The Calgary Flames have been busy this offseason re-tooling and re-vamping their roster in hopes of a Stanley Cup push in the 2020-21 season. On paper, the team looks to be deeply improved compared to how they finished at the end of last season. Time will tell just exactly how much the team has improved, but for now fans can take solace that Brad Treliving has done all he can to improve his roster in the short term.
That being said, the Flames’ front office had to not only think of the upcoming season when assessing their team’s roster overhaul, but also the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft at the end of next season (whenever that may be). The Seattle Kraken are coming, and they’ll get to select a player from each of the other 31 NHL teams. The current hockey ops staff is well experienced with the process, as the majority of team members were around when the Vegas Golden Knights entered the league.
This isn’t uncharted territory for them.
This time around though, the Flames’ protection list isn’t as simple as it was in 2017. During that process, the Flames opted for the 7F-3D-1G variant of a protection list and retained Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and Mike Smith. Only five of those players remain on the current roster, and since then there have also been some key additions.
In 2017, the team lost defenseman Deryk Engelland to the Golden Knights, which really wasn’t that impactful to the team. Engelland was a bottom pairing defenseman who was a pending UFA. Seeing as Engelland lived in Vegas during the offseason, the talk of him signing with the expansion team was already on the table. Him being selected did virtually nothing to impact the team.
That won’t be the story this time. The Flames, based on their current roster and pending any huge moves, will be losing a key piece to the Seattle Kraken. Who might that be? Lets take a look.
Three Key Decisions
Across all scenarios there are a number of no brainer moves the team will be making, assuming these players are still on the team. Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Elias Lindholm aren’t going to be exposed by the team in terms of forwards. Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson have the same status on the back-end. There is no way the team would expose players with this type of value for absolutely nothing.
Newly signed netminder Jacob Markstrom also will not be exposed. His contract has a NMC, that was key to his signing, and the Flames won’t be asking him to waive that.
There won’t be any crazy scenarios there.
The first variant of three key decisions relates to Milan Lucic and his no move clause. In his contract, Lucic was granted a NMC by Edmonton, which he waived to come to Calgary, but the Flames opted to honour that clause. Due to expansion rules he must be protected. There is, of course, a scenario where Lucic opts to waive this clause in his contract to allow the team to protect someone else, but this won’t be confirmed until closer to the draft.
It’s been strongly suggested that Lucic agreed to do this at the time of the trade, but until the expansion draft there are no guarantees. There are arguments to be made for him waiving and not waiving, but whatever he chooses significantly impact the Flames’ decisions.
Based on Lucic’s decision, the team may be able to protect one or two of their young key forwards: Sam Bennett, Andrew Mangiapane, or Dillon Dube. This is assuming that the Flames meet the forward exposure rules by having Bennett play at least eight games next season and Dube play 15 to satisfy the 40/70 rule. Depending on the scenario, the team will have to choose between these three forwards when making their list.
Finally on defense, the Flames have a big decision to make over exposing captain Mark Giordano or newly signed Chris Tanev. This season’s performances could be the big determining factor on who the team chooses, but one of these men will be exposed in each scenario.
Using CapFriendly’s amazing Expansion Draft Tool, the first protection scenario is as follows:
Lucic chooses not to waive his NMC, causing the team to protect only one of the three young guns. For the sake of argument, they opt for Bennett here, who is also in need of a new contract, over the likes of Mangiapane and Dube.
Regardless of which of the three get protected, two good young players will be on the table for Seattle.
On defense, the team decides to keep their captain protected for the final year of his contract, leaving new comer Tanev exposed for selection.
In this situation, the team is most likely going to lose Mangiapane or Dube. It’s really a dealers choice here depending on next season’s performance, but Mangiapane would probably be heading to Seattle at this point in time. Not optimal.
The major changes here Lucic waiving his NMC, which would be a massive asset to the team. Doing this allows the team to protect Mangiapane and Dube, but leave Bennett available to be selected in expansion. The Kraken could always be looking to add to their team to reach the cap floor, and perhaps would be interested in a veteran presence like Lucic, but Bennett could prove to be too appealing.
The change on defense comes too if the team opts to protect Tanev over Giordano. Depending on how Giordano’s game is next season, the team could look to temp Seattle with the defensive stalwart to ease some cap difficulties.
I would think if the Flames choose to expose Giordano, the Kraken would be extremely interested in a veteran leader similar to what Marc-Andre Fleury was for Vegas. As brutal as this would be, Tkachuk is ready and waiting for the C to land on his chest. It would be the end of an era in Calgary.
The final variant to note would be one where Lucic waives, the Flames protect two of the three young forwards, and Giordano. This is the most likely scenario of the three.
Still in this situation, the team could lose Tanev or Dube to the Kraken. I would think that if Tanev becomes available, the Kraken would also look to snatch him from the Flames.
What is the right move?
It’s far too early to panic, as this current expansion roster is bound to change, but unless there are major changes the team is going to lose someone a bit more important than last time. Of course, there are a number of variables that could impact not only the protection list but also the perception of the player taken.
If Bennett is unable to match his 2020 playoff performance, and is in need of a new contract, is this the time the team finally cuts ties with the former fourth overall pick? If Giordano regresses significantly and Tanev overperforms, would the team be comfortable exposing their captain? If the team re-signs David Rittich after a strong season, does he become the Kraken target?
These and more options will only become apparent closer to the actual expansion draft, but there is no doubt that the Calgary Flames will need to be creative to keep their key young players.
What do you think about the Flames’ expansion draft plans? Who do you think is on the way out? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.
Photo by: NHL.com & Getty Images
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