Flames getting it right with short-term contracts

Derek Leung

Only one Flame is signed for three years from now.

Free agency usually sees teams give away ridiculous contracts. Too much term and too much money are spent in efforts to woo top profile players to teams, and these contracts have a tendency to hurt teams down the line. While the Flames certainly aren't exempt from this practice (Dennis Wideman, and more recently, I'm looking at you, Deryk Engelland, and your 500% pay raise for no apparent reason), they've done a very good job at not handicapping themselves for the future.

The only players under contract after the next two seasons are Mason Raymond, Matt Stajan, Brandon Bollig, Wideman, and Ladislav Smid. The only player under contract after the next three seasons is Stajan.

Now, obviously it isn't going to stay like this. The Flames may not yet be done in free agency. They may trade for somebody with a long-term contract. They may re-sign someone else (Joe Colborne and Lance Bouma will definitely be getting extensions this summer, and extensions for guys like Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie aren't too far down the line). But when it comes time for the Flames to pay their kids, they'll be in good position to do so.

That's one thing the Flames absolutely nailed during the free agent frenzy opening this year. They got what they wanted, and were able to do it without jeopardizing the team's future cap space.

Jonas Hiller's two-year deal is the perfect length. Barring an extension, Karri Ramo is done after this season, which may open the door for Joni Ortio. By the time Hiller's deal is done, Ortio may have a year of NHL experience under his belt, and assuming Jon Gillies attends all four years of school, he'll have graduated. (If he doesn't, then he'll have played a year of pro hockey by the time Hiller is gone.) It isn't an extreme deal, and it's designed to give the Flames' current goalie prospects appropriate time to develop without leaving them to stagnate in the minors.

As for Raymond and Engelland, the Flames could very well be competitive within three years. Raymond will be 31 by then, and Engelland 35. The Flames don't have much going for them on defence at the moment, but within three years they may: Brodie will likely still be playing the top pairing, a guy like Tyler Wotherspoon should be in the top four, and maybe prospects like Brett Kulak and Patrick Sieloff will be taking regular shifts. The point being, Engelland isn't going to be with the Flames long enough to handcuff the Flames' prospects.

The same goes for Raymond's deal. Raymond will probably still be a useful player when his current contract is up, and he may stay with the team, but his contract isn't so long as to stop prospects like Sven Baertschi, Johnny Gaudreau, or future breakout kids from making the Flames full time in the near future.

And if something goes wrong? The Flames will be able to retain salary should someone need to be traded, and Raymond's cap hit is so minor it may not be necessary with him.

As it stands right now, the Flames have the lowest payroll of all 30 NHL teams, with nearly $20 million in cap space. The cap is going to go up, but so will the kids' salaries. The Flames are in perfect position to deal with raises when the time comes, largely in part due to short-term contracts.

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