Calgary Flames

Will the Calgary Flames utilize the first 2023 offseason buyout period?

The Calgary Flames have some key roster decisions to make in the coming weeks with their 2023–24 NHL roster needing some major tweaks. The Flames are right up against the salary cap, with money needing to be moved out in order to get business done

One way in which they can do this is utilizing the first buyout window, which opens today. Now, the team isn’t going to buy out one of their star pending 2024 unrestricted free agents, as that would be terrible asset management by Craig Conroy, but there are some potential moves to be made.

The Flames have bought out seven players in their franchise history, the first coming in 2010 when they bought out Nigel Dawes. The most recent buyout was that of Michael Stone in 2019, but the Flames then re-signed him shortly afterwards.

Flames 2023 offseason buyout candidates

For this season, here are the most likely buyout candidates for the Flames.

Kevin Rooney

The Calgary Flames signed Kevin Rooney in the opening minutes of free agency last summer, just a few hours after the Flames were made aware of Johnny Gadureau’s departure. They signed him to a two-year deal worth $1.3M per season. 

The contract didn’t—and still doesn’t—make any sense.

He played in 17 games for the Flames, registering one assist, before being put on waivers and spending the rest of the season in the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers. Although he was more productive there, the Flames just cannot afford his cap hit next season on the NHL roster. 

From, if the Flames opted to buy out Rooney, it would break down like this. This of course assumes Rooney is on the NHL roster.

The Flames would save $866,666 next season while only incurring $433,334 on the cap the following season. With the salary cap expected to get a big bump in 2024–25, this would likely be a negligible loss for the Flames.

Unfortunately, with Rooney still costing $866,666 towards the cap, even if the player who replaces him is on a league-minimum contract, the overall impact to the salary cap does not result in any savings. Rooney’s dead cap hit plus a league-minimum contract would end up in a total cap hit of $1,641,666, approximately $300K more than the original Rooney cap hit.

It really doesn’t make sense to buy out Rooney as the cost savings don’t work out. Instead, the Flames could just keep Rooney on the roster to fill the fourth line centre role, or just re-assign him to the AHL once again. If he is sent down to the Wranglers again, it would cost the Flames $150,000 on the cap in terms of buried salary, which is quite a bit cheaper. 

Because Rooney isn’t a useful roster player—or at least he wasn’t when Darryl Sutter was at the helm—the best possible option would be to trade him to a team where he could get another shot at an NHL job. Offloading his contract altogether is best case scenario, by a long shot, as long as it doesn’t cost the Flames an additional asset to do so.

Limited options makes for less work for Conroy

Other than Rooney, there aren’t any roster players who would even be close to counting as buyout candidates. Since the money doesn’t make sense to buy him out, Conroy shouldn’t be utilizing the buyout window at all, which leaves him more time to figure out what he’s going to do with the seven pending 2024 UFAs on the roster.

Don’t expect the Flames to make any buyouts this season.

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