One of the biggest storylines for the Calgary Flames this season has been the looming expiration of the contracts of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington. With all four of these players having career years, many have begun to wonder how the Flames will possibly retain all four of these players. With the addition of Tyler Toffoli‘s $4.25M cap hit that lasts two more seasons, things have become a bit more complicated.
The Flames’ cap situation going into the offseason
Once the season ends, the contracts of all four of the key free agents mentioned above will no longer be reflected in the books, and like it was before Toffoli joined the team, the contracts of Brett Ritchie, Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson, Nikita Zadorov, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Stone, will also expire. This means the Flames are currently expected to have around $28.05M in cap space this summer.
Here are projected worst case scenario cap hits for the four re-signings:
Tkachuk: $9M (Qualifying Offer)
We also expect Adam Ruzicka to take his qualifying offer which is valued at $787.5K although his recent play could net him a higher contract if he is able to keep things up through the rest of the season—which would further complicate things.
All said and done with those re-signings out of the way the Flames would be $2.225M over the cap, and they would still need to sign at least one more depth forward and a third-pairing defenceman, assuming the Flames call up Valimaki and Pelletier next season.
Players on the move
Before the acquisition of Toffoli, there was a chance that Treliving would be able to sign the big four free agents back without sending away any salary in either a trade or a buyout, but with the additional $4.25M cap hit that Toffoli brings with him exchanged for Tyler Pitlick‘s $1.75M, the Flames are much tighter to the cap than before. So unless any or all four of these players are willing to take significantly cheaper team-friendly deals, it looks like the Flames will need to move other contracts.
When you look at the Flames contracts that remain next season, there are two huge outliers: Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan. Treliving has done a mostly good job with signing his players especially any of his RFA’s but both Monahan and Lucic are plainly overpaid. Monahan will be making $6.375M for one more season, and Lucic similarly will be making $5.25M.
First of all, Lucic makes less than Monahan, but he also has less trade value. Additionally, over the past couple seasons since he was traded to Calgary, Lucic has seemed to be a huge leader on the team and has also been having one of his best years in recent memory.
Monahan on the other hand, has been struggling for the past few seasons since 2019 where he had 82 points in the regular season. Last offseason, there were rumours that Monahan might have been on the trade block, and it looks like Treliving will need to put him right back on it, this time out of necessity.
Luckily for Treliving, Monahan is now lining up with his old Ottawa 67s teammate Toffoli who is sure to help him get some points over the remainder of the season. Hopefully with his new linemate helping him out Monahan’s trade stock will rise.
The main issue with trading these players though is that Monahan has a modified 10-team no-trade clause which would limit what suitors the Flames could even approach with Monahan. Additionally Lucic also has a modified eight-team no-trade clause listing where he can be traded to which will turn into a 10 team list on July 1.
Do the Flames need to consider a buyout?
Partially because of these modified no-trade clauses there is a chance the Flames will unfortunately have to consider buying out Monahan—buying out Lucic would still leave the Flames with negative cap space at -$1.652M.
If the Flames were to buy out Monahan they would then have $1.774M in cap space which would be enough to sign the very cheap depth pieces needed to fill the Flames roster.
It seems wild to consider that the Flames might have to buyout Monahan but it’s of the utmost importance that Treliving does everything possible to ensure that all four key free agents are extended this off season.
Can Treliving pull it off without a buyout?
It does need to be said though that Treliving throughout his tenure has done a fantastic job at retaining restricted free agents—just look at the contracts he gave Gaudreau, Lindholm, and Hanifin. So there is a chance he’s able to get everyone at a bit cheaper than most are predicting.
In that case the Flames will have a bit more flexibility. However, unless Gaudreau and Tkachuk both take significantly lower value team-friendly pay cuts, it’s looking more and more likely that either Monahan or Lucic will have to be playing elsewhere next season due to the added cap hit Toffoli has brought with him.
Time will tell
The Flames aren’t exactly cornered into a single path forward, but their options truly are limited. It’ll take a bit of careful navigation of contract talks as well as having difficult conversations with potential players on the move.
When the time comes, it’ll be interesting to see what the Flames end up doing. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the product they’re putting on the ice right now and worry about cap space and contracts later on.