Calgary’s unfortunate run-in with the NHL’s salary cap police last season won’t happen again under Darryl Sutter’s regime.
The GM is clearly being uber-careful with how much the Flames are spending on payroll this season. He’s even doing some early-season positioning so the team has the option to pick up a depth forward in the $2-million range before the NHL trade deadline.
It’s tough to forget Calgary’s problems with the salary cap last season. The acquisition of Olli Jokinen at the trade deadline put the Flames right up against the cap. Then a rash of injuries forced some call-ups which put the team over budget. Calgary had to play several games down the stretch one or two players short of the 18-skater roster limit and that was a key contributing factor in the Flames losing the division title and third seed in the playoffs.
Sutter made some astute moves over the summer to clear cap space — dumping Jim Vandermeer’s $2.3 million and Wayne Primeau’s $1.4 million — and let four contributing UFAs walk (Mike Cammalleri, Adrian Aucoin, Todd Bertuzzi, Jordan Leopold) in order to sign Jay Bouwmeester and make the Flames more manoeverable.
And like Sutter did a year ago in securing unheralded support players on the cheap (Rene Bourque at $1.35 million, Curtis Glencross at $1.2 million and Mark Giordano at $891,000), the Calgary GM went after players who were seeking opportunity rather than immediate fortune. Nigel Dawes ($850,000) and Fredrik Sjostrom ($750,000) both fill important roles at a fraction the cost of a proven NHLer.
Next move is to lock up key players who are coming off contracts. Bourque is a pending UFA who will command $4 million-plus on the open market if he posts a 30-goal or 60-point season. Maybe he’d sign a long-term deal now that’s closer to $3 million.
Whatever happens, the Flames have come a long way since the cap crisis from a year ago.