We are now a little more than a week away from the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. Given the Calgary Flames’ situation at the moment—where playoff chances are dwindling—there is little to no desire to add at the deadline. In fact, a decent amount of the fanbase has now turned their attention to selling at the deadline, in an attempt to salvage some assets used in last year’s acquisitions.
Today, I am going to present a variety of options that the Flames could use to effectively manage their cap space, if they aren’t planning on using it. According to CapFriendly.com, the Flames have $2.8M in cap space right now, and will have $3.4M by the deadline. They can of course increase their cap number by reducing their roster, but $3.4M is a decent amount to work with, assuming no more injuries or player transactions occur.
Cap space has become one of the most important assets in today’s game. Yesterday, we saw the Chicago Blackhawks take on Nikita Zaitsev and his $4.5M cap hit for this year and next, in exchange for a 2023 second-round, and a 2026 fourth-round pick. We saw this in play with the Flames in the summer, where they had to attach a first-round draft pick to get rid of Sean Monahan and his 6.375M cap hit. Teams are getting more and more creative with how they manage cap space, so let’s look at some ways the Flames can get in the action.
Flames act as a third party trade broker
This is probably the easiest way to get a free asset. We saw this in action this week, when the Minnesota Wild ate $1.875M of Ryan O’Reilly’s salary in exchange for a 2025 fourth-rounder. The Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t fit in O’Reilly’s $7.5M cap hit, so they needed the Blues to retain 50% of his deal, and another team to come in and eat an extra 25%. For Minnesota, they are projected to have upwards of $12.8M in cap space at the deadline—even after eating $1.875M of O’Reilly’s deal. With that much cap space, it’s no harm, no foul.
In November, Minnesota traded a 2025 fifth-round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Reaves. Now, they buy a 2025 fourth-rounder, so they not only replace the pick they gave up for Reaves, but also move up a round. Very tidy work for the Wild.
The Flames are missing third- and fifth-rounders for the 2023 draft, and fifth- and seventh-rounders for the 2024 draft. If they act as a third party broker, they might be able to recoup some picks around those ranges. If Patrick Kane does indeed move, it is likely the acquiring team will need a third party to eat 25% of his $10.5M contract. That equates to $2.625M, which the Flames have available right now. That is slightly more than the Wild ate on O’Reilly’s deal, so the asking price from the Flames should be at least a fourth-rounder, maybe even a third-rounder.
John Klingberg, James van Riemsdyk, Sean Monahan, and Timo Meier are other names that appear to be in play, and could need a third party to broker the deal. How funny would it be if the Flames acted as a third party in a Monahan deal?
Take on another team’s bad contract in exchange for picks or prospects
The most common way to get draft capital or prospects is to just simply take on another team’s bad contract(s).
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted in 32 Thoughts that the Boston Bruins are looking to “incentivize another team to take on the contract of Craig Smith.” It sounds like the Bruins have a deal in place for the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov, and need to ship out some cap in order to fit him in.
Smith is just an example of a player Calgary could take on, but he in particular makes a lot of sense. Smith fits some criteria the team is looking for: right-shot right winger and defensively responsible. I’m sure they would prefer someone who can score a bit more, but they should absolutely talk to Boston and get involved in these talks, if they haven’t already. As we established earlier, the Flames are projected to be able to take on $3.4M in cap space by the deadline. Craig Smith comes with a salary of $3.1M, so there are no problems there.
The fact Boston is incentivizing a team to take on Smith’s contract should have teams lining up. We don’t know what this incentive is, but Smith is still very much a useful NHL forward. So, the Flames could acquire Smith and his $3.1M cap hit, and a draft pick for doing so. They could then play him for the rest of 2022–23 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, or retain 50% on his contract and ship him out to a contender for another draft pick. This would be some fun 5-D chess for General Manager Brad Treliving to play.
It’s time for Calgary to get creative
Cap space is an extremely valuable commodity in the league. If the Flames want to salvage some draft capital, getting creative in helping other teams with their cap troubles is a great way to do so. One way to get creative is being a third party broker. Names like Patrick Kane, John Klingberg, or Timo Meier are rentals who come with big cap hits, and may need third parties involved to make the cap work for the acquiring team.
The Flames could also simply take on another team’s bad contract, like Craig Smith in Boston. He has a cap hit of 3.1M, and Boston is looking to incentivize a team to take his cap, so they can make a move for Gavrikov. The Flames could either absorb his cap and take the incentive, assuming a draft pick, or retain 50% on his cap and send him to another him for another draft pick.
I’ve just used him as an example due to the nugget Friedman dropped on 32 Thoughts, but I’m sure there are no shortage of players that teams are looking to move, so they can fit in others and make their playoff push.
In a league where cap space is hard to come by, the Flames should put the space they’ve accrued over the season to good use.