Who should the Flames protect in an expansion draft?

The NHL could be getting a new team or two. Of course, when a team joins a league, they can’t start purely from scratch – they need to acquire players, and the main way they’re going to do that is via an expansion draft.

Naturally, though, the existing teams will be able to protect some of their players; top players aren’t going anywhere, if teams are smart about it. There are also certain conditions that will exist regarding just who can be protected.

I touched on something a bit like this earlier, but now, we have some criteria set. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come in time to get the Flames out of some of their less-than-desirable contracts – expansion teams are only being decided just before the draft, they won’t actually be ready to go for the 2016-17 season – but it does come at a time when things look pretty clear as to who the Flames should protect.

Because it’s the Flames, let’s say they go with protecting three defencemen, seven forwards, and one goalie.

The goalie is still to be determined. Forget the expansion draft – we don’t even know who the Flames’ starter will be next season. The good news here? If Jon Gillies, at least, pans out as hoped, then he should be protected automatically: he won’t be in his third professional season by the time the draft rolls around.

The three defencemen, however, should be obvious. There’s no way T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, or Dougie Hamilton are going anywhere; however, there may be something to say for getting out of Giordano’s contract before it becomes a burden. A blasphemous line of thought? Perhaps – but here’s a potential hiccup.

What if Jyrki Jokipakka pans out? Because by 2017-18, he’ll have played four professional seasons, including both AHL and NHL experience. He’s 24 years old, and looks best-suited for a bottom pairing role at the moment – but there’s a chance he becomes a top four guy. If that happens, do you leave him available for an expansion team to claim?

Turning to the forwards, things look pretty clear. Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan will have played too much to be automatically protected, so the Flames will have to use three spots to save them. Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik are strong candidates as well, which brings us up to five forwards.

Over the course of the next year, it’s possible the Flames acquire another quality veteran forward, either via free agency or trade; or one of their prospects emerges, which leaves them time to determine who else to use those protection spots on.

The idea of protecting just eight skaters and one goalie is interesting, though. Should nobody else really emerge in the forward group, and if Jokipakka does on the backend, then they could protect four defencemen – but leave one of Backlund or Frolik available for the taking. Frolik may be more prudent in this case, depending on where he falls in the lineup, as he has the bigger contract.

There’s a lot to think about here, and potential risks no matter what the Flames decide to do. Knowing what we know now, who would you protect in an expansion draft?

  • Greg

    Oh this is a new wrinkle… Either protection option only allows for 1 goalie! In the past, 1 option was to protect 2 goalies, and that’s a huge change! Any team that has 2 good goalies is going to have to expose 1, and will be looking to do something this year to avoid losing them for nothing.

    Asking price on Andersen, Elliot, etc all just came way down!

    Wasn’t sure if the flames were really going to be able to do anything with their goaltending this year given their cap issues, but looks like a whole lot more possibilities just fell into their laps!

  • Greatsave

    Too many unknowns to say what should be done two years down the road. Which year the expansion will actually take place? Will Giordano hold up or decline? What trades, signings, or re-signings happen? Which prospects make the team (this would matter if the expansion takes place in 2018 or after)?

    Will teams with too many players eligible for the draft be willing to deal away players they have no room for? Will teams have to expose certain top players just to meet the 25% threshold? Or will teams acquire players specifically for the purpose of exposing them, to meet that threshold? Will the new teams be willing to make deals to avoid an exposed player in return for a pick (or an auto-protected prospect)? Will they even be allowed to do so?

  • T&A4Flames

    Heard some discussion feom the NHLPA side that they have concerns over players with NMC and NTC. If they get their way, that is possibly another way to protect players. Johnny and Mony both likely get those clauses so potentially they wouldn’t have to be on our protected list.

    • Cfan in Vic

      I was wondering how it might work with a NTC.

      I can imagine that the PA would probably get that leveraged in there, considering that there’s no point to having that built into a contract if it can get moved anyway.

      • Greg

        The NHLPA also gets another 23 jobs, plus an immediate injection of an extra $70M in salary cap room. In a year like this with the cap staying flat and few teams having room to sign anyone, imagine how much of a godsend an expansion team would be to any and all UFAs. Glencross would probably still be playing hockey if it had happened this year, for example.

        They’ll want to negotiate something on NTC and NMCs, but they are also getting a huge benefit out of expansion, so they’ll play ball and come to a reasonable solution for everyone pretty quick.

  • al rain

    Considering Giordano vs Jokipakka, I don’t think there’s any question. You would have to factor in that to leave Giordano exposed is to 100% certainly lose him to a young, building team that would need nothing so much as a captain/mentor #1 dman. You can’t say the same about exposing Jokipakka.

    Unless the Flames are actually trying to get rid of Giordano’s salary (and that’s a bit of a stretch one year after it kicks in), then this isn’t even a question.

    I’m no scout, but I think it’s pretty clear that the writer has drastically over estimated Jokipakka’s ceiling (5-6 on a good day if you ask me). Either that or she’s trolling her own readers.

  • Brodano12

    Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Backlund, Frolik for sure

    Brodie, Hamilton, Gio for sure

    Leaves us with 2 forward spots for prospects (Poirier, Shinkaruk, Agostino), possible break out players (Ferland) or FA signing (Okposo??).

    I think we have enough defensive depth to lose Jokipakka, unless he improves much more by next year.

    This is assuming the expansion is next year too.

  • Jake the Snail

    In previous expansion drafts weren’t there side deals being done all over the place (especially by the Montreal Canadiens)?

    For example, if you don’t take Gio or another unprotected player the Flames value highly,like Joe Colborne (just kidding!) we will give you 2 prospects…

  • Greg

    Another interesting tidbit from the GM meeting is teams were told to expect a $74M cap next year. That creates a bit more breathing room for the flames, and makes any buyouts a little less likely (aside from Raymond, I’d still bet on that).

    Will be interesting to see how expansion affects free agency this year. Will teams sign 1 year deals so they don’t add someone they need to protect? Or 2 year deals so they have someone they can expose? Will UFAs sign longer deals if they think it’s a risk they’ll be exposed?

  • Baceda

    My first 2 thoughts are would expansion teams automatically slide in to the top spots in the draft?

    And do they start drafting this summer so that they have a more stocked prospect pool for when they are ready to start ‘competing’ 2 seasons froms now?

    • SmellOfVictory

      Historically they get a top 3 draft position, to start. There aren’t exactly a wealth of unaffiliated, unsigned potential NHLers running around, though, so I think that’s probably about it.

  • Jake the Snail

    ..what is the max number of players a team can lose – 1 if there is 1 team in the expansion or 2 if there are 2 teams in the expansion?

    – if a team loses a forward in the first round can they protect another forward in the second round (if there are 2 expansion teams)?

    • Greatsave

      Yes to the first Q. Not sure why that would be the case at all for the second Q. You protect the guys you protect, and anyone unprotected is available. I don’t see why a team would get extra protected spots for losing someone–you’ve already accepted that unprotected guys can be taken.

  • Too much thinking.
    Teams are only going to lose 1 player per team expansion.
    More player loss will come with compensation in the forms of picks or player swaps between established teams.
    Protect the top and expect to loose ONE of your most important unprotected players. Simple.
    Let’s not overcomplicate this. Every team is at the same disadvantage.