The Flames’ future looks awfully bright

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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?)

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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.