Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames have limited flexibility entering 2023 free agency

The 2023 NHL Draft festivities are complete and the Calgary Flames exited quieter than people assumed they would have been. Sure, they traded Tyler Toffoli for Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round selection in the draft—a pick they used on Aydar Suniev—but outside of that they made no other trades, made their selections, and hit up Tootsies as much as they could.

Now there is nothing truly wrong with that. The colossal news that came out the week prior to the draft that most of their 2024 UFAs were not going to re-sign was a shock to most. Craig Conroy still has most of these players under contract for the 2023–24 NHL season, meaning they can start the year with all of them if they wanted.

It’s definitely a missed opportunity to not obtain additional first- or second-round picks in this year’s draft, but the way things went it was clear that no one wanted to give any of those up; unless you are Montreal of course.

The only real issue with the lack of inaction, is just how hard it is going to make the offseason for the organization. They have their backs up against a wall now, and it’s somewhat self-inflicted.

Calgary’s salary cap situation

First and foremost, the Flames are in salary cap hell right now. After the Toffoli trade and the Sharangovich signing, the Flames have just $2.4M in cap space.

The bad part? They do not have a full roster in place. That $2.4 does not include the fact the team has just 10 forwards on their NHL roster, if you put Jakob Pelletier and Walker Duehr back in the NHL, that space goes down to virtually nothing: 

For the sake of financial optimism, adding Matt Coronato and Connor Zary to the opening night roster still pushes the team over the cap. As it stands right now, they would have to most likely assign either Coronato or Zary and then add a $700k player to fill out a roster to be cap compliant. 

Not ideal. This means that additional change has to happen.

Tough timing for the Flames

Now we saw last year with the late summer blockbuster between the Florida Panthers and Flames that anything can happen, but that is a rarity. After July 1, most teams have made their trades, signings, and more or less filled out their roster outside of maybe one or two spots.

It’s not to say that teams wouldn’t want to acquire one of the Flames stars like Noah Hanifin or Elias Lindholm, they just may not be as thrilled to take on full salaries if their plans have gone in different directions. 

The Flames best moves would have been to trade some of their UFAs like Nikita Zadorov for a mid-round pick to ensure they had cap space to be a bit more flexible. They could still trade to acquire draft capital for next year—which by all means is now the best play—to solve their interim problems. 

The other main concern is if the team were to trade one of their key pieces but want to remain competitive, the other solid options on the market may already have signed their contracts or been traded.

Calgary’s at a crossroads 

The Flames don’t really know what they are at this point. They should be rebuilding and trying to weaponize their potential cap space, but it’s clear ownership would prefer they spend to the salary cap to try to be competitive. 

Since we have no idea what the 2023–24 NHL roster will be, who knows how good or bad they will be. One can assume it would trend towards bad, but depending on the moves they make they could surprise. 

All that being said, the team has some serious decisions to make over the next day or so, but not a lot of flexibility to do so. 

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