With last night's win, the Calgary Flames have moved into ninth place in the Western Conference. That was unimaginable at Christmas, when the Flames were set to be committed sellers at the deadline. They had a record of 15-18-3 at the break, and the general manager who had assembled the club was about to be fired. But since Christmas, the Flames have put together a record of 16-4-5 and are now in a pretty good position to make the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. After the jump, I'll take a look at Calgary's player commitments for 2011-12, and their current roster before trying to determine what Jay Feaster might do over the next few days to push the Flames over the hump.
The Big Picture
The cap for next season will likely be slightly more than $60M. The Flames have been a cap team for several years now, so it makes sense to use $60M as a loose guideline for their budget (although this season, they'll end up spending more thanks to players on LTIR). Here's the chart I've used before for spending guidelines:
Top 3 Forwards - 27.5% or $16,500,000
Middle 6 Forwards - 20.0% or $12,000,000
Top 4 Defenders - 27.5% or $16,500,000
Goaltending - 10.0% or $6,000,000
Bottom 8 Players - 15.0% or $9,000,000
Here it is again with the players the Flames have signed in the 2011-12 season with the percentages reflecting the Flames spending to a $60M budget (I've used cap hits for the calculations rather than real dollars):
Top 3 Forwards - Iginla, Langkow, Stajan - 25.0% or $15,000,000
Middle 6 Forwards - Bourque, Hagman, Jokinen, Kotalik, Moss, Backlund, - 24.8% or $14,904,166
Top 4 Defenders - Bouwmeester, Regehr, Sarich, Giordano - 30.5% or $18,320,000
Goaltending - Kiprusoff, ??? - 9.7% or $5,833,333
Bottom 8 Players - (Dawes), Kostopoulos, Ivanans, Jackman, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? - 3.7% or $2,208,334
Some of the players listed above may never play for the Flames again: Daymond Langkow and Raitis Ivanans are both on LTIR, and haven't shown any signs that they'll ever be able to come back, and Ales Kotalik is in the minors because of his contract. It's easy to see why the Flames were thinking of selling some big pieces when the team was doing poorly. The team they have this season is pretty much set in stone for 2011-12 as well, so if it wasn't working, it was time for a major change. Things are working better now, so it's a lot more tempting to keep this crew together, although with expensive players like Iginla, Kiprusoff, and Regehr on the decline, and no impact players in the pipeline, it's hard to see how this team will make the jump from being pretty good to elite. Here's a look at the team's depth chart as of today:
Tanguay - Morrison - Iginla
Glencross - Jokinen - Moss
Bourque - Stajan - Jackman
Hagman - Backlund - Kostopoulos
Stone (AHL) - Bouma (AHL) - Kotalik (AHL)
Regehr - Bouwmeester
Giordano - Sarich
Staios - Babchuk
Mikkelsen - Pardy
Brodie (AHL) - Seabrook (AHL)
The Flames don't have much depth at forward beyond the twelve healthy bodies already in the NHL, but those twelve are good enough that they can likely abuse teams who rely on just one or two lines. The Flames don't, however, have an elite line in the group, so a team like Vancouver with both a good top end and solid depth should handle them easily. On defense, the club has a strong top pairing before a pretty steep drop-off and the goaltending is being handled by Miikka Kiprusoff, whose best years are behind him.
Should they be buying this season? I don't think so. The Flames have already traded away their second and third round picks for the upcoming draft, and given the paucity of young talent in the pipeline, moving their first-rounder should be out of the question. Unless a team like the Panthers is willing to sell a depth forward like Marty Reasoner for a fourth round pick or marginal prospect, or the Flames are willing to dip into their pile of mid-round 2012 picks, they'll likely end up being pretty quiet. What about selling? Unfortunately, the players on longer term deals who they might want to sell (Regehr, Kiprusoff, Sarich, Stajan) all have some kind of no-trade clause, and in most cases, it's a no-movement clause. That really limits their options, and might even rule out a trade entirely.
The Flames are in a bit of a weird spot right now. They're one tier below the elite level in the Western Conference and their best players are declining, yet there isn't really an easy way to sell off assets for futures. The Stanley Cup looks like a distant bell, but the playoffs themselves are attainable. And hey, once you make the playoffs, you've got a chance.