The Flames’ future looks awfully bright


In a salary cap age, locking up your core isn’t cheap. The teams who can sign players affordably – thanks to RFA leverage, timing and other factors – can enjoy some significant advantages.

The Calgary Flames are in a tight financial situation heading into 2016-17, with about $500K in cap space … but after this season, things really open up.

It wasn’t easy, but things look really promising for the Calgary Flames after signing Johnny Gaudreau to a very reasonable six-year deal.

Cost-efficient core

Take a look at the most important Flames contracts that cover multiple years:

Gaudreau: six years, $6.75M cap hit
Mark Giordano: five years, $6.75M
Sean Monahan: seven years, $6.375M
Dougie Hamilton: five years, $5.75M
T.J. Brodie: four years, $4.65M
Troy Brouwer: four years, $4.5M
Michael Frolik: four years, $4.3M

You can quibble with certain deals – that Brouwer contract is a little worrisome – but there are some huge savings there. Those bargains could look even more significant for certain younger players; Gaudreau is 23, Monahan’s just 21, Hamilton is 23 and Brodie is 26.

Dead money soon dissolving

The Flames will also see some shaky contracts leave their books soon.

Dennis Wideman‘s problematic $5.25 million might get moved for all we know, but if not, it ends after this coming season. Deryk Engelland‘s near-$3 million mistake and Ladislav Smid‘s $3.5 million will wash away after 2016-17, too.

Flexibility in net

Some of that money may eventually go to Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, but the beauty of the situation is that the Flames get to choose.

Elliott’s likely to get a big raise from $2.5 million, yet we’ll see if it’s with Calgary. The Flames may very well decide to go with Chad Johnson (currently at $1.7 million) or someone else instead.

Plenty of teams are locked down to questionable goalie deals. The Flames could benefit greatly from what may end up being a buyer’s market.

(Perhaps Ben Bishop will merely end up in Calgary a year later?)


With Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk among those likely to be considered core players sooner rather than later, Calgary has room to pay them as they grow.

The Flames already looked pretty promising before the Gaudreau deal, but now they’re the envy of a healthy chunk of the NHL. Or at least they should be.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

Andrei Kuzmenko
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.