Should the Flames protect Micheal Ferland in the expansion draft?

Assuming the Calgary Flames elect to protect one goalie, three defencemen, and seven forwards in June’s expansion draft, the team is going to face one tough decision: who should that seventh protected forward be? 

While I think there might be some debate among Flames fans, the decision is pretty clear to me. Of the possibilities, Micheal Ferland makes the most sense to be Calgary’s final protected player.

Below is a breakdown of how things will likely break down if the Flames decide to go with the 7,3,1 format come June.

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There’s a couple things to note in that chart above. First off, I only included players we consider to be NHLers right now, so I didn’t include Jon Gillies, for instance. Regardless, Gillies will not count on the protected list as we’ve been able to confirm he’ll fall under the exempt list. Matthew Tkachuk will also be protected by virtue of exemption leaving the unbolded players up for consideration. I also included Kris Versteeg, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, considering there’s a decent chance he’ll be re-signed.

Of course this all changes if for some reason the Flames decide to go the other route and protect eight skaters and one goalie. I can’t see them doing that, but you never know. So why is Ferland the guy they should protect from the group above?

On the ice

Ferland is an interesting case in his three seasons in the league. We all remember him bursting onto the scene during Calgary’s 2015 first round playoff series with Vancouver and he followed that up with a passable, but not outstanding, first full NHL season last year. This season is where we’re really starting to see indications as to what Ferland can be as full-time NHLer, though.

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Above is a look at some of Ferland’s even strength metrics through 35 games this season and where he ranks among forwards, via Corsica. As you can see, he’s been one of Calgary’s more effective players as we approach the halfway point of the campaign. Used primarily as a bottom six player, Ferland has done a nice job of winning the possession and scoring battles against similar depth opposition and is doing so while being deployed in a primarily defensive role.

I also like where Ferland is trending. At the age of 24, Ferland is an effective depth player right now and I think there’s still a ceiling he hasn’t hit. While Ferland hasn’t popped when given the opportunity to play higher up the depth chart, we also have to remember he’s still a fairly green NHLer. As he continues to become more comfortable and more consistent, I think he’ll be more effective when asked in the future to play a larger role.

Finally, Ferland brings something on the ice that no one else on the Flames does. While the term “physicality” is commonly snickered at among our dork community, Ferland has the ability to change momentum on any given shift. No other Calgary player possesses that same ability and no one can deny the impact it has made at different points this season.

Off the ice

Two things tilt the scales Ferland’s way away from what he does on the ice. First off, at 24, he’s still relatively young and won’t be 25 until April. That’s six years younger than the guy I think is his closest competition in this conversation in Versteeg (more on that later). Because he’s a late bloomer, I also think Ferland has a chance to be more effective into his late 20s than other guys do in today’s game.

Second, I don’t think Ferland’s contract is ever going to become overly unwieldy. Ferland is in the final year of a two-year deal that pays him $825,000 and is a pending restricted free agent, so he’ll need a new deal for next season. While I think he’ll get a raise on that, I don’t think we’re going to be talking about a massive bump.

Ferland is on pace for 12 goals and 26 points this season which, coupled with the other things he brings to the game, could push him over the $1 million mark. Assuming the Flames don’t give Ferland a massive Bouma-esque bump, he could give them some really good bang for their buck on a three- or four-year extension this summer.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, the only other player truly in this conversation is Versteeg as he’s been an extremely effective player this season, especially offensively. But if it comes down to one or the other for the seventh protected forward spot, I still lean Ferland’s way. Before we get into the reasoning, let’s compare the two players using the metrics from above (rank is among forwards).

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The comparison between the two players certainly makes this conversation really interesting. Versteeg is the superior player when it comes to goal and point production, but Ferland has been more effective in shot generation and two-way play. As such, both have strong cases here.

So why do I lean to Ferland? Age is the biggest factor to me; as mentioned above, Versteeg is six years older than Ferland. That’s a sizeable gap in this day and age and needs to be taken into consideration. Furthermore, I think Ferland still has a ceiling to reach whereas Versteeg, while effective, is what he is at this point in his career.

Finally, I think Ferland ends up being the more affordable player in the long run. While Calgary is getting great value on both players right now, Versteeg could be in line for a significant pay bump as a pending UFA if he continues to produce the way he has this season. I like the prospect of what Ferland’s next deal could look like and I think it’ll be more reasonable than a potential Versteeg extension.

It’s an interesting problem to have if you’re the Flames and having tough decisions is better than having no decisions at all. For me, the package of results this year, potential going forward, skill set, age, and affordability make Ferland the ideal candidate to be Calgary’s seventh protected forward come June.

  • pcj42

    Goalie: Undecided –

    Defenders: Brodie, Gio, Hammy –

    Forwards: Johnny, Mony, Backs, Frolik, Steeger, Ferly, and Bennet –

    We could use the money we invested in Brouwer somewhere else, as much as I like the guy, he’s not worth that money and by the fourth year we are gonna have another wideman on our hands.

  • I certainly think exposing Brouwer is a worthy conversation. That said, I included him on my protected list because I can’t see the Flames signing him one summer and exposing him in an expansion draft the next summer.

    That said, I wonder if there’s a chance the Flames expose him thinking Vegas wouldn’t select him because of the contract. Certainly an interesting added wrinkle to the whole thing.

    • Eggs Bennett

      The Flames exposing Brouwer would already do the expected damage in terms of organizational reputation to future FAs. Whether or not Brouwer is actually taken is irrelevant to the damage. Therefore, the cost of this move for the Flames is taking a reputation hit to protect both Versteeg and Ferland and the POTENTIAL of shedding Brouwer’s contract.

      • Baalzamon

        And yet, Brouwer didn’t negotiate a no move clause for his contract. That rule was revealed before free-agency started, which means that Brouwer must be aware that exposure is a possibility, if a remote one.

      • The GREAT WW

        Are you trying to tell me that exposing Brouwer will make it harder for our GM to sign UFAs to bad contracts in the future?

        Just look at some of the idiotic contracts that were handed out at free agency; it’s a win/ win…..

        WW

    • Schmenkley

      I would agree with your logic on exposing Brouwer to a point, and that point is the business acumen of Treliving; this is a guy that had no problem letting rfa’s walk that he deemed unworthy.

      I think he made some obvious missteps in the first couple years of his tenure, but it wouldn’t surprise me too much to find out that part of the logic behind that contract was for the express purpose of exposure at the expansion draft.

  • KiLLKiND

    I wouldn’t be so quick to expose either Shinkaruk or Poirier, just to protect Versteeg. I do really like Versteeg, but both these guys are young and while Poirier isn’t putting up points remember Byron who couldn’t finish? I think losing Poirier for nothing would be a mistake. We got Versteeg and Brouwer for nothing and every year similar players are available in free agency. Poirier and Shinkaruk have no similar players available and having young talent coming up from the AHL is what will be more beneficial long term. Don’t forget Poirier is producing shots like no other. He is tied for 2nd on the team with 56 shots, along with Klimchuk. He has the speed and offensive ability, just hasn’t clicked yet this season.

  • al rain

    Consider: Does exposing a player like Brouwer have a similar effect as arbitration? As in, if he’s told he’s expendable and not claimed does it damage the relationship?

    Also, re: Versteeg (or any pending FA), couldn’t we not sign him, leave him a free agent until after the expansion draft, use that spot to protect Shinkaruk and then sign him after Vegas has made their picks?

    • Greatsave

      I believe your proposed handling of Versteeg’s situation is legitimate, with the added wrinkle that Vegas is permitted to sign him prior to the expansion draft, although that would count as having used their “Calgary pick” on him.

      It could also lead to the (maybe not as legitimate) situation where Vegas speaks to Versteeg, they come to a gentlemen’s agreement, and Vegas takes another exposed player and sign Versteeg on July 1st.

      That’s my understanding anyway.

  • Burnward

    I’m confused. Wouldn’t both Brouwer and Ferland be obvious choices?

    Shinkaruk is a maybe. Poirier is a maybe.

    Keep NHL players. Especially guys that have proven playoff track records.

  • Rockmorton65

    We may be able to avoid the whole “who to protect” issue if we can convince Vegas to “sign” Engelland and burning the Flames pick in the draft. IIRC, Engelland lives in Vegas. Wonder if he would like to play close to home.

    • Burnward

      Would be a great fit for a team like that. Vet that’s been through it all in his career to help keep the boys in line.

      Still gots a soft spot for this guy though.

  • sathome

    I don’t see this big reputation hit happening. The Flames aren’t the only team who will try to expose veterans on bad contracts to protect younger assets. There will probably be some hurt feelings around the whole league.

  • FlamesRule

    Can we not wait until after the TDL for this talk. 2-3 of these guys won’t even be on our team by then, especially if we can’t start playing more consistent hockey.

    And YES. We should protect Ferland!