The NHL offseason continues to be hectic as free agency and re-signings continue to push the number of contracts handed out up higher and higher. Transitioning into the 2021–22 NHL season means teams are going to see different circumstances in terms of dead cap space. How do the Pacific Division teams shape up in this regard? Let’s break it all down.
The Flames’ dead cap hit
Dead cap space in the NHL includes retained salary, buyout costs, recapture penalties, and termination penalties. These cap hits can’t be traded or removed until the term on each one expires, so teams opt to carry dead cap space knowing full well that it’ll often affect their cap picture for several seasons at a time. All information about each team’s dead cap space is courtesy of CapFriendly.com.
For the Calgary Flames, they had a few different situations leading to dead cap space in the 2020–21 season. In the 2018 offseason, they bought out Troy Brouwer‘s contract midway through his four-year, $4.5M AAV contract. His buyout costs would span four seasons from 2018–19 through to 2021–22, amounting to $1.5M each year.
One year after buying out Brouwer, the 2019 offseason saw the Flames buying out Michael Stone. It was the final year of his three-year, $3.5M AAV contract. His buyout cost the Flames $1.167M per season over two seasons. Just a little over one month after being bought out however, Calgary signed (technically can’t call it a re-signing) him on a one-year deal worth $700K for the 2019–20 season. The team opted to offer him the exact same contract over the 2020–21 season, and Stone was actually valuable on the ice during the shortened season.
Finally, midway through the past year, the Flames traded David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2022 third-round pick, opting to retain 50% of his salary at a cost of $1.375M. However, Rittich’s contract expired after the season ended so there were no retention costs that could carry over into 2021–22.
So assessing all of the Flames dead cap space, the 2021 offseason saw a change of them gaining $2.542M back in cap space, while only having to carry the Brouwer buyout for just one more year. With the flat cap, the gained cap space goes a long way in having the ability to sign players including the likes of Blake Coleman, as well as navigating both trades and contract negotiations/extensions.
The Flames thus have $80M of a possible $81.5M of cap available to work with, how exactly does that compare to the rest of the Pacific Division?
Pacific Division dead cap hits
Interestingly enough, the Flames are now one of the better off Pacific Division teams when it comes to their cap space. Whether that includes good or bad contracts is another discussion, but for the sake of the 2021–22 season, they have more utility of their cap space compared to most other rivals.
Of course, the debuting Seattle Kraken will have their full $81.5M to work with—as do the Vegas Golden Knights—but that’s it in terms of teams with no dead cap in the Pacific. Here is how this current offseason has affected each Pacific team’s dead cap so far.
The Ducks only had one thing costing them cap space this past season which was the buyout of Corey Perry‘s contract. In contrast, Simon Depres’ buyout didn’t cost them any cap space. Perry’s buyout actually carried a dead cap hit of $6.625M this past season, which now drops to $2M over the next two years.
Net changes: +$4.625M, cap space gained
2021–22 dead cap hit: $2M
As detailed above, Stone’s buyout and Rittich’s retained salary both stopped affecting the Flames once the season concluded. This gave them over three million dollars in cap space back.
Net changes: +$3.042M, cap space gained
2021–22 dead cap hit: $1.5M
The Edmonton Oilers will continue to retain $750K of Milan Lucic‘s salary as well as having costs associated to buying out Andrej Sekera, but this offseason adds to their cap hit as James Neal is now a buyout cost and no longer an Oiler. This of course inspired The Win Column’s definitive break down of who won the Lucic/Neal trade, and the Oilers now have even less cap space to work with.
Net changes: -$1.917M, cap space lost
2021–22 dead cap hit: $4.167M
Los Angeles Kings
There’s a variety of events accounting for the Los Angeles Kings’ dead cap hit. This past season saw two terminated contracts affecting them: Ilya Kovalchuk‘s $6.25M and Mike Richards‘ $700K cap hits from contract terminations. Kovalchuk’s hit is now expired, while Richards’ hit increases to $900K for the next two years before dropping down again in 2023–24.
Further, they saw Dion Phaneuf‘s buyout cap hit of $4.063M drop down to $1.063M for the buyout’s final two seasons, and they will also carry salary retention in trading Jeff Carter to the Pittsburgh Penguins for one more season. A lot of changes in dead cap hit for the Kings, but they ultimately gained more space as they had a massive dead cap hit of $13.649M after the 2021 trade deadline.
Net changes: +$9.05M, cap space gained
2021–22 dead cap hit: $4.599M
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks had a unique dead cap hit in 2020–21 as well. They didn’t have any dead cap hits prior to the trade deadline, but in two separate three-team trades, they took on retained salaries for Nick Foligno and Matthias Janmark in exchange for Toronto’s 2021 fourth-round pick from the Maple Leafs and Buffalo’s 2022 fifth-round pick from the Golden Knights. Essentially they paid cash for extra draft picks, which was a sound strategy for a team out of playoff contention.
Foligno’s cap hit cost $1.375M while Janmark’s cost $562.5K, but both of those contracts are off San Jose’s books now. However, they ended up buying out Martin Jones‘ contract, which now sees them carrying a $1.917M cap hit into 2021–22.
Net changes: +$21K, cap space gained
2021–22 dead cap hit: $1.917M
For the Vancouver Canucks, they have been carrying Roberto Luongo‘s recapture penalty ever since he retired after the 2018–19 season. While the Florida Panthers have been paying $1.092M per season between 2019–20 and 2021–22, the Canucks have been on the hook for $3.035M over the same time frame.
They also saw Ryan Spooner‘s buyout expire, which removes $1.033M off of their dead cap hit. However, Vancouver bought out Braden Holtby and Jake Virtanen‘s contracts, both of which have lesser cap hits in 2021–22 than they do in 2022–23. Holtby and Virtanen’s 2021–22 dead caps will be $500K and $50K, respectively.
Net changes: +483K, cap space gained
2021–22 dead cap hit: $3.585M
Dead cap hit summary
Below are the dead cap hits for all eight Pacific Division teams heading into next season.
|Team||2021–22 Dead Cap Hit||Current Cap Space (July 31, 2021)|
As seen, the Flames are among one of the teams least affected by dead cap hits right now with the exception of the two most recent expansion teams. Though the differences may seem marginal, with each team in varying stages of handing out contracts to fill out their 2021–22 rosters, every dollar counts especially with the flat cap.
As the offseason wears on, available cap space will be key as the Flames continue to tweak their roster. Whether they land big in the Jack Eichel sweepstakes or make another big splash elsewhere remains to be known, but rest assured, having cap space right now is definitely boding well in Calgary’s favour.