Thursday, May 04, 2006



I'm sure most Flames fans are about as interested in reading about hockey right now as I am in writing about it, but here goes anyway. (Private Time is over!)

The Flames are pretty much set, from both a hockey and business perspective, on the defensive end. Their starting six defencemen and the soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner are all wrapped up for 2006/07. (All salary info from

The D is, in some senses, unimprovable: if anything, they can afford to trade a guy assuming Mark Giordano and/or Richie Regehr are ready for full-time duty next season. Hamrlik is overpaid, but that's neither here nor there at this point. The only need here is a backup goalie who is good for 20-25 starts.

The Flames have eight (active) forwards under contract for next year, for a total of $15.7M: Iginla ($7M), Langkow ($2.44M), Amonte ($1.85M), Nilson ($1.37M), Simon ($1.22M), McCarty ($800k), Lundmark ($575k), and Ritchie ($450k).

It all adds up to about $29.4M in contracts for next season. At this point, you can look at things one of two ways:
  1. Fret about the value the Flames are getting for some of these contracts. Shouldn't we be getting more production for Amonte's two mil? What should we legitimately expect from Iginla for seven mil? Do we even want Lundmark on the team anymore? Or Simon?
  2. Realize that the Flames are $15,000,000 below next season's salary cap with essentially no needs to address except scoring.
Our own unsigned forwards include Yelle, Kobasew, Lombardi, Donovan, and Huselius. (And Leclerc.) Some of the cap space has to be used on some of these guys. I truly think that Lombardi has yet to hit his stride as an NHL playmaker (Kobasew I'm less sure of). I love Donovan and his speed. Any hockey fan has got to love Yelle, but Nilson is fit to assume his role. At any rate, some of these guys will be back and some won't, and you're still looking at over $10M available to spend on scorers.

What's out there? Well, the Flames could compete with a dozen or so other clubs for the top UFAs: Daniel Briere (nice), Marc Savard (pass), David Vyborny (maybe), and a handful of other (mostly much older) guys. The alternative is to be willing to give up a few draft picks--which as the trading deadline demonstrated are a devalued currency--and target younger Restricted Free Agents. Now here you find some quality. Get a load of this gallery of talented RFAs selected from a random NHL division:

There's also Richards, Cheechoo, Spezza, Havlat, Gagne, Gomez, Nathan Horton, Staal & Cole, Bergeron & Boyes, and most of Buffalo's roster. That, folks, is a shopping excursion that I could actually get excited about.

The assumption underlying all this is that the Flames can and will spend close to the cap number, and I don't actually know this: the nearest thing Ken King gives to an indication is his frequent mentioning of being in the Top 10 Payrolls.

The Flames should be spending the cap, or thereabouts. Calgary is rich and hockey-nutty; ticket supply is overwhelmed by demand; and the Flames must sell more merchandise than most or all of the other teams in the league. The Flames, in a phrase, are a large-market team.

The Flames have fifteen million dollars to buy some more pucks into the opposition's net. It'll be interesting to see how they go about accomplishing it.

UPDATE: Here's the compensation schedule for RFAs, based on their average salary in the new contract:

Up to $660,000 - No compensation
$660,000 to $1 million - One 3rd round draft pick
$1 to $2 million - One second round pick
$2 to $3 million - One 1st and one 3rd round pick
$3 to $4 million - One 1st, one 2nd and one 3rd round pick
$4 to $5 million - Two 1sts, one 2nd and one 3rd round pick
Over $5 million - Four 1st round picks


0h 5h1t! The playoffs aren't even over and Matt has already signed Hemsky and Stoll to new contracts in Calgary! Whatever shall we do?

Nah, I'll take Tanguay and Kesler instead.

You make a good point Matt, and one which Ken King with his dreams of a publicly funded hockey arena would like you to forget: The Flames are a big market team (honestly -- if Denver is big market, why wouldn't Calgary, OR Edmonton be considered big market?).

These guys have made an industry out of crying the small market blues, but with 90 cent dollars, a sold out building and other revenue, it is a pretty hard case to make. There is no reason we shouldn't be snagging a couple of these guys.

if you're going to be in the rfa game you'd really have to be smart and target teams that have no wiggle romm at all - grossly overpaying for someone like Gaborik so Minnesota won't match (which they likely wouldn't) means you have a big boat anchor of a contract

In 2008/2009 Philly is going to be paying Hatcher and Rathje 7M - even if they buy them out they will have a significant cap hit

If you're going to overpay a guy he better be the right guy.

Isn't there a good chance the cap will be moving up substantially next year, too? If ownership's willing to pony up, you could have a lot more that $15 mill, too.

The "$15M" figure was based on a guess of a $44-45M salary cap next season. I've heard as high as 46 is possible.

BDHS touches on another issue: if you're really worried about being "matched" (I don't see the downside, easy-come easy-go), then you target teams in cap trouble. If you're not worried, you just go after whoever you want.

Also, I focused this post more around the higher end guys, but I'd argue that signing "depth" players from the RFA list - in the $1-2M range - is a good idea. Kesler for instance: I suspect the Canucks will try pretty hard to sign him, but they have the Sedins to worry about and existing large contracts for Naslund and Bertuzzi. It may be that the Flames (or another team) can offer Kesler $300k more than what the Canucks are able to spend.

The compensation for a contract under $2M/yr is only one 2nd-round pick. Big deal, I'd say.

matt - agreed on Kesler as a good example of the tact I would take - its not so much going after the bigger name guys that I'm against, its overpaying them - if you can get Tanguay for a reasonable amount and the Avs don't match then you've hit a home run, if they do match him as you said, so what

its that stupid big contract you have to avoid

if I was a Flames' fan I would be hoping they dump a few of their veteran grinders who are making @ 1M and use that cash to upgrade the scoring - its like LeGG - no way he should be making anymore then minimum - I understand intangibles etc but you can pay someone less then 1M to skate, check and be a great guy in the room

One key thing the Flames have to decide on before targeting RFAs is what kind of a team do they want to be. If they want to be a speed team like Buffalo, then they need a lot of turnover, if they want to be a more balanced team like Dallas, then they should probably try to build one big line, and let some of the guys already here slide down the depth chart a little. If you want an explosive team like a San Jose then you're going to need some luck with draft choices, RFA and UFAs and make some trades as well. Now, secondly, is Darryl on board with making changes on these orders of magnitude, or does he just want to tinker? I think King and Sutter are going to have to have some talks first.

I think I covet Briere and Elias the most...

I don't think McCarthy himself would blow that much combined money on Darren McCarthy and Chris Simon:D

What I would say is that given the compensation schedule, no one should really be thinking about putting a signature to an offer sheet with a $2M+ amount. A team like Calgary, perversely, has the luxury of possibly looking at the $2M-$3M band if they're confident they will remain low on the draft ladder. But the basic trick will probably be squeezing the pips on underappreciated properties like Kesler, where the market compensation level is probably in the high ones and you only really have to outbid the Northwest teams who know how good the guy is (pretty goddamn good).

Maybe I'm blind, but I don't see what apparantly everyone else likes about Kesler. I think he's way overrated. He's scored 10 goals and I'd guess 7 of those came post Olympics. For 80plus games it seems like small production. The only thing that seemed to keep him in the lineup was Crawford's unfailing faith in the guy who kept sending him over the boards. He just looks like another one of those good US college players who can skate and check but are production 'challenged'. The Flames have guys who can do that 3 and 4 deep.

Wait, wait, wait...this whole $15MM is predicated on the Flames deciding to spend to the cap? Where are you from Matt, Candyland Island?

I'd figure you guys spend more like $38-$39MM. Smart move would be to push the Hamr overboard probably-that's too much coin for a #5.

I'm not against that in principle, but I'm not sure how you accomplish it. $3.5M is too much for a 5th D, but $2.3M is waayy too much for nothing (buyout). And the only way to trade him will be to (A) package him with someone who's underpaid, or (B) acquire someone else who's overpaid, neither of which solves anything.

If the cap is $46M, then I'd expect that the Flames will spend $42M, at least. I'd be outraged if they spent less than $40M, not that it would do me a bit of good.. :)

Not trying to be argumentative, but what are the figures for TV deals in traditional big markets versus one like Calgary?

It's fairly obvious that Calgary does well merch-wise across Alberta, but I wonder just how big the discrepancy is for local TV dollars.

The cool thing about the Flames picking up Kesler is he'd able to pound Iginal every practice instead of just when the Canucks and Flames meet.

The RFA for picks scenario almost has very, very rarely happened under the previous CBA; I see no reason why it would suddenly change now.

One guy not mentioned who might be a nice fit for CAL as a UFA is Arnott.

One guy not mentioned who might be a nice fit for CAL as a UFA is Arnott.

As if I didn't hate the Flames enough. Seeing that smug pretty boy in a Horsehead sweater might put me over the top.

BTW Matt, I love your idea of team's going after RFA's, I agree that because of the reduced compensation, and the reduced value of draft picks (IMO), RFA offer sheets will become far more common as soon as someonetakes that step.

I thought that step would be taken last summer with Spezza, as OTT was kinda close to the cap, so Spezza might have been able to have been signed?

Interesting that you'd mention targeting within the division, I agree and in fact wrote a blog post about it last fall when I was maintaining my own blog, suggesting the Oilers lay the boots to CAL with offers to a couple of their players - why let them have their guys for cheap?

well, I seem to not be able to figure out how to link to my blog, anyone an internet wizard who can advise?

in the meantime, it should read


at the end of that url, to see my post, where I mused the Oilers should consider bidding upon Kobasew, Langkow, and Iginla ( I thought I had mentioned Leopold, but looking back I guess not)

Here you go Speeds:

Potential RFA Targets

You need to use the html anchor tag to make the links hot.

Incidently, yours was actually the first Oil blog I linked to; but then you went MIA pretty quickly. Nice to see you around, both here and HF, and over at LT and IOF.

yeah, ran out of things to say.

When the draft and free agency comes around I may start posting there again, or I may continue to stick stuff up on IOF. I think I'll at least use that blog site to archive my old draft rankings (for 03, 04, and 05).

Christ, make me the GM of the Flames--if someone had the brass balls to tender an offer sheet to Iginla, I'd at least have the sense to pack Jarmoe's pags for him personally that afternoon. In Years One and Two the extra budget room allows me to go Caligula on the RFA market; then the extra draft picks start landing on the conference like kidney shots. You could end up getting seven or eight good players back for the Nigerian Nightmare.

Meanwhile, the genius who tried to bluff me is presumably trying to find a way to unload a whole lot of $2M-$4M talent and build a Sutter-style roster around Iginla and 15 meatheads. Let's hope he has (a) a goalie as good as Kiprusoff with (b) an agent as gullible as Kiprusoff's.

"Pags"? Oh God--it's late-onset dyslexia.

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