Perhaps lost in what has been a terrible season for the Calgary Flames is that the Seattle expansion draft is soon approaching, and some tough decisions will need to be made by Flames management. The draft is set to take place on July 21, 2021, which is just over three months away.
With the Flames all but eliminated from the playoffs, the team will start focusing on the offseason sooner rather than later. There is absolute certainty that all teams have already gotten to work dicussing who gets protected and who gets exposed in the expansion draft as protection lists will be due on July 17. For Calgary, given how bad they have been this year and the fact that a core shakeup may be in the cards, who the team protects come July has gotten much more compelling.
One of the biggest decisions the team will need to make is who to protect on the back end. With only three spots available, the Flames will have to expose one of their core players in Chris Tanev or Mark Giordano. Who should it be? Let’s take a look.
Andersson and Hanifin are locks to be protected
First off, let’s sort one thing out. The Flames aren’t exposing Rasmus Andersson or Noah Hanifin. Both are just 24 years old and signed to long-term team-friendly deals. Regardless of how much Andersson has struggled this year, he still has a ton of potential and the team just locked him up for six years last season. Hanifin meanwhile, has been one of the lone bright spots on the team this year, playing arguably the best hockey of his career. Add in his modest $4.95 million AAV and it’s pretty clear he isn’t going anywhere.
This leaves one spot for the two veterans in the Flames’ top four, Tanev and Giordano. If you would’ve told someone that Giordano could be left exposed just one year ago they probably would’ve called you crazy. However, things have changed drastically since then and exposing the long time Flames captain seems like a real possibility.
Meanwhile newly signed Chris Tanev is playing his best hockey in years in his first year with the team, teaming up with Hanifin to create the Flames best defence pairing. Some are calling for Treliving to do a quick flip and trade Tanev while his value might be at its peak, but the Flames might think differently, especially after giving Tanev the alternate captain tag when Mikael Backlund was out with injury.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why each player should be exposed and why each one shouldn’t.
All numbers are 5v5 score-and-venue adjusted, courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com. The number in brackets indicates their rank among Flames defencemen with at least 100 minutes TOI. RAPM charts are courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.com.
|Mark Giordano||11||50.12 (5)||45.99 (3)||46.56 (5)||43.45 (5)|
|Chris Tanev||6||53.58 (1)||54.16 (1)||57.34 (1)||58.78 (1)|
Why Giordano should be protected
The key reason Giordano wouldn’t be exposed and why he may not be is pretty obvious. He’s the team’s captain and undisputed leader. He’s been with the team since 2008, longer than any other player on the roster. He’s also been the captain since 2012, making him the second longest serving captain in team history behind only Jarome Iginla.
Giordano has been a key piece for the team for a decade and has established himself as one of the most respected players in franchise history. He recorded his 500th point with the team just last week, becoming only the third defenceman in franchise history to reach 500 points.
The optics around exposing your long time team captain and a respected veteran like Giordano wouldn’t exactly be great. NHL teams tend to stay very loyal to their trusted veterans and it probably wouldn’t be viewed well across the league for the Flames to leave their team captain exposed. It also probably wouldn’t be taken very well in the locker room as Giordano is very well respected by the players.
For this reason I have a hard time believing the Flames would screw over their long time leader and captain by exposing him in the draft. At 37 years old, Giordano is near the end of his career, and I highly doubt he would enjoy having to relocate this late into his career. If the Flames want to do right by their long time leader, they won’t expose him.
Further, despite his struggles this year, his play hasn’t been all negative as he’s still producing points at a decent rate despite the team’s overall scoring struggles. He currently leads all Flames defenders in points at even strength. His 17 total points are also first on the team among defencemen.
At 888:13 minutes in all situations this year, Giordano currently leads the team in total ice time. And of course, he is still logging regular minutes on the top power play and penalty kill units. Even with his struggles, replacing Giordano in the lineup would be a big task as he would leave a major hole to fill.
Why Giordano should be exposed
While he’s still a workhorse at eating up minutes, he simply isn’t very good anymore. As hard as it is to admit for Flames fans, Giordano has been a shell of his former self for the past year and at his age, there aren’t many reasons to suggest he can bounce back. It seems like age has finally caught up to Mr. Young and Fresh.
Looking at the microcosm of this 2021 season, it is his worst season in a very long time. His numbers are ugly right now and nowhere near what they have looked like in recent years. His ranks among Flames defenders indicate someone who should be playing on your bottom pairing, not as your number one defenceman.
In all seriousness, everyone knew that Father Time would catch up to Giordano eventually, but man has it ever hit him like a brick wall. Throughout his 13 year career, he has only posted a CF% lower than what he has right now in four other seasons. Meanwhile his current xGF% and HDCF% this season are both the lowest of his entire career.
It’s not just the underlying numbers that suggest Giordano has fallen off a cliff this season either. The eye-test hasn’t looked much better either. He has looked considerably slower out on the ice this season than he ever has. He’s a shadow of his former self right now and seems to always be chasing the game. When you watch him play most nights, he looks like a guy who is just as effective that he should be.
Giordano’s shifting from being reliable to becoming a liability. The odds of this just being an off year for Giordano are slim to none if only due to age, so it may be best for the team to expose him as the other options on defence bring much more value to the team in the present and long-term. Given his age, Seattle might not even want him anyway.
Why Tanev should be protected
Compared to Giordano this year, Tanev has been significantly better. Tanev has flourished as one of the team’s most important players. He has turned back the clock and is playing some incredibly solid hockey right now. He currently leads all Flames defenders in CF%, GF%, xGF%, and HDCF%. He’s been that good.
Many expected Tanev to continue his recent decline this year after the Flames brought him in during the offseason, but he’s been arguably the team’s best player all year. He’s rediscovered the form from his prime when he was one of the league’s premier shutdown defenceman, and is carrying the load defensively for the team alongside Hanifin.
Along with Hanifin, Tanev has formed the best pairing on the team and has excelled all season in very tough minutes against the other teams’ top players. It’s frankly scary to think about where this team would be right now in the standings if it weren’t for Tanev and Hanifin playing the way they have all year. Just imagine this team’s defence core right now without Tanev, it’s not pretty.
With how shaky the team has been on defence this year, exposing and losing Tanev for nothing would be a huge blow going into next year and would produce a hole on the defence that would be nearly impossible to replace, especially internally. It’s not a stretch at all to say Tanev is the team’s best defenceman right now. Not exactly someone you want to be exposing.
If you are willing to lose Tanev because you think he shouldn’t be apart of the core for a rebuild, then you should trade him while his value is at an all-time high instead. Leaving him exposed and potentially losing him for nothing makes no sense. Tanev could fetch the Flames a very solid return. I don’t expect them to trade him, but it would make much more sense than exposing him and losing him for nothing if they think he is expendable.
Another major factor is his age compared to Giordano. Tanev is just 31 years old, clocking in six years younger than Giordano. He’s not only brought much more value to the team this year, but given his age he is bound to be a more valuable core piece for the next couple years compared to Giordano.
Whether or not his strong play can continue after this season is still a very big question mark, but there’s no doubt Tanev has been much better than expected this year, and certainly much better than Giordano. As a key leader and member of the Flames defence, losing Tanev in the expansion draft would be a massive blow to an already slim defence core.
Why he should be exposed
Honestly at this point I think the main reason Tanev would be exposed over Giordano is because of the loyalty factor. If the team has to decide between exposing Tanev or their long time leader and captain, they may decide on Tanev even if he is the better player right now.
There is also the concern that his play will tail off eventually as it has the past couple years. Tanev has been incredible this season but we can’t forget just how average he was playing coming into this year. He’ll turn 32 next season and with a rough injury history it would be surprising to see him continue this strong play all the way through the last three years of his contract.
His contract status could also encourage the Flames to expose him, hoping they could clear his cap hit off the books for the next three seasons if they do decide to enter a full retooling/rebuild. However, as mentioned above, if you don’t think he should be apart of the core for a rebuild, then you should trade him and get something back.
I really don’t see any concrete reason why Tanev should be left exposed. His value to the Flames and across the league is incredibly high right now and the team would be much better suited keeping him around, or trading him for assets if they enter a rebuild instead of risking losing him for nothing.
Who’s more likely to get claimed by the Kraken?
One thing the Flames certainly have to consider when deciding who to expose is who has the higher chance of being claimed by Seattle if they are left available. If the team doesn’t want to lose either veteran, than they will need to decide which one has less of a risk of being claimed.
The first factor to consider would be the contract status of each player. Mark Giordano is currently signed for one more season after this one at an AAV of 6.75 million. Tanev meanwhile is signed for three more seasons after this at a much more modest 4.5 million AAV.
I think it all depends on what route Seattle takes in the draft. If they’re looking to just get to the cap floor in their first season then Giordano would certainly be a good pick. You can add his big contract for one year to get to the floor then have it off your books to shape your team the next off-season. If they’re looking to add pieces who can contribute long-term though, Giordano wouldn’t be a very good pick.
Tanev on the other hand would be more of an investment pick. Signed for three more years, he wouldn’t be someone you pick just to get to the cap floor. If Seattle picks Tanev, it’s because they expect him to be a part of their core on defence for the next couple years. There’s certainly a risk picking Tanev though, as he does have some injury risk and was on a steep decline before this bounce-back season.
In either case, both guys would be great additions to Seattle’s locker room. The two of Giordano and Tanev are very well respected veterans in the league who have shown they can be key leaders for their teams. They would both be the exact type of player Seattle is looking to add in their first year to help build a solid foundation and culture among their younger players. Vegas made this exact move by selecting Engallend from Calgary back in 2017.
In the end, it depends on who else is available for Seattle to select from other teams and what their plans are going forward. Given his age, contract, and form right now, I think Tanev is much more likely to be claimed by Seattle if he’s left exposed. He can step right into their lineup and play a major role on the ice and in the room immediately. His value has risen dramatically this year with his strong play, and even if his real level is somewhere between this season and last, Seattle would still get a solid return.
Giordano on the other hand, would of course bring incredible leadership to the new franchise but he’s also already 37 years old and will be 38 by the time the 2021-22 season starts. He’s also signed for just one more season after the expansion draft. Add to that his declining play and unless Seattle needs his contract to get to the cap floor or thinks they can move him for assets, picking Giordano over someone younger on the Flames like Kylington doesn’t make a ton of sense past next season.
Head over heart
At the end of the day the Flames will have a very tough decision on their hands come July. There are cases for both Tanev and Giordano to be protected, but unfortunately only one will be. Both could be enticing options to Seattle if they are made available for different reasons, and given the lack of options at forward exposed, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Seattle take a defenceman from the Flames.
As much as it may hurt some Flames fans to say, if the team is basing their decision solely on player performance this season and who brings more to the team on the ice, then Giordano should be the one exposed. Tanev has been one of the team’s most important players this year while Giordano seems to have fallen off a cliff due to his age.
I get being loyal to players who have been with your team for so long, but given the way things are going for the Flames right now, they simply can’t be making decisions based on loyalty over what makes them a better team and keeping Tanev makes the team better over keeping Giordano.
In my opinion, Giordano should be exposed, even if the optics of exposing your team captain aren’t great.