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Following the road trip, two interesting faces returned to full practice for the Calgary Flames. Injured players Austin Czarnik and Travis Hamonic are poised to return in the near future. When they come back, just how complex will the team’s roster and salary cap decisions become?

The roster right now

As of this morning, the Flames are carrying 22 players on their active roster:

  • Goalies David Rittich and Cam Talbot
  • Defensemen Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Michael Stone
  • Forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Derek Ryan, Milan Lucic, Mark Jankowski, Tobias Rieder and Zac Rinaldo

They also have four injured players: Hamonic (who’s not on the long-term injury reserve) and Sam Bennett, Juuso Valimaki and Czarnik (who all are). Since Hamonic’s not on the “regular” injury reserve, he counts as one of the active 22 players.

The combined cap hits of everyone on the roster comes to roughly $82.82 million. The Flames are able to spend up to $86.194 million due to the salaries of the players currently on LTIR.

So what changes when players return?

Hamonic is already on the active roster and counts against the cap. The Flames already sent Alexander Yelesin back to the AHL, so the Flames only have six active defenders. It seems apparent that Hamonic will be back on Thursday, so no further moves will be needed to accommodate his return.

Czarnik will involve a little bit of wrangling potentially. When he returns he’ll need a roster spot, but with Yelesin already in the AHL they will have an open spot for him under the 23-man limit. Cap-wise, activating Czarnik will keep their cap hit at $82.82 million and drop their LTIR-inflated ceiling to $84.944 million. Since the Flames probably don’t want to keep oodles of extra bodies around, it seems likely that extra forward Zac Rinaldo ($700,000 AAV) will be dispatched to Stockton, dropping the overall cap hit for the team to $82.1 million.

What happens after that?

Barring more injuries, the next domino to fall will be Bennett’s eventual return. Per Pat Steinberg’s reporting, Bennett’s skating on his own. He’ll eventually return, but with Juuso Valimaki on LTIR, the Flames don’t necessarily need to send anybody to the AHL in order to be cap compliant.

But if they want to bank some future cap savings, they probably should keep a lean roster. That would force the Flames to make some decisions on the fringes of their roster.