The Calgary Flames are a team with big aspirations and virtually no cap space. They entered Wednesday with just $155,000 in cap space for the rest of the season. Because of this situation, many who follow the team feel that a trade is inevitable to ease the salary cap pressures. But with a roster that hasn’t played its best so far this season, who should the Flames attempt to trade?
Big cap savings, but challenging to move
The Flames have two pending unrestricted free agents that really don’t seem to be fits long-term: Michael Frolik ($4.3 million AAV) and TJ Brodie ($4.65 million AAV). Both have bounced around the depth charts a bit. Both can seemingly be replaced fairly easily by less expensive players: Frolik by Sam Bennett or Andrew Mangiapane, Brodie by Rasmus Andersson. Both were almost traded earlier this year: Frolik to Minnesota (and almost again to New Jersey), Brodie to Toronto. It’s hard not to see the writing on the wall.
The big challenge is this: if the Flames know what these guys have become – useful, if expensive, depth pieces, so have the other 30 NHL clubs. With a tight salary cap situation restricted effectively every NHL club (aside from maybe Columbus and Ottawa), it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a bidding war for these guys. Without a bidding war, it’s probable that the Flames would jettison one of these guys from their team for pennies on the dollar. (Moving Brodie would also put the Flames one injury away from having to potentially use Brandon Davidson, Rinat Valiev or Alexander Yelesin on their NHL roster, really stretching their depth. A forward move would be easier to facilitate via the club’s depth.)
Depth moves, depth savings
Honestly, given the team’s cap and roster situation it seems more likely that we could see moves further down the rotation – particularly at forward. Mark Jankowski ($1.675 million) and Austin Czarnik ($1.25 million) are depth pieces making decent coin. While neither is setting the world on fire – Jankowski was recently lapped by 32-year-old Derek Ryan while Czarnik sits in the press box as an extra body – both have shown they can be fairly cost-effective role players as recently as last season.
The only challenge for Jankowski and Czarnik is that the Flames cap situation has pushed them from desiring cost-effective depth into praying for cheap depth. Organizationally, that probably comes in the form of Alan Quine ($730,000), Dillon Dube ($778,333) or even Ryan Lomberg ($700,000). Under Bill Peters, the Flames often drop to a short bench late in games. If you’re going to have the fourth liners playing less than 10 minutes per night, they might as well make $900,000 less than Jankowski while doing so.
Moving Jankowski or Czarnik wouldn’t garner the cap savings of Frolik or Brodie, but since the players are easier for more teams to fit in a bidding war would be more likely and it would be easier for the Flames to get fair value in a trade – even if fair value in this case would be a mid-round draft pick.
What would you do?
Should the Flames keep trying to swing for the trade market fences, or be more content with scratching out some cap savings further down their rotation? Sound off in the comments!