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.
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.
RW Brouwer (R) $4.5M
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?
Valimaki (L) $895K
Kylington (L) $731K
Hogstrom (L) $700K
Flames avoid arbitration by signing of Garnet Hathaway to a one-year deal at $850,000. Now we know what today’s press conference at the Saddledome is about.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) July 30, 2018
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 Andersson. Turning 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)