CALGARY — The hockey world is waiting for the Calgary Flames to make their move — the transaction that opens up enough cap space to eventually sign Matthew Tkachuk.
It’s unlikely anyone feels more affected by those possibilities than Michael Frolik.
“I know something probably will happen,” said the Flames 31-year-old winger, who spent the summer in his native Czech Republic keeping a close eye on the rumour mill.
“I’m not sure if it’s going to be me or someone else. With Chucky (Tkachuk) and Mangy (RFA Andrew Mangiapane) unsigned we still need to do so something. Obviously it’s hard to not read about it. You know what’s going on. Even if you try not to read about it I kind of know the situation. I’ve been traded a few times so I know how it works. It goes pretty fast after that. We’ll see what is going to happen.”
Although a versatile, valuable member of the team, Frolik has been considered the most likely candidate to be moved largely because he’s entering the final year of a deal earning him $4.3 million.
Moving him could go a long way towards erasing the Flames’ cap quandary.
Adding to his tenuous situation was the fact first year Flames coach Bill Peters was accused on Twitter early in the year of trying to run the former Stanley Cup winner out of town when Frolik’s agent, Allan Walsh, noted how little ice time his client was receiving.
Peters responded by returning Frolik to the second line he’s long patrolled alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, with instant results.
Still, at the trade deadline a report surfaced suggesting a deal sending Frolik and a draft pick to Minnesota for Jason Zucker fell apart at the 11th hour.
Through it all, Frolik insists he’s never made a trade request and is hoping he’ll start the season with the Flames.
He also hopes to return to his spot on one of the league’s best second lines.
But he knows the Flames open camp medicals Thursday with just $7 million in cap space and still have to ink Mangiapane (for roughly $1 million) and Tkachuk (for somewhere between $7 and $10 million, depending on term and how the other RFA chips fall.)
The math doesn’t add up.
Someone’s got to go.
Not easy, says one agent who put it this way.
“The garbage dump is closed,” he said.
“This late in the season, there’s nowhere left for the Flames or anyone to dump salary.”
Indeed, it’s hard to believe that after a summer of trying to peddle Frolik’s hefty cap hit, a team will suddenly find a fit just as camps are opening.
Yet, the possibility looms.
“I never said I want to leave Calgary – I love it here and as a family we love the life and are happy here,” said the dependable, two-way winger, who had 16 goals and 34 points in 65 games.
“The second half of last season I proved a little bit I can be on that second line. Hopefully if I’m going to stay here it’s going to start like that and just prove I can be in that spot.
“Obviously I wasn’t happy at the start with the ice time.
“Billy was new here and a new coaching staff, so it’s always a big change and everybody is starting from zero. Some people take longer to show what they can do on the ice but the second half was better.
“We’ll see what happens.”
All eyes will be on Tkachuk’s contract stalemate, which will put a damper on camp here, as it will in other cities where big-name RFAs are holding the line.
“That’s the other side of this business,” said Frolik, a former Jet, Blackhawk and Panther who was a 20-goal scorer in each of his first three seasons in Florida.
“It’s tough but obviously we will be happy to see him.
What’s going on in this league, with so many guys like (Patrik) Laine in the same situation, and they didn’t sign yet too, so this is a little bit expected. But you want to have him on the team and not sitting out – it’s not good for anybody. Hopefully we’ll see him soon.”
Whether Frolik is still here when Tkachuk returns remains to be seen.
A demotion to the AHL for Frolik wouldn’t solve the problem as it would only shave a maximum of $1,075 million off his cap hit. Same goes for Austin Czarnik, who could also be facing a demotion.
Both would have to clear waivers first.
All eyes will be on GM Brad Treliving as he tries to piece together an intricate payroll puzzle.
No one will be watching closer than Frolik.