed from Getty Images


As Flames GM Brad Treliving methodically works through his summer 'to do' list, signing players in need of new deals, a lot of questions have been swirling among fans.

In particular, there is angst around the roster and Calgary's proximity to the NHL salary cap of $79.5 million.

Do they have enough cap space to sign restricted free agent Noah Hanafin? The 21-year-old defenceman is coming off his entry level contract and it remains to be seen if the team opts to do a bridge deal with the player or do they commit long-term.

Will they need to buy somebody out? The name Troy Brouwer always comes up in these debates given the bottom-six forward has two years remaining on his deal that pays him an annual average value of $4.5 million.

Do they have to trade Michael Stone to clear space? The third pairing blueliner also has two years remaining on his deal that pays him an AAV of $3.5 million.

With only three unsigned players remaining -- Hanifin, Garnet Hathaway and Hunter Shinkaruk -- the state of the NHL roster is coming into focus, allowing us to get a much better grasp on where the club is at in respect to the salary cap and what do they still need to do.

I set out to construct what I think the Flames' NHL roster could look like when they open the regular season in Vancouver on Oct. 3. What I learned is despite all the consternation, the answer to the question of what do they still need to do could be nothing. Boring, I know, but it looks like they'll be just fine.


Background

The website Cap Friendly is a phenomenal tool and I use it all the time. That said, because of the presence of RFAs and players on that site listed in the minors when they could or should be listed on the NHL roster (and perhaps vice versa), I prefer to maintain my own ledger.

So here we go.

These are my projections, as of today, as to who will be on the team and who will not. For planning purposes, I've roughed in some tentative lines also, but please don't let that distract you (I repeat, do not let that distract you -- e.g. Sam Bennett at center, I'm just tinkering with different ideas should Bill Peters want both Mark Jankowski and Derek Ryan in his top nine). The theme with all the changes made this off-season is versatility in positions/roles so there could be and likely will be a myriad of different iterations of who slots where.

For now, I'm more concerned with the salary math as that's the key takeaway from this roster-building exercise.

Determined to attach a dollar figure to every player, highlighted in yellow are guys that are still unsigned and my guess at what their AAV may come in at for the 2018-19 season. I will adjust this as contracts are signed so check back later.

At the bottom, I've included some further position-by-position commentary to explain what I've done.

------------------------------------------------------

NHL Salary Cap in 2018-19
$79.5 million

My Projected Flames Payroll 
$78.867 million
(23 players - 14 forwards, 7 defencemen, 2 goaltenders)

Available Cap Space
$0.633 million 

------------------------------------------------------

Breakdown by Position

-------------------------------------------------------

Forwards
$48.455 million
(14 players)


Starting 12

Gaudreau (L) $6.75M - Monahan (L) $6.375M - Lindholm (R) $4.85M
Tkachuk (L) $925K - Backlund (L) $5.35M - Neal (L) $5.75M
Frolik (L) $4.3M - Jankowski (L) $1.675M - Ryan (R) $3.125M
Mangiapane (L) $705K - Bennett (L) $1.95M - Czarnik (R) $1.25M

Extras

C/RW Lazar (R) $950K
RW Brouwer (R) $4.5M 


Other Candidates
 (not factored into the payroll)

RW Hathaway (R) $800K?
C/LW Dube (L) $778K
RW Foo (R) $925K
C Quine (L) $700K
LW Klimchuk (L) $700K
RW Robinson (R) $700K
LW Shinkaruk (L) $650K?


------------------------------------------------------------

Defence
$24.458 million
(7 players)


Starting Six

Giordano (L) $6.75M - Brodie (L) $4.65M
Hanifin (L) $4M? - Hamonic (R) $3.858M
Kulak (L) $900K - Stone (R) $3.5M

Extra

Prout (R) $800K


Other Candidates
 (not factored into the payroll)

Andersson (R) $756K
Valimaki (L) $895K
Kylington (L) $731K
Hogstrom (L) $700K


------------------------------------------------------------

Goaltenders
$5.05 million
(2 players)


Tandem

Smith $4.25M
Rittich $800K


Other Candidates
 (not factored into the payroll)

Gillies $750K

------------------------------------------------------------

Other Expenses
$905K

Buyout Costs
$905K
(Bouma $767K, Murphy $138K)


------------------------------------------------------------


About the Forwards

One of the common misunderstandings is that the Flames have to fit in all the forwards on one-way deals into the team salary cap. This is inaccurate. You only need to fit in all the salaries of the players that end up on the NHL roster, with one exception that I will explain.
  
For example, on my ghost roster above, I have Hathaway as not on the team. 
              
When Hathaway signs — be it on his own or through an arbitration decision — his AAV is assured of being below the 2018-19 threshold documented in the CBA of $1.025 million (his ask in salary arbitration is $975,000 while the team has countered with $650,000). Because of that, even if he gets a one-way deal, he can still be sent to the minors with his entire salary coming off the books. While Flames ownership would still need to pay him the full amount, it won’t count from a salary cap perspective. He would have to be placed on waivers before being sent to the minors, but if that was the roster decision Calgary made, I don't think there would be any hesitation.

   
When burying players in the minors this season, it's only the AAV above $1.025 million that counts towards a team's payroll. So as I see it, Hathaway and Shinkaruk remaining unsigned has very little bearing on the team's overall payroll situation.

I say "very little" because if Hathaway makes the team instead and the team opts to send down Andrew Mangiapane instead (who does not need to clear waivers), the only impact on the team's total payroll would be the difference between Mangiapane's $705,000 AAV and whatever Hathaway signs for, so a difference of around $100,000.

Same thing applies if Spencer Foo or Alan Quine make the team instead of Curtis Lazar or whoever. You're adding in one AAV, but then you're also subtracting one, so they essentially cancel each other out.
   
Because the team isn't in absolute dire need of creating cap space for this season, I don't see them buying out Brouwer. While that would create cap space for this season and next, it also means they would have to carry a Brouwer buyout penalty of $1.5 million for the next four seasons and that is far from ideal.


About the Defence

The Hanifin situation is the one worth monitoring as it could be a game-changer in terms of forcing an additional significant roster move. 

As it stands, I'm anticipating a bridge deal. A two or three-year deal with a significant pay hike to around $4 million would give the Flames a chance to really see what they have in the American selected fifth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Yet, that would keep him an RFA at the end of that deal as he won't become an unrestricted free agent to the summer of 2022.

I'm just not sure Treliving is ready to commit quite yet to the type of number Hanifin would want over a long-term deal, nor do I think the player -- betting on his own upside -- would be willing to accept a reduced figure over the long term that would be palatable by the team.

That said, if Hanifin does end up inking a long-term deal, the AAV he'd command would likely be large enough to push Calgary over the salary cap. In that instance, you do need to seriously look at a couple options:

One is the aforementioned Brouwer buyout. A second buyout window opens for Calgary in the first week of August as a result of the Flames having salary arbitration cases. So this remains a path Calgary could go down.

The other option and one that arguably makes more sense is trading Stone given you have a natural replacement on that third pairing in right-shooting Rasmus AnderssonTurning 22 in October, the Swede looks ready to take his development to the NHL level after two seasons in the AHL. He got into 10 games with the Flames last year.

Stone does have a limited no-trade clause, which means the player submits a 15-team list of teams he can't be traded to without his permission. Is Ottawa on that list? Hard to imagine they would be given that's where his younger brother Mark Stone plays. With the Senators expected to move on from right-shooting defenceman Erik Karlsson, perhaps there could be a fit there with the right-shooting Stone, even if Calgary needs to retain some salary.


About the Goaltenders

There is no real drama here. While I've penciled in David Rittich in the back-up role given he's on a one-way deal and with the success he enjoyed early last season as Smith's caddy, should Jon Gillies win the back-up job instead, the salary difference between the two is minimal.

But because Gillies is on a two-way and is also waivers exempt while Rittich is now waiver-eligible, it does feel like it will be a Smith-Rittich tandem, at least to start the season.




By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Do so now! It's another way to be alerted to new stories I've written, other articles from my colleagues that I've enjoyed and I'll occasionally use that space to chime in on the news of the day.

-----------------------------------------------

Recent Flames Reading:

  • Jankowski Agrees to Two-Year Deal That Works Great for Both Sides - Mark Jankowski has been a good soldier for the Flames and his two-year deal is yet another example. (July 26, 2018)
  • Enough: Treliving Finally Repairs Hole in Line-up that has Existed for Seven Years - Not since Craig Conroy have the Flames had a right-shot centre in their top nine and the lack of that cost them last season. Well, that won't be an issue any longer. (July 13, 2018)
  • Trying to Crack the A Team: Don't Pity the Foo - Since Spencer Foo signed with the Flames just a over a year ago, right wing has suddenly become a crowd scene. However, he remains unfazed, confident that he can make the team and be a difference maker. (July 10, 2018) 
  • Flames Get Younger and Different in Blockbuster Trade with Carolina - In a blockbuster deal at the draft, Calgary traded fan favourites Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox. While the return were names that are less familiar , they're both solid. (June 24, 2018)


14 comments:

  1. This looks pretty solid, with multiple interchangeable guys depending on training camp. Personally I believe there is a good chance Hanifin signs long-term which would create a need for a buy-out/trade as you have indicated. That would also provide the Flames with more breathing room for things like Tkachuk's bonuses and injury replacements. Hopefully everything is in place before the end of August so our critical training camps/China trip are not impacted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's just a unique situation with Hanifin. I suppose it's like a UFA situation where you're pondering signing a player long term who you simply don't know that well because he has been with another organization. You'd think Bill Peters' would hold much influence on this one if they go that route. He knows Hanifin better than anyone in the Flames front office.

      Your point about allowing space for Tkachuk's bonuses is certainly valid. You'd like to avoid carrying them over into next season if you can avoid it. But it's a nice-to-do, versus a need-to-do. We'll see.

      Delete
    2. Totally right about knowing the player, although Peters should have plenty of input, and may have been one of the driving forces behind the trade in the first place. The other issue is trying to avoid a 2-yr bridge situation to keep from having all of Brodie, Hamonic, Stone and Hogstrom all defence UFAs and also Hanifin RFA in 2 years all at the same time. Even 1-yr we already have Bennett and Tkachuk RFA and Smith UFA. The ideal shorter term deal would be 3 years since only Ryan is UFA, plus admittedly a bunch of prospect RFAs each year.

      Delete
    3. Three years does sound ideal to off-set the expiry dates on the contracts of those other blue liners mentioned. Although even if it’s a two, it could be a situation where one year or so into it, now that they’ve seen him under their noses at the Saddledome for a year, they could then talk extension and get in front of the next deal, like they did with TJ Brodie. Then his deal essentially isn’t expiring at the same time as the others. Could also do that with a three-year though, that gives you two years to figure out exactly what you have, then you can start talking long term extension.

      Delete
  2. Man it would be nice to be able to just buy out players in one payment, not having it being a hit to our Cap for successive years. Then buying out Brouwer would make so much sense. (if management agreed) Definetly a solid looking line up. And if we can see Bennett get back on track, that could really turn this team into a real threat to make some noise in the late season.
    And I think it's possible. I really think if the new coaching staff can work with him, and he has done good off season work himself. Especially on his shot, and learning to control his emotions, and not take stupid penalties, I have confidence in him still.
    And Jankowski I'm pretty sure will improve and become more consistent. Defense tightens up...Could be a real exciting year. Either way, I believe we are headed in the right direction, and think Tre has done a great job. Just hoping Smith stays healthy, as well as Rittich or Gillies taking a step forward this year.I'm excited to watch some good hockey again. Can't be as bad as the last half of last year, I hope...That was horrible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The buyout rules are in place to prevent buyouts, so it's safe to say this format was a demand of the player's association. Mind you, some bought out players then go and sign new contracts elsewhere so they're not losing out on as much money as it looks at first.

      Bennett is an interesting situation and the potential lines needs exploring in far greater detail at a future date. I put him at centre, more so just for fun. It could happen, but I'm skeptical. Upon further reflection, maybe the fourth line in the above top-nine scenario is Bennett, Czarnik at centre as he's played there before, then Foo or Lazar or Brouwer on the right.

      I have no doubt Jankowski will continue to trend upwards. He's got all the tools as I wrote in my last piece. Playing center in your first year in the NHL is not easy, but can get overwhelming. He could be a surprise yet again next season, just like last season.

      We'll start to get the answers to the many questions in a couple months.

      Delete
    2. For me the thing is that the Flames may be in a situation to rethink the historical definition of 4 lines. This team could have 4 very solid lines.

      Delete
  3. One of the things that makes the Flames "fun" right now is the number of different line combinations and permutations they can look at. More than most teams, the Flames have the ability to 1) load up with top 2 scoring lines and a defensive line 2) have a top scoring line plus 2 or even 3 other balanced offensive/defensive lines.

    Young & old, scorers vs set up, grit vs finesse, 6 centres to choose from, interchangeable wingers ...lots of fun to speculate on what will happen this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are a ton of ways things can play out and I'm fascinated to see what the opening line combinations end up being. Perhaps along the lines that we're expecting, or maybe there will be a couple major surprises we never saw coming. Bennett on the top line? Foo? Having a speedy. young, cheap and motivated fourth line would be something new if they can pull it off. Czarnik is also a 4C option to keep Bennett on the wing.

      Delete
  4. I like everything you've laid out here regarding what ifs, salaries, combos, etc. But, as you've said, having Bennett at center is unlikely when you have Ryan, Jankowski, and Czarnik who can probably play better at Center than him (not just faceoffs). I'd rather have the Flames play the top two lines 16-18 mins a night, and the bottom two lines (in theory) play equally as well, or one over the other depending on who's going well. Mixing and matching: Mangiapane and/or Foo, Bennett, Jankowski, Czarnik, Ryan, Frolik in the bottom 6. Leaving Hathaway, Brouwer, Lazar in the press box most likely, or even sending Hathaway and Lazar down to Stockton because Foo and Mangiapane are that much better. I hope Peters gives Mangiapane and Foo a chance. Regarding Stone, if anyone will give us a 4-5th round draft pick for him, take that deal, even if the Flames have to retain up to 20% or so. Assuming Rasmus Andersson is ready to take his spot in the lineup and Prout is the 7th dman. Other big Ifs: Brodie can play better, more consistent than last year, Ridditch can adequately back up Smith as he did until March last year, Bennett steps forward and realizes more of his potential and produces... this team should really win the Pacific division and compete! I can't wait for September to even watch the preseason battles to make this squad!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s funny how we’ve all seemingly forgot about Bennett originally being a centre now. With so many other guys that play centre brought in, it does seem unlikely, but once I moved Ryan and Jankowski into the top-nine, which doesn’t seem all that inconceivable (Ryan can still take the strong side draws), I did find myself without a fourth line center and while Bennett and fourth line does sound like a demotion, and it is, it’s not as much of a demotion if that line could be re-invented to be a more productive, young, skating and impactful fourth line than it has been known to be for the last decade. Then you’re right, then they can play more and you have a legit rolling of four lines, with the top-six getting much of its extra ice time on special teams. Will be interesting to see it all play out, for sure.

      Delete
  5. Great insight again. Just wonderingwhat happens after the October compliance deadline.
    How do Tkachuk's in-season bonuses affect these numbers? I read he is likely to earn over 800k in cap-eligible bonuses for statistical milestones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My understanding and to be honest, it’s July and my brain is in off-season mode right now (and I will check into this further at a later date), is that bonuses add onto a team’s payroll for the season in which they occur. If they end up putting a team over the salary cap for that season, then they carry over to the next season. It’s why teams will ideally leave some room for that if they can. But it’s a nice-to-do versus a need-to-do as they can tack them onto the next season if they have to. Keep in mind that as players land on the IR, etc., you start gaining back some cap space. Same with if the team goes with a 22-man roster versus 23, etc. So tight to the cap to begin the season doesn’t mean they’ll be that tight at the end of the season. Proximity to the salary cap can literally change every day as there are transactions.

      Delete
    2. I had no idea they could roll them forward. Nice buffer if you need to use it! Thanks Darren

      Delete