To say that the Calgary Flames have been having a good season would honestly be an understatement. They have performed great and at this point it really looks sustainable. A main reason for this can be credited to Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington who have all stepped up in big ways for this team. All four players are due for new contracts for next season, so how can the Flames afford to bring them all back?
Cap hit if the team remains relatively the same
The Calgary Flames will of course have the contracts of these four players coming off the books, but the the contracts of Tyler Pitlick, Brett Ritchie, Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson, Nikita Zadorov, Erik Gudbranson, and Michael Stone will also expire. Overall this will give the Flames $32.3M in cap space to allocate. The question is, is it enough?
To analyze this, I have decided to take a pretty cautious/worst case approach for the four contracts.
I had projected Kylington coming in at a $3.5M cap hit for his extension. This might change as the season progresses, but it should be in the same ballpark.
Mangiapane has become quite the player for the Flames, serving a key offensive but also defensive role. He has been exceptional on the Flames and although shooting an unsustainable 23%, he is one of the Flames’ top goal scorers. I believe that giving him something similar to Zach Hyman‘s cap hit would be a cautious estimate for Mangiapane. They both provide secondary scoring, and serve similar roles on their teams. I think giving him somewhere between $5M and $5.25M is realistic, but for the purpose of this exercise, let’s give him a $5.5M cap hit.
Ideally in Tkachuk’s contract situation, they work out a deal that is below his $9M qualifying offer, but with term instead. Most fans would love to see Tkachuk sign long-term as a Flame, and if that happens, the cap hit would definitely have to be lower than $9M as the term goes higher. It would be great to see him sign a contract that is similar to his brother’s coming in at a $8.33M cap hit for seven years. However, let’s assume that he gets his qualifying offer at $9M as well.
This leaves Gaudreau, who has been on another level this year. So far, this has been his best season as a Flame. He is on pace to reach a new career high in goals at 37, and to score 98 points. On top of his elite offensive play, we have really seen Gaudreau be very effective defensively as well. In a perfect world, we would see Gaudreau sign a $8.5–$9M contract extension to stay in Calgary, but let’s assume the worst and that the cap hit comes in at $9.5M.
This would be what the Flames roster could look like with these contracts. Adam Ruzicka is an RFA at the end of this year, so I have assumed that he got his qualifying offer as well.
|Johnny Gaudreau ($9.5M)||Elias Lindholm ($4.85M)||Matthew Tkachuk ($9M)|
|Andrew Mangiapane ($5.5M)||Mikael Backlund ($5.35M)||Blake Coleman ($4.9M)|
|Milan Lucic ($5.25M)||Sean Monahan ($6.375M)||Dillon Dube ($2.3M)|
|Jakob Pelletier ($863K)||Adam Ruzicka ($787.5K)||Any NHL Veteran ($750K)|
|Any NHL Veteran ($750K)|
|Noah Hanifin ($4.95M)||Rasmus Andersson ($4.55M)|
|Oliver Kylington ($3.5M)||Chris Tanev ($4.5M)|
|Juuso Valimaki ($1.55M)||Any NHL Veteran ($750K)|
The salary cap for the 2022–23 season is going to be $82.5M, whereas this Flames team would come in at a $82.73M cap hit. Surprisingly enough, the Flames would only be roughly $230K over the cap hit.
How can they clear room?
To be fair, $230K over is not a lot, and it should be relatively easy to address through the below methods.
The first way this can be solved is through the skills of Brad Treliving. Say what you want about his ability to trade, but if there is one thing he is good at, it is re-signing RFA’s. Remember when Brad Treliving signed Gaudreau, who was one of the top young stars in the league, to a six-year $6.75M deal after Gaudreau put up 64 and then 78 points the year after?
What about when he somehow got Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to sign six-year deals that were under $5M? Brad Treliving has been incredibly effective at these re-signings, and with only $230K to address, some tidy negotiations can easily address this. For example, give Mangiapane $5.3M instead of $5.5M, and instead of giving Tkachuk his qualifying offer, why not give him a $8.3M for six years? Just like that, the Flames can go from being $230K over to having $670K in cap space. There is a ton of room for negotiation.
The second way is to trade Sean Monahan or Milan Lucic. This is clearly much easier said than done, but it is no secret that Monahan’s contract has not lived up to his production for the past couple years now. Lucic on the other hand is overpaid for sure, but he still serves a valuable role for the Flames. He is a leader on the team and is also on pace to score 22 goals this season.
Between these two players, the Flames would likely seek to trade Monahan. If Brad Treliving is able to trade either contract for any sort of return, the Flames will have room to not only bring back their four free agents, but also a key piece from the UFA class.
The third way, is to explore buying out Monahan. The main benefits that would come out of this is $4M savings for 2022–23 and only $2M of dead cap the following year. It’s an easy fix that addresses a key problem on the roster. However, he is also a part of the leadership group of the team and I would not expect this to happen unless as a last resort.
What does Calgary need to do to re-sign their players?
Honestly, they really don’t need to do anything. If Brad Treliving is able to negotiate the way he has in the past, the Flames could really go into next season with raises for all four of the players, while also keeping Monahan and Lucic if they choose to do so.
The best thing about this is that these contracts do not really hinder their ability to re-sign Lindholm and Hanifin when their contract’s expire. Even if Treliving does nothing to clear cap space, once both of their contracts expire in 2024, both Lucic and Monahan’s contracts will be off the Flames books, giving the Flames at least $11.63M to allocate to them, and potentially more if Treliving makes some minor trades to give the team more cap space.
Overall, despite having some questionable contracts on the roster currently, the Flames are in a pretty good situation to bring back their key players. The only thing that should really determine whether the Flames can keep the three RFAs and Gaudreau is if Gaudreau just doesn’t want to stay and wants to play somewhere else.
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