Although the NHL’s regular season has been suspended in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, there is news emerging from each NHL organization. In this News & Rumors post, I want to help Calgary Flames fans stay more up-to-date with news about the team and its players.
Item One: Former Flames Coach Bill Peters Takes a New Coaching Job
Last week, Sportsnet announced that former Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters had signed a two-year contract to coach Avtomobilist in the KHL. Peters had resigned from the Flames in Nov. 2019 after allegations came forward of both racial and physical abuse from several of his former players.
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Those rumours caused a stir and, shortly after Peters resigned, the NHL announced the league’s “zero tolerance” policy as a proactive way to protect its players and to try to revise a part of hockey culture that’s been a skeleton in their closet for decades. The NHL came down hard on Peters because it hopes the new rules will help to prevent such incidents of inappropriate conduct from occurring in the future.
As Flames fans know, Geoff Ward was named interim head coach of the Flames after Peters left and then successfully led the team into third place in the Pacific Division (and a playoff spot as of the NHL pause). In a subsequent article in the Calgary Sun, Ward congratulated his former boss and noted that he was happy to hear of the hiring.
Ward said, “Billy is a good coach. He made a mistake, but he’s an awful good man, in spite of the fact the mistake did happen. It’s nice to see that he’s getting another opportunity. And I think that based on his knowledge of the game and what he’s like as a coach, he will go over there and have some success. I think he’s done some things to atone for what was occurred … Seeing that and people and recognizing that, I think are important,” (from “Former Flames coach Bill Peters hired by KHL team,” Wes Gilbertson, Calgary Sun, 16/04/20).
A surprising addition to the story is that Akim Aliu, one of Peters’ main accusers, also said he believes everyone, including Peters, should get a second chance. Aliu alleged that Peters used racial slurs directed at him during the 2009-10 season. Those allegations were accurate because Peters apologized for his actions toward Aliu before he resigned.
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Aliu stated: “Hockey is for all. I believe in second chances for everyone, that we can all find forgiveness in our heart, and that real, positive change is coming if we continue to push forward together. I don’t resent a man for finding work, but I will fight to make sure those same opportunities are available to everyone, on and off the ice, regardless of race or ethnicity,” (from “Treliving wishes Peters well with KHL coaching gig,” Kristen Anderson, Calgary Sun, 17/04/20).
The Nigerian-born Aliu has played in ten leagues in his career after being chosen in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (56th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks. Most recently, during the 2019-20 season, he played six games with Litvinov HC in the Czech Republic. Before that, he played in the NHL, Ontario Junior Hockey League, the OHL, the AHL, the ECHL, the SHL, the KHL, the Slovakian Extraleague, Sweden 1st Division, and the Czech Republic League.
It seems as if both men – Peters and Aliu – are destined to travel to fulfill their desires to have careers in hockey. I wish them both, good luck.
Item Two: Should Milan Lucic Be a Compliance Buyout?
There’s no question that the NHL is feeling the impact of COVID-19. The most immediate impact is the loss of revenue for each team because there are no ticket sales. This will affect the salary-cap limit which, as part of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), is tied to the league revenue.
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In early March at the close of the general managers’ meetings, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told NHL GMs that the salary cap for next season was projected to be between $84 million and $88.2 million. It was $81.5 million in 2019-20. That has since changed.
As the crisis continues, it seems likely the NHL will consider bringing back compliance buyouts as a way to help salary-cap-strapped teams deal with the loss of revenue and the subsequent impact on players’ contracts. These buyouts would not count against the cap and would help teams find the space they expected from a salary-cap increase.
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For the Flames, they must decide whether there’s someone they should consider buying out. Here, fingers point at Milan Lucic. Although his game came back a bit last season, he’s not the $6 million man he once was. Although part of his salary is being retained by the Edmonton Oilers, Lucic still represents a $5.25 million cap hit, and that’s hard to swallow
The former highly-coveted power forward will never score 20 goals again, and his recent 20 points per season don’t make him valuable enough to carry his salary. The Flames could do better by releasing him to add cap space for the next three seasons. The situation is still up in the air, but there are rumours that compliance buyouts might be around the corner.
Item Three: Will Brad Treliving Re-Sign T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic?
This week, Pat Steinberg of Fan960 radio tweeted that Flames general manager Brad Treliving is interested in re-signing pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic. Brodie is in the final season of a $4.65 million per season contract. Hamonic’s salary is roughly $3.9 million.
Treliving has been in contact with their agents, although contract talks won’t begin in earnest until after the 2019-20 campaign officially ends.
The fly in the ointment is where the salary cap lands for the 2020-21 season. Until that happens, no NHL team will sign UFAs to future contracts.
What’s Next with the Flames?
The Flames are like all other NHL teams, in limbo until answers are revealed about the fate of the 2019-20 season. It’s should be a significantly interesting offseason once the salary cap’s upper limit has been determined.