Flames Cap Crunch

With the draft only days away now and July 1st fast approaching I thought it was an ideal time to take a closer look at the Flames overall situation when it pertains to the talent on the ice and what Darryl Sutter needs to do in order to assure that he keeps his job past April of 2011.

First off, Gary Bettman announced that the Salary Cap for the 2011-12 will increase slightly from the $56.8 million it was at this past season. So, for all intensive purposes let us assume that the cap will fall in or around $58 million.

The Flames, as it stands now, have roughly $53, 379, 166 committed to 17 players for the upcoming season; a breakdown of 10 forwards ($28.9 mill), 6 defence ($18.6 mill), and 1 goalie ($5.83 mill).

Pardon the alliteration, but let us delve deeper into the defence...

Jay Bouwmeester – Age 25, $6.68 million
Robyn Regehr – Age 28, $4.02 million
Cory Sarich – Age 30, $3.6 million
Steve Staios – Age 35, $2.7 million
Mark Giordano – Age 25, $0.891 million
Adam Pardy – Age 25, $0.7 million

On paper that does not look all that bad, but we all know it could use some tweaking. Regehr and Sarich have clearly lost a step and in a day an age when speed is vital, these two guys are liabilities when they do not have you within an arms reach. Giordano and Bouwmeester represent the only speed on the blue line. You compare that to the cup champs in Chicago who have Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, Hjalmarsson and Boynton who were all capable of jumping into a rush and creating offence. Looking for answers, the Flames have Ian White, who was acquired in February in the Dion deal and is a pending RFA. He would help the speed on the backend but at what cost. White is coming off a career season in which he tallied 13 goals, 25 assists and was a plus 8 when he spent most of his time on one of the leagues worst teams. He finished 28th in defence league scoring ahead of such names like Phaneuf and Bouwmeester who both make almost 6 million more dollars a year than White.

Rumours have been swirling that White is wanting upwards of $5 million a season. I do not see this happening, as he has yet to really prove himself. Looking at players comparable to him, we have Ryan Whitney and Stephane Robidas who he finished right behind in scoring who make $4 million and $3.3 million a year respectively. This was the range I thought he might be garnering; while still probably a steep price tag, the bar has been set and players like White will want to cash in when they can.

In order to accommodate such a demand, Darryl will have to make some decisions. Staios should be an obvious person to dispose of, as I am still trying to figure out why they traded for him in the first place. Regehr would most likely garner the most in return, but the problem looms with his ‘no movement clause.’ Assuming Robyn does not waive the clause, it really leaves Cory Sarich, who makes $3.6 million, the ideal candidate to be shipped elsewhere. He may still bring back something useful as there are teams in need of a stay at home defenceman with Cup experience. He could possibly be worth a 2nd round draft pick, and would free up the room needed to sign White.

So, you rid yourself of Sarich and Staios, and you re-sign White to the $3.5 million a year range. Than you bring up one or two ‘young guns’ (not to remind Flames fans of the late 90’s), and you give some kids an opportunity. Matt Pelech (currently an RFA), John Negrin, and Keith Seabrook have all had ample time in the minors and would provide the backend with some much needed youth. Not to mention the newly signed gargantuan Chris Breen and Gord Baldwin, also an RFA.

So now your defence looks like this:

Jay Bouwmeester – Age 25, $6.68 million
Robyn Regehr – Age 29, $4.02 million
Ian White- Age 25, $3.5 million*
Mark Giordano – Age 25, $0.891 million
Adam Pardy – Age 25, $0.7 million
Pelech/Negrin/Seabrook – Age-22-25, .5 -.8 million
*assumed contract

Now instead of having $18.6 million tied up in defence, you have roughly $17.4 million in 7 guys. You get faster, you get younger and you still have a core four (Bouw, Regehr, White, Gio) that can really hold their own, with the senior citizen being Rocket Robyn at 29 years old.

The goalie situation should be pretty easy for the Flames; let Kipper play his 70 games and find a guy to spell him whenever he needs a rest. It has not been so easy in recent years. Curtis McElhinney was the guy for the past while, but patience grew thin with him and he was shipped to Anaheim for disgruntled former Leaf Vesa Toskala. Toskala proved useful the last month and half of the season, as he provided much needed reliable support for Kipper down the stretch; something he has never really had in the 7 years he has been in Calgary.

The Flames also have a couple of goalies itching to get a shot in the big leagues in Leland Irving and Matt Keetley. Irving posted decent numbers with Abbotsford last year (2.76 GAA, .905 SP%), while Keetley was a touch better (2.59 GAA,. 912 SP%) in 11 less games. Keetley is an RFA and made only $600,000 last season while Irving would be a cap hit of almost $1.2 million with added in bonuses.

Knowing Sutter’s tendency to trust a veteran over a rookie, Toskala would be the more educated choice. The question that lingers is whether or not Toskala would be willing to re-sign for a much smaller number than his $4 million price tag of last season? My guess would be yes, as he has done nothing really to earn a starting look anywhere else in the league. This would result in the Flames having an all Finnish goalie club this year with Vesa and Miikka tag teaming the 4x6.

Miikka Kiprusoff – Age 32, $5.83 million
Vesa Toskala – Age 32, $ 1.4 million*
*assumed contract

Next up are the Forwards…

All numbers for this article were taken from capgeek.com.