There’s been a lot of expansion talk over the last little while, and for good reason: because it’s happening. Las Vegas is expected to become the 31st NHL city as early as the 2017-18 season, according to the Associated Press.
So far Vegas is the only one getting an expansion team, which would leave the NHL with an odd number – but we have the CFL up here, we’re used to that already.
Vegas is in the Pacific time zone, so the expansion team would almost certainly be joining the Flames’ division, bringing the Pacific Division up to eight teams.
Then, there’s the matter of the expansion draft.
What are the protection guidelines?
Via Sportsnet (beware the autoplay video):
- Teams can protect seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie.
- Players with no-movement clauses must be protected, unless they are expiring prior to 2017-18 (i.e. the Flames don’t have to protect Dennis Wideman).
- Teams can, however, ask players to waive their no-movement clauses for the draft.
- At least two forwards and one defenceman left exposed must have played either 40 games the previous season, or 70 over the previous two. These players must also still be under contract for 2017-18.
- Players with two years of professional experience or fewer do not have to be protected. A year burned off of an ELC counts as a year of professional experience, as do years spent in the AHL (barring 18 and 19-year-olds). Players like Jon Gillies and Oliver Kylington won’t need protection.
- Players traded in the lead up to the 2017 draft cannot be traded back to their old teams until Jan. 1, 2018. This is to prevent “hiding” players. (i.e. No, Pittsburgh, you can’t trade Matt Murray to Calgary for a favour and then get him back right after – if he comes here he’d be staying here.)
- If there’s only one expansion team, each existing franchise will lose only one player.
Who should the Flames protect?
- Goalie: ??? This will probably be decided whenever the Flames, uh, actually get one.
- Defencemen: Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton. Barring an exciting new acquisition this isn’t even a debate.
- Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and two others. Maybe Micheal Ferland, or perhaps even a new acquisition.
Who should the Flames leave exposed?
With the new provision that players of notable experience still under contract be left available to Las Vegas, the Flames have a potential “get out of jail free” card at their disposal.
At present time, there are two not-ideal forward contracts on the Flames signed through the 2017-18 season: Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma. Both can certainly play at the NHL level, but neither is exactly crucial to team success, and both are overpaid. It does mean the Flames may have to hold onto them through the 2016-17 season, especially if much of the rest of the forward roster is filled with players who won’t have to be protected (a legitimate possibility; this is a very young team) – but that’s hardly a bad thing, as both can still actually contribute.
What about the defence? The big three are off the table, but the Flames don’t have any other defenders signed into 2017-18. That obviously won’t be the case this time a year from now, though. If, say, Jyrki Jokipakka is re-signed, he could be the Flames’ candidate to fulfill the veteran availability requirement on the blueline.