The next big event of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft has come and gone, and now the expansion draft action is truly underway. All 30 teams subject to the expansion draft have submitted their protection lists (the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt). The Calgary Flames had a conundrum regarding their list, which involved primarily with what to do with their captain Mark Giordano. Now that the protection lists are now available, Seattle can officially begin building their roster with more certainty.
How do you feel about the state of the Flames as they head into the expansion draft? We asked, you answered.
The Flames’ moves before expansion
On July 17, 2021, eight total transactions were made between NHL teams, with a few more happening in the days prior to the protection list submission deadline. The Flames were among the teams that remained inactive in the trade front in the offseason with their last official trade happening at the trade deadline. The deadline saw them hang onto Giordano as they weren’t quite ready to sell off all their players as the playoffs were still within reach at that time.
In search of credit to give the Flames, keeping most of the team together at the deadline wasn’t the worst thing to happen, as the odds for pushing to make the playoffs and attempting to escape a “weak” North Division weren’t terrible. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out for the Flames.
Hindsight aside, as soon as the trade deadline passed, the writing has been on the wall for Calgary: sort out what to do with Giordano or risk losing him for nothing. Due to the nature of their current contracts, they were forced by the rules—or alternatively, they were content with the outcome—to protect seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goaltender. They would not have been able to protect four defencemen under the 4-4-1 scheme.
Between pursuing trades and signing players prior to the draft, the Flames managed one transaction: re-signing Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $900K contract. With all the cards now on the table, what are the sentiments towards the Flames as the expansion draft looms closer and closer?
In a rather close poll, most Flames fans expressed feelings of either nervousness, pessimism, or indifference. Only a small fraction felt excited compared to the less positive feelings. There’s good reason for this too, as it seems the Flames missed an opportunity to secure returns while being in a handcuffed position.
The Flames’ protected list revealed
The Flames protected list includes the following players, grouped by position and then by cap hit. Contract data from CapFriendly.com.
|Player||Position||2021–22 Cap Hit||Contract Expiry and Status|
|Matthew Tkachuk||F||$7.0M||2022–23 – RFA|
|Johnny Gaudreau||F||$6.75M||2022–23 – UFA|
|Sean Monahan||F||$6.375M||2023–24 – UFA|
|Mikael Backlund||F||$5.35M||2024–25 – UFA|
|Elias Lindholm||F||$4.85M||2024–25 – UFA|
|Andrew Mangiapane||F||$2.425M||2022–23 – RFA|
|Dillon Dube||F||TBD||2021–22 – RFA|
|Noah Hanifin||D||$4.95M||2024–25 – UFA|
|Rasmus Andersson||D||$4.55M||2026–27 – UFA|
|Chris Tanev||D||$4.5M||2024–25 – UFA|
|Jacob Markstrom||G||$6.0M||2026–27 – UFA|
Now that the expansion draft roster freeze is in full effect, there are only a few ways the draft might go for the Flames. They can only make trades with Seattle at this point, in which it’s near certain that any deal would involve sending over assets to persuade the Kraken into selecting a specific player. By remaining dormant past the expansion protection list deadline, the Flames no longer have the option of getting returns on unprotected players from other teams.
Giordano headlines the Flames’ unprotected players with a strong likelihood of being selected, but another option exists in selecting Milan Lucic, who gracefully waived his no-movement clause for the expansion draft, among others. These two both fill out the role of incoming leaders in the locker room that could be a valuable trait to consider for Seattle.
Alternatively, there the possibility that the Kraken opt to negotiate and sign one of the Flames’ unprotected free agents (both restricted and unrestricted) in their exclusive 48-hour signing window. Realistically, this includes only the likes of Derek Ryan, Oliver Kylington, and Matthew Phillips. This would turn the player into the Kraken’s expansion pick, but Seattle might be incentivised to make their pick hurt their divisional opponents a little bit more than just taking a free agent off the books.
Come whatever may
As detailed, there are more ways the expansion draft can hurt the Flames than it can benefit them. While they’ve escaped most expansion drafts relatively unscathed—Deryk Engelland was a free agent signing back in 2017—this time around the Flames are definitely one of the teams that can lose more than the average team. Indeed, nervousness and pessimism rightfully outweigh excitement, but perhaps the best approach as a fan would be to remain indifferent and let whatever happens happen.
Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images