It’s Thursday, so the hockey world was bestowed another edition of Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column over at the Sportsnet website. Friedman’s thoughts didn’t dig extensively into the goings-on with the Calgary Flames, but a couple items touched on what’s going to be an ongoing concern for the hockey club this season: salary cap challenges.

Here are the two segments that mentioned the local sports club:
12. As reported previously, both Carolina and Montreal are among teams looking closely at Dallas’s Julius Honka. I’d heard Calgary was, too, but that does not appear recent. Expect the Flames to be very careful with Juuso Valimaki. They will not rush him back. Long career ahead of him.
13. Teams trying to move bodies include Carolina and Vancouver. Both are tight to the cap and roster limits. The Canucks have made four or five players available, but I’m not sure Jake Virtanen is one of them. Head coach Travis Green was frustrated with Nikolay Goldobin last season, but GM Jim Benning opted for a longer view. Could be the same here. Calgary may have to manoeuvre something once Matthew Tkachuk is signed.
Depending which players you want to count, the Flames have between $6.3 million and $7 million in cap space. The situation is complicated somewhat – okay, a lot – by the ongoing Tkachuk negotiations and Valimaki’s injury status. Needless to say, Brad Treliving has some wrangling to do. Here’s what we know, or think very strongly that we know:
  1. The Flames will need to be cap compliant with Valimaki’s $894,000 cap hit on the books when they file their opening roster with the league, but they can place him on Long Term Injury Reserve immediately afterwards and use his cap hit for some relief.
  2. Unless the Flames move out some significant salary, and unless Valimaki’s rehab progresses incredibly well, it seems pretty likely that Valimaki will be on the LTIR for the entire regular season. Based on the general timeline for ACL injuries, it would be pretty incredible for him to return in six and a half months – though it’s also too early to project if he can be fully recovered for the post-season. Either way, the Flames could definitely use the cap relief from his LTIR stint for the full season given their cap issues. Activating him from LTIR during the season would be challenging for them cap-wise.
  3. If the Flames sign Tkachuk to a longer deal with a cap hit north of $7.75 million or $8 million, they’ll need to seriously restructure their team’s payroll because it would be a massive challenge to fit him in for 2019-20 without sending out a big contract.

As our pal Pat Steinberg mused a little while ago, it seems likely that if the Flames need to move a deal out to fit Tkachuk’s new deal in, it’ll probably be someone like Mark Jankowski or Austin Czarnik – smaller, shorter contracts where the Flames could reasonably hope to get a draft pick back and not be asked to take an NHL contract in the swap.

In short: the Flames’ cap situation is tenuous and pretty complicated. The hope is that Tkachuk will sign soon and then they can get around to the business of simplifying things.