The Calgary Flames’ cap situation became much clearer on Tuesday afternoon, as the team announced they had re-signed defenceman Oliver Kylington to a two-year contract extension at an average annual value (AAV) of $2.5M. This new contract is strictly $2.5M in salary in both years. The salary increase is a huge milestone for Kylington, having played seven straight seasons with a salary under the $800K mark. Let’s see how everything breaks down for the breakout defender.
Kylington’s contract details
His estimated career earnings from CapFriendly.com is jsut north of $2.7M, earned on contracts that were all two-way deals, so now getting his first one- way deal is, well, a big deal. His single season $2.5M salary this upcoming season will nearly match his entire career earnings thus far.
Of note, the contract buys the last two years of restricted free agency (RFA), in which he will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) when the contract is over.
The term and AAV number comes in roughly as expected, as Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Adam Boqvist reupped for three years at $2.6M AAV, and both he and Kylington had almost identical point per game rates (0.424 P/GP and 0.423 P/GP). The 25-year-old Kylington was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on August 12, so him and the Flames settled well in advance at a number that makes sense for both sides.
The 6’0″, 183 lbs defenceman is coming off a year where he scored 31 points in 73 games (0.424 P/GP), mainly next to the steady Chris Tanev. 2021–22 served as a breakout season for Kylington, as he previously played 38, 48, and 8 games with the Flames in the past three seasons, where his career-high was previously eight points set back in 2018–19.
Kylington’s on-ice performance
Using Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM chart below, we can see that Kylington-Tanev was a pretty good pairing for the Flames last year. Kylington excelled in terms of offensive metrics and Corsi for (CF) generation, while Tanev excelled in terms of the defensive metrics. Putting Kylington next to a steady defensive partner seems to benefit him most, so a reunion with Tanev or a pairing with Zadorov should benefit Kylington and keep him contributing as an offensive defenceman.
Kylington is rewarded and gets a massive pay bump from the $750K league minimum salary he was making last season, while the Flames lock in their 4/5th defenceman at a reasonable cap hit while not making a large commitment in term. Kylington’s speed, breakout, and transition ability will be welcomed back with open arms, and he could get a longer shot on either power play unit with his 5v5 ice time set to drop after the Flames acquired MacKenzie Weegar.
Kylington joins Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, and Kevin Rooney as players that will become UFAs in two years time. That has the makings to be a very busy offseason for Brad Treliving—if his contract is extended beyond this season.
How the Flames’ defensive corps shapes up
The Calgary Flames are going to have a really good backend next year now that every piece is under contract, and head coach Darryl Sutter will have plenty of options to use in training camp and into the regular season.
Right now, a healthy Flames blueline looks something like this (2022–23 salaries enclosed in brackets):
Noah Hanifin ($4.95M) – Rasmus Andersson ($4.55M)
MacKenzie Weegar ($3.25M) – Chris Tanev ($4.5M)
Oliver Kylington ($2.5M) – Nikita Zadorov ($3.75M)
Nicholas Meloche ($950K), Connor Mackey ($912.5K), Jusso Valimaki ($1.55M) and Denis Gilbert ($762.5K) will also be looking to grab a roster spot. The Flames could also bring back Michael Stone to his annual one-year contract extension to take the seventh D spot, as he remains an unrestricted free agent and loves the city.
The Flames could now look to move Jusso Valimaki for example, to remove his $1.55M AAV cap hit, as every dollar counts in this tight cap world. All four of Meloche, Mackey, Valimaki, and Gilbert will require waivers to be sent down to the new AHL affiliate Calgary Wranglers, so that is something to keep in mind, as there must be a resolution come the season opener.
Needless to say, the Flames backend is going to have plenty of competition, which is very important. As Chris Tanev recovers from a labrum injury and will out to start the season, it is crucial that the Flames have depth in the defensive position, which they have certainly built up.
Shortening Calgary’s to-do list
The Flames had roughly $8.7 million to re-sign RFAs Andrew Mangiapane and Adam Ruzicka, while also filling out their forward group. Then a few hours after Kylington’s signing, Mangiapane’s extension was also announced ahead of his arbitration hearing scheduled for August 5, so Calgary now has a very good idea of exactly where their cap situation lies before the beginning of next year.
Looking at the projected comparable contracts for Mangiapane, the Flames were on the high side of his AAV, so they are now limited in remaining space to re-sign Ruzicka and add another forward via trade or free agency.
The Flames could dangle one of their many defencemen to try and lure a top-nine forward at some point this season. Maybe they wait until Tanev is fully healthy and do so in-season, or maybe there is still a move to be made at some point this offseason. Time will tell, but for now, the Flames’ blueline got even deeper with Kylington extended and should be a position of strength for them in 2022–23.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire