As teams around the league are in full preparation mode for the upcoming 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, the Calgary Flames will have to figure out how they want to navigate the event. With their current roster make up and where they view themselves in their competitive window, they might be a team that wants to keep their core together by going the route of making deals with the Seattle Kraken.
Should the Flames entertain making a deal with Seattle for a desired outcome? We asked, you answered.
Expansion draft deals and agreements
The 2017 expansion draft involving the Vegas Golden Knights saw a significant number of teams making deals to make sure things went their way. Most infamously, the Florida Panthers made a deal that sent Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas as they opted for the 4-4-1 protection scheme.
Clearly, making a deal with the team holding all the cards doesn’t always work out. It could even be detrimental in hindsight. The Panthers were only one of several teams that thought they were doing what was best for their teams at the time only to see the deal work out heavily in Vegas’ favour.
However, the Flames are in a unique position with this upcoming draft. There will be a lot of diversity among the exposed Flames, likely including their captain Mark Giordano, players on big contracts like Milan Lucic, smaller contracts like Oliver Kylington‘s, and a handful of prospects like Matthew Phillips.
Depending on who Seattle selects from the Flames, it can change the course of their immediate and far future based on the player selected and the salary that they carry. If the Flames want things to go their way so that everything goes to plan, then giving up an asset to Seattle at the draft would have to be considered.
Should the Flames ensure that Seattle picks a player they leave exposed, or avoid selecting one that was forced to be? Or should they just take their chances and deal with the fallout however they are able to? Between those options, just rolling with it and making no deal with the Kraken was the runaway favourite outcome with 88.4% of the votes.
Most people don’t want to see any favours given to Seattle on behalf of Calgary and are willing to accept the outcome of whatever decision Seattle comes to make.
Assessing the possible draft deals
For the Flames to have an idea about what they want their roster to look like for the upcoming 2021–21 season, knowing how much cap space they have to work with definitely factors into it. Between re-signing Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane, as well as looking at possible trades involving players like Jack Eichel or Sam Reinhart, the player that the Kraken select could drastically change the Flames’ outlook.
Making sure a Flame is selected
If the Flames want to make a serious pitch at acquiring a top-end elite forward like Eichel, they would need Seattle to take one of their bigger contracts off of the books. The Giordano ($6.75 M) and Lucic ($5.25 M) contracts carry the biggest cap hits, and if the Flames opt to make a deal that ensures one of those two players are selected, then they’ll have more options on the trade market. All salary cap information from CapFriendly.
However, if their biggest draft-eligible contract is off the books in Giordano’s, the on-ice cost of losing Giordano would create a big gap in their defence corps, and the cost it took to make sure he was selected would carry a future price tag as well. This type of deal would enable Calgary to be aggressive in their offseason moves right away—both with trades and acquisitions, but also with contract negotiations too—but they’d have to be certain that the costs are worth it. That is something they can only bet on at this point.
Previous examples of this type of deal include again the Panthers trading Smith to ensure that Marchessault was selected. But other teams were guilty of helping out the Golden Knights far too much as well. The Anaheim Ducks traded Shea Theodore so that Clayton Stoner would be selected. The Columbus Blue Jackets traded a 2017 first-round pick, a 2019 third-round pick, and David Clarkson so that Vegas would select William Karlsson. The Buffalo Sabres traded their sixth-round pick to make sure William Carrier was selected. The list goes on.
However, not all of these types of trades went awry for the trading team. The Carolina Hurricanes traded a fifth-round pick in exchange for Vegas selected Connor Brickley, an unrestricted free agent. He ultimately signed an extension with the Panthers instead.
Hindsight suggests a type of move like this could be rather costly. The Flames should only exercise this option if they absolutely think they can improve their team with the subtraction of Giordano or Lucic. No other option really makes sense for the team.
Making sure a Flame is left
The difference between making sure a player is picked versus making sure a player is left unselected is that Seattle would have more options to select from if the Flames want them to avoid picking just one or two players. Though the deals are complementary to one another, they still reflect different outcomes and have different price tags associated with it.
For example, if the Flames show unprecedented loyalty towards Giordano and use one of their protection slots on him, they’d have to ensure that Seattle does not take the one left unprotected of Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, or Chris Tanev, otherwise that’d be pretty awful asset management. However, in pseudo-protecting the fourth defenceman, the Kraken could still be free to select from the rest of the pool.
It’s essentially a hybrid between making sure a player is selected and doing nothing and taking their chances. It should in theory cost a lesser asset to go this route, and it could certainly be possible, but it’s more typical to see a specified player pinpointed as a selection if it’s going to cost an asset at all.
The most favoured option by the voters, the Flames could go into the draft making no deals with the Kraken and let the expansion pick be the first domino to fall and point them in their offseason direction. The team no doubt has contingencies for any player selected. If Giordano is selected, they can work with the extra cap space. If Kylington (RFA, previous cap hit: $787,500) is selected, they’ll keep Giordano until at least the trade deadline and go from there, while being forced to make tougher offseason trades if they want to seek external forward help.
The Kraken might even want to interview Derek Ryan (UFA, previous cap hit: $3.125 M) in their exclusive interview window between July 18 and 21, and if things fall into place with Ryan and his ties to Seattle, he could end up being their selection with the Flames having no extra work and giving up no extra assets.
Similarly, Lucic has ties to the area, which could make him an enticing option. In any case, regardless of who is selected, the Flames already have plans to work around the absence of any player. With each selection carrying different impacts on the Flames’ on-ice product as well as their cap structure, the Flames could just wait and see who the Kraken want and deal with the fallout without paying any extra assets.
Ready for expansion
No matter what the Flames do, they’ll do so thinking it’s the best path forward for the team. As history has shown, making extra deals end up creating a lot of risks and often regret, but it can be worth it. For a team like the Flames, they’ll be considering all avenues, as they’ll be returning to a weak Pacific Division and will want to have as many competitive advantages as possible.
The Flames still have some work to do to become compliant when the expansion protected lists are due July 17, and the expansion draft comes along on July 21, but that should happen in short order. Stay tuned, the offseason is about to get jam-packed with nonstop action.
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