As expected, Troy Brouwer has been bought out by the Calgary Flames after clearing unconditional waivers today. The 32-year old forward had two years remaining on his contract, meaning the Flames will now carry a $1.5MM cap hit for the next four seasons. Brouwer is now free to sign with any other team as an unrestricted free agent.
Brouwer came to the Flames on July 1st, 2016 during a day which many teams around the league have come to regret. The free agent market that season was relatively weak, but several complementary players were given big dollars and term. Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, David Backes, and Andrew Ladd have all been including in trade speculation since, while others like Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen have been somewhat disappointing for their respective clubs. Brouwer, who was 31 by the time he played his first game in Calgary, actually looked like he might be a perfect fit for Calgary during his first game when he scored a short-handed goal and recorded three hits. The team had wanted to get more physical and bring some experience and defensive responsibility to their lineup, and Brouwer had a history of each.
Unfortunately, the offense would dry up for long stretches of 2016-17 and Brouwer would end up with just 13 goals and 25 points. Last season was even worse, as the veteran forward registered just six goals in 76 games and saw his playing time reduced to the lowest it has been his entire career. The writing was on the wall, and when the Flames went out and brought in James Neal, Derek Ryan, Austin Czarnik and Elias Lindholm to bolster their forward group, someone had to go. The team has plenty of young forwards ready to push for those limited minutes on the fourth line, just waiting for an opportunity to show what they can do at the NHL level.
More importantly perhaps than the roster spot is the $3MM in cap space created, which now allows the Flames to discuss a long-term extension for Noah Hanifin if they so choose. Before getting rid of Brouwer’s contract, the team might not have had the money to buy out several UFA seasons from Hanifin and likely would have needed to go with a bridge deal to keep the cap hit reasonably low. Now, with over $7.5MM in cap space they could lock up their young defender for many years to come and make sure he’s a part of the future. Hanifin remember already has three years under his belt, meaning he’ll become a UFA after four more seasons at the age of 25.
The cap space will also allow Calgary to be more flexible during the season, and perhaps be players once again on the trade market come February. After a disappointing 2017-18 season in which they missed the playoffs completely, the team should be at least competing for the postseason this time around. With a deeper forward corps and talented defensive group, they’ll have to hope for a healthy season from Mike Smith or for one of David Rittich or Jon Gillies to step up and show they can be a starter at the NHL level.
Brouwer meanwhile will likely land somewhere else quickly, as even with his reduced offensive impact he’s still well respected around the league as a bottom-six player. With what will now be an extremely reduced price tag, the veteran forward could sign a one-year deal to prove he can still be effective. He has played some center before, though his natural position is on the wing, and has a long history of penalty killing. His extremely low goal total can also at least somewhat be attributed to the huge drop in shooting percentage he experienced last season. After scoring on an above average 14.2% of his shots through the first decade of his career, Brouwer registered just a 7.6% shooting percentage this season. Though his shot creation numbers also fell dramatically, he could still be relied upon for somewhere around 10 goals and 25 points next season, a fine total for a fourth-line player—as long as he’s not making $4.5MM.