The Calgary Flames came out of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline somewhat better off than they went into it. After executing two deals in the final 24 hours before the deadline, the Flames ended up without David Rittich and Sam Bennett on their active roster. In exchange, they were able to pick up second and third-round selections in the 2022 NHL Draft, in addition to an intriguing prospect in Emil Heineman. Being able to convert two expiring contracts into three assets was some tidy work by Flames General Manager Brad Treliving.
The other benefit that came out of the deadline was simply flexibility for the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft that is taking place this summer. A key component of many team’s decisions over the past year was preparing for the introduction of Seattle into the NHL. After witnessing the success of the Vegas Golden Knights both on the ice and in how they brokered a number of transactions around the draft, GMs are far more prepared this time around.
The Flames were set to lose a key player during this year’s draft, and they still may end up facing that fact in the summer, but as of now, trading Bennett was a key move to better prepare the team. Here’s why:
The current expansion list
Using CapFriendly’s amazing Expansion Draft Tool, the Flames most likely expansion list would be the 7F/3D/1G structure:
Based on all the current information surrounding the team, it would make most sense that the team opts to protect forwards Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane, and Dillon Dube. This is of course assuming that Milan Lucic opts to waive his NMC, which is currently the Flames’ plan as reported by TSN’s Frank Seravalli back in February.
In trading away Bennett, the Flames are now able to protect both Mangiapane and Dube, who have really shown their worth this season. They both look to be staples in the Flames’ lineup for years to come. Although there was a chance that the Flames would have just exposed Bennett anyway and risked losing him for nothing, the Flames managed to turn him into a pick and a prospect that they can use down the road.
Additionally, the Flames chances of losing a significant piece of their forward group drops exponentially. No disrespect to the newly minted Mr. 1000, but the odds of Seattle taking on Lucic’s contract are slim to none at this point. In fact, if they decided to it would most likely be a favour to the Flames organization in the long run. Outside of Lucic, Seattle’s forward options are vastly limited to the rights of Dominik Simon (assuming he is unsigned at the time of the draft), or a player who has minimal NHL experience in Glenn Gawdin, or a player who has yet to make it to the NHL like Matthew Phillips or Justin Kirkland.
Additionally, each team also needs to meet the minimum exposure requirements, which the Flames currently do not. The requirements, per CapFriendly, states that:
Two forwards must be left unprotected who are under contract in 2021-22 and have met one of the two following requirements: 1. Played 40+ games in the 2020-21 season, or 2. Played 70+ games in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.CapFriendly
At this point in time, following the exposure list noted above, the Flames would only have one forward that meets this requirement in Milan Lucic. The team would need to sign one forward to a contract to meet the requirements. This could be the likes of Derek Ryan, Josh Leivo, Joakim Nordstrom, or Brett Ritchie (assuming he plays in nine more games this season). They could also go out and sign a UFA to meet this requirement in the off-season, but this is something that they will need to handle.
Additionally, in moving Rittich, the team wasn’t as significantly impacted in terms of goalie exposure as they were in the forward group. Jacob Markstrom holds an NMC, which to no surprise means he will be protected, and Tyler Parsons will be an RFA at the end of this season which meets the exposure requirements. Depending on who the team decides, or signs, this off season the goaltender position shouldn’t be a concern for the organization at the expansion draft.
Who do the Flames lose?
Based on the current setting, which is bound to change come July, the team would be more likely to lose a defenceman based on the Bennett trade. Depending on if the Flames protect Mark Giordano or Chris Tanev, it’s most likely that one of these players or Oliver Kylington will be Seattle’s selection.
There are arguments for Seattle taking both. Assuming the Flames protect Tanev, Giordano would give Seattle an incredible captain and a veteran leadership player who is just a couple of seasons removed from winning the Norris Trophy. On top of that, he is a player who would be a fan favorite and a piece that would help their younger players develop.
His age and current decline are the biggest arguments against. He is likely near the end of his career, and if Seattle is looking to spend their money developing a strong core, Gio may not be the right fit.
On the other hand, Kylington does not come with a Norris Trophy in tow, but he comes with a ton of potential to slot in as a second or third pairing defencemen in the next couple of seasons. He’s got strong skating and a decent set of hands, which could be something Seattle would value highly.
The downside for Seattle is he has been the Flames’ seventh defenceman, leaving them little opportunity to properly watch his game. The risk is that he may not be more than a replacement level player, but having been a second round pick and having shown over the years that he is too good for the AHL, Kylington may just need a change of scenery to burst out of his bubble. An RFA earning just above league minimum, this feels like a low-risk move for the Kraken.
The more interesting argument to be made would be in the case of Ryan. Similar to Deryk Engelland in 2017, Ryan is from the Washington area and could be a potential homecoming reunion for the organization. Although it’s optimistic to assume the Flames could escape both expansion drafts without losing two UFA players, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibilities.
So long, Sam
Although the team parted way with their highest draft selection in team history, trading Sam Bennett at the deadline was a necessary evil. The team ensured that they were able to acquire some assets for an expiring player, while also ensuring he was not selected for nothing at the expansion draft.
With this season hanging on by a thread, there are bound to be changes to the roster come the offseason. It’s hard to predict just what this team will look like come the expansion draft, but it’s safe to say that the moves made at the deadline put the Flames in a better position than they were.
What do you think the Flames will do for the expansion draft? Let us know in the comments below!
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