Well, after all of my pre-season optimism last year, circumstances conspired to put the Flames in the worst finishing position they have been in since drafting Corey Stillman last century.
The lockout had a huge impact on a lot of teams but few as much as Calgary. With a substantial assortment of slow-starting greybeards, a shortened season which allowed virtually no practice time, as well as new faces in the locker room and behind the bench there are no shortage of excuses that could be used. But excuses be damned, I misread the situation badly and things have changed…boy have they ever.
At the end of the season, Jay Feaster told reporters that Murray Edwards had handed down a mandate for next year to make the playoffs. This left most, including me, shaking their heads. How could the Flames be expected to make the playoffs after finishing near the bottom of the league and trading arguably their best defenseman and forward?
I guess the reality of that finally hit home, with Mr. Feaster recently admitting (after some therapy, he joked) the Flames are in full rebuild mode. So now the focus of the team and its fans has shifted from trying to make the playoffs to laying a new foundation.
With three first round picks and a boatload of cap space there are a lot of possible scenarios that could unfold for next season. I would like to speculate-as an armchair GM-on a couple of them next time, but first lay the groundwork for my speculation.
According to capgeek.com the Flames have nearly $20 mil in cap space with 18 players signed. For the purpose of this blog I am going to speculate that Mikka Kiprusoff will be calling it a career and the Flames will have closer to $25 mil and 17 players signed.
The Flames have several RFAs projected to be in the lineup next year who they will be re-signing: Mikael Backlund, T.J. Brodie, Mark Cundari and Chris Butler. They will also have Karri Ramo or Reto Berra on the payroll if Kipper is done.
For the sake of round numbers I am going to project they will come in at an average cap hit of $2.4 mil per season or an aggregate total of $12 mil. That may be a bit high or low, but I am going with it.
That leaves approximately $13 million in cap space with a full roster. However, it was reported today that the Flames are rumoured to be shopping Tanguay, Sarich and Stempniak. It was also reported that Michael Cammalleri has asked for a trade.
Although it is possible one or several of these players could be moved for picks and/or players, or there will be no movement at all, I am going to project that they do make a move or moves that nets them another $2 mil in cap space; taking them to an even $15 mil.
So how will they use it?
There are a lot of ways and combinations of ways to use the space. They could sign UFAs, tender offer sheets (please God no more of those) or possibly use it to take on ugly contracts from teams in cap trouble for some type of compensation, or any combination thereof.
I will explore some of these in my next blog.
Factoid: The Calgary Flames have never drafted higher than 6th overall, and have not had three first round picks since they were in Atlanta.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you next time.