The first puck drop of the regular season is rapidly approaching, and for the first time in nearly a decade, the Calgary Flames won’t have a buyout affecting their salary cap. This means the Flames have the full $82.5M salary cap to utilise for 2022–23. This gives them flexibility to first and foremost pay their players, and also flexibility in burying cap hits in the AHL if necessary.
Buyout cap hits have been a consistent part of the Flames’ cap management for so long that it feels strange to see the team completely unaffected by it. Let’s take a look back at the Flames’ buyout history.
The Calgary Flames’s run of buyout cap hits
From CapFriendly.com, the Flames have made a total of seven buyouts in team history. This started with Nigel Dawes back in 2010, and most recently Michael Stone in 2019. All additional data on buyouts are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Dawes’ buyout was a few years prior to the consecutive string of buyout cap hits, and it came back before the 2012–13 lockout. His buyout was also a bit baffling given his rather low cap hit, but nevertheless he would be the first buyout in franchise history. The buyout cap hit from Dawes was a lowly $141,667 per year for two years, and he was officially off the books after 2010–11.
Coincidentally, that season was the last NHL action he’d see, playing nine games for the Atlanta Thrashers and four for the Montreal Canadiens before being shipped to the the AHL. Dawes became a journeyman and ventured out to play in the KHL, and most recently played in the German DEL league in 2021–22.
As mentioned, his buyout was not a part of the run of buyout cap hits the Flames have dealt with for the past eight seasons. The chain instead includes Shane O’Brien in 2014, Mason Raymond in 2016, Ryan Murphy and Lance Bouma in 2017, and Troy Brouwer in 2018.
Stone’s 2019 buyout impacted the Flames’ cap hit for just two years compared to Brouwer’s four, so it was actually Brouwer’s buyout that lasted the longest. So let’s see how those buyouts all break down.
O’Brien was acquired alongside David Jones from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich in the 2013 offseason. O’Brien had two years remaining on his three-year, $6M contract. After playing with the Flames for one season, performing terribly, and putting up a measly three assists in 45 games, the final year of his contract was bought out by general manager Brad Treliving.
For every player in the buyout chain, we’ll include the season, cost, and cap hit of said buyouts.
Raymond was signed as a free agent after a solid season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His deal with the Leafs and his prior contract with the Vancouver Canucks were both one-year contracts, so signing Raymond to a three-year contract—that even included modified no-trade clauses in the first two years—showed investment in the player and he was a good bet.
However, it did not work out and was instead an awful free agent signing in hindsight. After two underwhelming seasons, the Flames bought out the final year of his contract in the 2016 offseason.
Lance Bouma and Ryan Murphy
Oh Bouma. A bit of a fan favourite, he famously had the ideal outcome of a “show me” contract, signing a one-year deal with the Flames in 2014–15 valued at $775K. Then, 16 goals and 16 assists later, he sure showed the Flames and earned a three-year, $6.6M contract.
That did not go well for neither the Flames nor Bouma, as his production fell off the world’s tallest cliff, and he’s end up posting seven total points in the first two seasons of his shiny contract before having the last year of his contract bought out in the 2017 offseason.
Murphy was a bit of an odd situation. In the same offseason, Murphy was traded to the Flames in the same deal that sent Eddie Lack to Calgary. While Lack was meant to slot in as the backup, Murphy was included specifically to be bought out. Somewhere along the way, Murphy was led to believe he was joining a then-stacked defensive corps that included Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, and Travis Hamonic. Murphy even tweeted his excitement; however, he was bought out instantly after the trade.
On the ice, he was the Brouwer Play, the Brouwer Power Hour. On the score sheet, he was none of these. On paper, he’s the biggest buyout in Flames history.
Okay, so we all know that Brouwer’s fit as a Flame was far from ideal. It was a signing that spelled doom and gloom even before the ink dried. As an aging forward, Brouwer was simply not the solution Calgary needed and was unfortunately miscast as the saviour that did not save.
Most folks watching Brouwer didn’t expect much of him, but it was clear his lack of speed did not mesh with the direction the Flames were heading, and plays would die on his stick (and sometimes away from his stick cause he just wasn’t in the right place) more often than not.
After two lacklustre campaigns with Calgary, Brouwer’s remaining two years were bought out. The buyout lasted four years with a sizeable cap hit. One way to look at it was the buyout played a large role in preventing two league-minimum players (read: prospects) from getting a chance with the big leagues.
Michael Stone has been tied to the Flames franchise in so many ways. Now a perennial seventh defender who contributes a great amount when he slots into the lineup, he’s a great solution for the Flames’ defensive depth. He knows his role and plays it to a tee.
His only sore spot was his first contract signed with Calgary. After signing a one-year, $4M contract with the Arizona Coyotes, Stone then earned a three-year, $10.5M contract with the Flames after his trade.
That contract was immediately too expensive and did not bode well for him. After two seasons of less-than-acceptable play, Stone’s final year was bought out. Ever since, he’s been signing cheap one-year deals with the Flames and has been a much better fit with no misalignments between contract and performance.
Despite re-signing with the Flames after being bought out, his cap hit was much more manageable for Calgary, and Stone still got paid. Win-win for everyone.
A new lease on contracts
Finally, after eight seasons, the Flames have no buyouts impacting their salary cap. Brouwer’s buyout is officially off of the books and the Flames have the full $82.5M for their perusal.
With the preseason underway, we’ll see if the Flames opt to use their approximate $1.4M cap space to round out their lineup by signing a PTO. This flexibility literally did not exist for the Flames, so the increased cap ceiling league-wide plus the extra cap space for Calgary is a nice bonus to start the 2022–23 season.