The Calgary Flames have played the last three games with 17 or fewer skaters and will play the remaining two well under the limit in what is believed to be a post-lockout first.
Neither the NHL nor the NHLPA keeps track of game by game roster numbers, but no-one at the league or NHLPA knows of a late-season cap crunch hitting a team to the degree it has the Flames
The collective bargaining agreement states teams cannot place players on Long Term Injury with nine or fewer games remaining in the regular season which means there is no cap relief for the Flames who have had to play shorthanded because they don't have the cap space to call up AHL reinforcements.
Had that relief been available in the wake of injuries to defensemen Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich, Calgary would have gambled on re-entry waivers and recalled veteran Anders Eriksson. Instead, the Flames will have to wait to place Eriksson on re-entry until the end of the regular season with no guarantee he clears.
The architects of the CBA call Calgary's predicament mismanagement and say Flames gm Darryl Sutter acted aggressively at the trade deadline by adding Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold without allowing for cap flexibility.
Sutter contends this isn't a cap issue; it's an injury issue with his list of players sidelined also including, Rene Bourque, Wayne Primeau, Andre Roy and Mark Giordano, forcing the Flames to play a total of 5 games under the roster limit. A fact some suggest impacts on the integrity of games played by the shorthanded Flames.
Calgary is expected to encourage discussion on changing this rule at future league meetings and are expected to get support from other cap teams as currently twenty teams are within 2 million dollars of the 56.7-million maximum.
However, at least one non-cap teams suggests the NHL do the opposite by enforcing the restrictions of the cap system throughout the playoffs.