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Salary Cap Report Card; Calgary Flames, A+

Head Coach: — Bob Hartley
GM: Brad Treliving

Salary cap space: $24,645,434 (assuming a $71.5 million upper limit, according to salary data found at generalfanager.com).

Front Office Outlook:

Calgary’s hockey department is in fantastic shape from an organizational leadership standpoint. Treliving is one of the young, wise-beyond-his-years GMs in the game today. He comes from a scouting background, which is necessary when building a team in the cap era, and he has Brian Burke looking over his shoulder, bringing years upon years of experience in engineering trades and basic GM strategies.

The Flames have a mountain of cap room, and outside captain Mark Giordano and Jiri Hudler, the core group of a Flames team that can win a Stanley Cup one day is under 25. Meanwhile, Jack Adams candidate Bob Hartley is managing to get the very most out of veterans like Dennis Wideman and David Jones, players who may or may not be around when Treliving’s true team comes of age.

The biggest question will centre on expectations, after an absurdly successful season in which the Flames were that one team in 30 that ran against the analytics. If or when that karma runs bad, fans might grow impatient with the project, though we suspect Treliving will not.

Players under contract for 2015-16 (annual average value and duration):

Dennis Wideman, D: $5.25M AAV through 2016-17
TJ Brodie, D: $4.65M AAV through 2019-20
Jonas Hiller, G: $4.5M AAV through 2015-16
Mark Giordano, D: $4.02M AAV through 2015-16
Jiri Hudler, C: $4M AAV through 2015-16
David Jones, RW: $4M AAV through 2015-16
Ladislav Smid, D: $3.25M AAV through 2016-17
Mason Raymond, LW: $3.15M AAV through 2016-17
Matt Stajan, C: $3.125M through 2017-18
Deryk Engelland, D: $2,916,666 AAV through 2016-17
Kris Russell, D: $2.6M AAV through 2015-16
Joe Colborne, LW: $1.275M AAV through 2015-16
Brandon Bollig, RW: $1.25M AAV through 2016-17
Johnny Gaudreau, LW: $1.25M AAV through 2015-16
Sean Monahan, C: $925,000 AAV through 2015-16
Sam Bennett, LW: $925,000 AAV through 2016-17
Markus Granlund, C: $767,500 AAV through 2015-16

Restricted free agents (2014-15 salary):

Michael Backlund, C: $1.5M
Josh Jooris, C: $925,000
Drew Shore, C: $900,000
Lance Bouma, C: $775,000
Michael Ferland, LW: $600,000
Paul Byron, C: $600,000

AHL RFA’s: Bryce Van Brabant, LW; Bill Arnold, C; David Wolf, LW; Ben Hanowski, RW; Kenny Agostino, LW; John Ramage, D; Max Reinhart, C.

No troubles here for Treliving, with many of these RFAs only entering their second contract. The one question is Backlund, the first round pick from 2007 who has still had only one season with more than 10 goals. He’s like Andrew Cogliano — perhaps Backlund should settle into a third-line checking role, find a niche, and settle into a long career.

He hasn’t found that niche yet however, and that could make negotiations more complex if Backlund still wants to get paid based on long-ago draft status. Hanowski and Agostino came in the Jarome Iginla deal, tangible evidence that the Flames should have dealt Iginla (and Miikka Kiprusoff) two years earlier, to have truly reaped assets for the future.

Unrestricted free agents (2014-15 AAV):

Karri Ramo, G: $2.75M AAV
David Schlemko, D: $1,187,500 AAV
Brian McGrattan, RW: $750,000
Corey Potter, D: $700,000 AAV
Raphael Diaz, D: $700,000 AAV

The key decision among Calgary’s UFA’s is Ramo, who took the crease from Hiller as the playoffs wore on this spring. The plan in Calgary is to have Joni Ortio as part of the tandem this year, and he becomes waiver eligible this season, so he has to stay in Calgary this season.

Hiller has a year left in his deal, but we’re hearing he is on the trading block, as he was at the deadline last March. Treliving may try to deal Hiller at the draft, and then find someone to share the crease with Ortio. Ramo is an unlikely signing for Calgary, as he’ll want money and term as a UFA. The safe play is to go with an Ortio-Hiller tandem this season — a solid veteran and a promising rookie — and hope that Ortio is ready to be a No. 1 next season when Hiller goes UFA.

That is providing that Hiller can swallow the possibility of playing behind Ortio as the year wears on. We’re not sure that is the case.

As for the UFA defencemen, only Schlemko played significant minutes in Calgary’s playoff run. McGrattan, though very well respected in Calgary, is like every other pure heavyweight in the game–looking at further career options.

Biggest off-season targets:

Someone who can play the grind game up front, also more size in the top-six and some stay at home defensemen who can put on some heavy minutes. They need bigger size in the top-six, and guys who are better at faceoffs. Something the Flames struggled at is Faceoffs.

Shawn Matthias – Big power forward who can use his size, probably cheaper, would be solid in Calgary. He has the frame and is pretty good at faceoffs, which would help the Flames considering they struggle in that department. He could seek to a bigger role in Calgary and could become a solid role model.

Francois Beauchemin – Another good stay at home defensemen, age is pushing it, but he would be a good fit. Was part of the team that shut down the Calgary Flames in the second round of the playoffs. He is an older defensemen, but would be a good guy to pick up for a year or two. He has the playoff experience and can put up big minutes when you need it.

Paul Martin – A good stay at home defensemen, who if was significantly cheaper would be a good pick up. His contract, at 5 Million dollars, is overpaid, and there is no way he will get that this time around. If he was picked up at the right price it would be effective. He is a good shut down defensemen and could be a solution to the “too many offensive defensemen in Calgary”.

Barrett Jackman – Recently, St.Louis has elected to not resign the veteran blueliner, he is a good stay home defensemen. Has been with the St.Louis Blues organization for 12 years and they don’t resign him. He is a good, tough, veteran presence. He has all the experience, and can be a good shutdown defensemen when you need him to. Can put up big minutes.

Biggest off-season need:

Size in their Top 6; who plays with Ortio; an upgrade on defence.

On defence, two new acquisitions will get long looks: Kenney Morrison (6-2, 198 lbs.), signed out of Western Michigan, had six points in 10 AHL games last season. Then there’s 27-year-old, right shot defenceman Jakub Nakladal, a Czech signed after the World Championships. He’s played 10 pro years in Europe and could be ready to play here, or not.

Smid’s health will dictate Calgary’s free agent activity on defence, while Giordano will be signing a huge long-term extension any time after July 1, likely with an AAV of $7-8 million.

Replacing both Hiller and Ramo with the right goalie to play alongside Ortio would take some mighty swift GM’ing on Treliving’s part, but may be necessary as part of a cap structuring exercise. By this time next year, Ortio could be the next Kiprusoff, but heading into the season, the Flames still need a Plan B behind the 24-year-old.

Anaheim pushed Calgary right out of their Round 2 series. Hudler was terribly ineffective, and Gaudreau also struggled with playoff-style hockey at times. An infusion of size would help here.

Biggest-off-season question:

With Calgary, this has less to do with tangible changes to the roster, and more to do with the intangibles that kept Calgary in defiance of accepted NHL normalcy last season. Calgary won 10 games when trailing after 40 minutes (ranked third in the NHL), won 26 times when being out-shot, took the second least minor penalties in the league, and were one of two teams with a shooting percentage over 10 per cent.

All of that, and they made the playoffs in Game 81.

Treliving isn’t fooled by any of those outliers, and will continue to retool this lineup as if it finished 26th in the NHL last season, not 16th. As for the rest of us, we’ll see if the Flames can do what Colorado and Toronto could not, the season after they defied all analytics and made the playoffs: Repeat the feat.

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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