Handicapping the Flames expansion draft protections

The month of December is almost complete; 2016 is almost but a memory (and good riddance). Soon it will be 2017, and before too long the Vegas Golden Knights will join the National Hockey League ranks by way of an expansion draft.

We’re just shy of six months out, but let’s take an early look at the options the Calgary Flames have available to them in regards to the expansion draft. In particular, let’s dig into which players the Flames should be protecting.

Excluded Players

We’re not ranking a bunch of players for a few key reasons. Some are players that cannot be claimed by Vegas, some are players that are pending unrestricted free agents that it wouldn’t make sense right now to protect.

The ineligible players are Matthew Tkachuk, Daniel Pribyl, Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, Brett Pollock, Andrew Mangiapane, Hunter Smith, Garnet Hathaway, Austin Carroll, Ladislav Smid, Kenney Morrison, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Keegan Kanzig, Jon Gillies, David Rittich, Mason McDonald and Nick Schneider.

The pending UFAs are Brandon Bollig, Kris Versteeg, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson. Most likely one of Elliott or Johnson will be signed and protected prior to the expansion draft, but for the purposes of this examination they’re not overly important.

The Breakdown

In order of players most likely to be protected to the players least likely to be protected, here’s a quick and dirty rundown of the expansion draft eligible players that aren’t pending UFAs.

Player
Why Protect? Why Not?
Johnny Gaudreau Team’s best offensive player
Super young, lots of upside
Face of the franchise
Signed long-term
Worst case? Good trade chip
No realistic reasons
T.J. Brodie Young, still has upside
Versatile, can play either side of ice
Signed long-term to value deal
No realistic reasons
Sean Monahan Strong offensive player
Super young, lots of upside
Signed long-term
Still rounding into form as two-way guy
No realistic reasons
Dougie Hamilton Super young, lots of upside
Signed long-term
Good at everything
No realistic reasons
Sam Bennett Super young, lots of upside
Four seasons of team control until UFA
Good at everything
No realistic reasons
Mark Giordano Strong offensive player
Wears a letter (valued by teammates)
Signed long-term
Value will probably decline from here
Contract makes it tough to trade
Mikael Backlund Superb two-way player
Makes teammates better
Would be more valuable as trade chip
Cap hit not commiserate with offense
Arguably not a “core” player
Michael Frolik Superb two-way player
Makes teammates better
Would be more valuable as trade chip
Cap hit not commiserate with offense
Arguably not a “core” player
Older than Backlund
Micheal Ferland Young, has upside
Good energy player, versatile
Inexpensive
Would be more valuable as trade chip
Two seasons of team control until UFA
Arguably not a “core” player
Troy Brouwer Good complementary player
Can play all over lineup
Wears a letter (valued by teammates)
GM just acquired him
Cap hit not commiserate with offense
Arguably not a “core” player
Deal value likely to degrade over time
Hunter Shinkaruk Young, has upside
Four seasons of team control until UFA
Hasn’t established himself yet
Alex Chiasson Good complementary player
Can play all over lineup
Inexpensive
One season of team control until UFA
Arguably not a “core” player
Freddie Hamilton Inexpensive
Can play in bottom six
Arguably not a “core” player
On-ice role replaceable internally
Lance Bouma Effective complementary player
Can play in bottom six
Cap hit not commiserate with offense
Not a “core” player
Frequently injured
Minimal trade value
Matt Stajan Effective complementary player
Can play in bottom six
Helps develop young forwards via mentorship
Cap hit not commiserate with offense
Not a “core” player
On-ice role replaceable internally
Minimal trade value
Brett Kulak Young, has upside
Four seasons of team control until UFA
Hasn’t established himself yet
Jyrki Jokipakka Fairly young, probably still has upside
Two seasons of team control until UFA
What is he?
Lacks consistency
Linden Vey Inexpensive
Likely still has upside
Lacks consistency
Hasn’t established himself yet
Tyler Wotherspoon Young, has upside
Three seasons of team control until UFA
Hasn’t established himself yet (despite many chances)
Could benefit from fresh start
Emile Poirier Young, has upside
Four seasons of team control until UFA
Hasn’t established himself yet (despite many chances)
Lacks consistency
Could benefit from fresh start
Ryan Culkin Young, has upside
Four seasons of team control until UFA
Hasn’t gotten NHL time in yet
Bad injury luck (so far)
Tom McCollum Has a contract
Can play goalie
Signed only for exposure requirements
Organization’s sixth-string goalie

Some Scenarios

If the Flames add no additional players that require protecting and decide to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, here’s the most likely group of players to be protected:

  • A goalie (Elliott/Johnson)
  • Brodie, Hamilton and Giordano
  • Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Backlund, Frolik, Ferland and Brouwer

If the Flames add nobody that requires protecting and decide to protect eight skaters and a goalie, it’ll look more like this:

  • A goalie (Elliott/Johnson)
  • Gaudreau, Brodie, Monahan, Hamilton, Bennett, Giordano, Backlund and Frolik

There’s no obvious benefit to opting to protect eight skaters unless they protect four defensemen, which would only happen if (a) they really, really like Kulak or Jokipakka and don’t want to lose them OR (b) they acquire a top-four defender via trade before the expansion draft. In which case, they’d probably expose Frolik because Backlund is younger, less expensive and a center (and probably has better trade value).

But bear in mind that any trade that nets them a top-four defender could have the added potential acquisition cost of losing one of Frolik, Ferland or Brouwer to Vegas.

      • piscera.infada

        The costly exposure is Shinkaruk (and Versteeg).

        With regard to Versteeg, if he wants to go to Las Vegas, he’s going to go to Las Vegas. He’s a UFA, so the pragmatic decision is simply not to re-sign him until after the expansion draft. Likewise, if he wants to be back here, he’ll be back.

  • MontanaMan

    Not sure I agree with forwards averaging less than 40 points per season should be considered “superb” two way players. And “super young”? Must be generational. Half the battle in protecting players is projecting who Vegas will target. Every team has veterans with ugly contracts – Vegas won’t touch them unless there’s a significant piece added.

    • Avalain

      Well I haven’t run the numbers but since Vegas will generally be picking 4th defenders and 3rd line forwards, they may want to pick up some bad contracts just to meet the cap floor. Realistically the cap only matters when the team has to sacrifice in quality somewhere else to accommodate. If Vegas is paying 3x the price for a player who is a little bit better, it may still be worth it to them.

  • icedawg_42

    Why would you protect Versteeg? He’s pending UFA, and he’s on record saying he wanted to play “home” in Alberta – granted Vegas is a very short plane ride.

    As for Gio – i’m on the fence on this. I totally agree with his declining value, but how does a team expose their captain? I can hear the uproar now.

  • everton fc

    If they don’t protect Ferland, the people running this organization will never win while they are here. Makes absolutely no sense.

    The two they should consider; Brouwer and Gio. Based on their contracts. Vegas won’t be taking Shinkaruk over Kulak, Bouma, Stajan, others.

    I could see Vegas taking Jokipaaka if they can’t meet their defensive needs, or maybe even Stajan, though I hope they leave Stajan be.

    Bouma would be the ideal player to lose…

  • The GREAT WW

    I’m really looking forward to this years trade deadline and expansion draft; they are really going to separate the good GMs from the Perer Chiarellis/ Jim Bennings…..

    I’m glad some of you bleeding hearts aren’t running the Flames: “we can’t expose Troy Brouwer because we just signed him”……”We can’t expose Gio because he is our captain”……rubbish!!!!!!!

    Do what’s best for the long term of this team…..period.

    WW

    • The GREAT WW

      Did someone forget about 4 years of full no trade clause (followed by years of modified no trade clause)?

      “Do what’s best for the long term of this team…..period.”

      WW

      • Ole YELLEr

        If the Flames were to do the best for the team in the long term above all else they would arguably do nothing but tank indefinitely. GM’s have to think about the present and near future as well. There isn’t a single D that the Flames have to protect who isn’t a massive downgrade over Giordano. As well as Kent’s point that if Gio were to be moved he would bring back valuable assets which are more important to the long term than losing him for nothing. To a much lesser degree the same applies to Brouwer he was the main piece St. Louis got in the Oshie trade. He would command a far greater return than a Shinkaruk or Chiasson.

        • The GREAT WW

          Brouwer also has a FULL NO TRADE CLAUSE this year.

          Kent, can you please run an article on the meaning of a no trade clause? I think your readers are not familiar with the concept…..

          WW

          • Ole YELLEr

            Would the meaning of a no trade clause include the fact that they can be waived by the players? The only teams that would trade for a Gio or Brouwer would presumably be teams in win now mode so if the Flames are trading either player it’s because they are further from competing than expected and the players might be open to go to an actual contender.

          • The GREAT WW

            “Hey Gio, I know you have 6 years left on your contract and you took less than market value so that you could have a no trade clause, as not to uproot your family, but would you mind waiving the no trade?”

            Gio: “go F… yourself”

            See also “Brouwer” (with 4 years left on his contract).

            The modified part of their no trade clauses don’t activate until the last 2 years of their contracts….

            WW

          • Stu Cazz

            1) It will never happen Gio and Brouwer will ride into the retirement sunset directly from Calgary once their contracts are complete.

            2) Now if the player wants to be traded or entertains the thought then he has the contractual right to amend the trade/no movement clause as he see’s fit. The conversation would go like this;

            Hey Gio, I know you have 6 years left on your contract and you took less than market value so that you could have a no trade clause, as not to uproot your family, but would you mind waiving the no trade as the Leafs are interested and we have a tentative deal in place. You would get to play in your hometown in front of mom, dad, sis, nephews and nieces. Also wifey get’s to return home and be with her family and they can enjoy the grandchildren….

            Gio…lets get it done!!

          • Stu Cazz

            Like I said it will never happen…but something is brewing between the Leafs and Flames not involving Hamilton. Flames need a skilled RW to play with Monny and Johnnie, Leafs want Brodie.

            Brodie, Nylander, others?

          • Ole YELLEr

            So 2 years ago Gio was our best D, last year Brodie was our best D this year Hamilton is our best D it’s kinda odd how Gio is pretty well always on the ice at the same time as our best D is isn’t it?
            .

          • T&A4Flames

            Dude. Losing your #1 D for nothing, regardless of whether you like his contract or not, is bad for a team, short and long term. Sure, he may decline over the 6 years of his contract but right now he gives the team the best shot at winning and leadership. He’s playing just fine this year and will likely be fine for at least 2-3 more.

            You don’t expose a player of his caliber in hopes of losing him for nothing but possible relief of cap space 4-6 years from now. That notion is just plain idiotic.

          • Jakethesnail

            No trade claus doesn’t mean anything if a guy wants to move to a team that will make the playoffs! After last year’s playoffs I’m pretty sure someone will take a chance!!

          • BlueMoonNigel

            You hit the operative words–“if a guy wants to move.” It still means there is a limited trade market for the guy which then makes it a buyers’ market. Remember Jerome and the huge haul the Flames netted for the greatest player in franchise history? Just admit that giving a player like Brouwer a no trade clause was a mistake.

    • everton fc

      Agreed.

      I’d say the same, to a much lesser extent, with Brouwer. But his no trade clause is the issue, and he just built a home here, and probably plans on retiring here. So he won’t be moved.

      I think Gio would waive his no trade clause to return to Toronto.

  • Newbietwo

    Vegas I suspect will employ a blended strategy as follows

    1. Expansion draft players they will target will be both a blend of young with upside and experienced players with possible year 2 trade ability. It will be a mixed. Ag in other words

    2. They will target real value pick for player trades. Because they have he Salary cap teams will try to unload some with players as an example like Scott Hartnell. Teams want cap space and a space for a young gun. There might also be signed reversals like Joe Colburne or low value players like Lance Bouma with flames retaining even some salary why? Because any player that was a buyout consideration is now a trade option first

    3. Free Agency. They will be very active here because players that want more money will have Vegas on their list to get it.. It’s a lengthy options list and mixed bag

    4. Last year unsigned prospects let go like the ones the flames had Drew Shore
    as an example. They will also target unsigned and drafted. College prospects

    There won’t be much upside in the expansion draft as we will lose a middle row player. The only possible is if the Flames as mentioned above pull a lance bouma or a Bouma reverse where they go after a player Vegas acquired via trade and ask Vegas to retain some salary

  • MontanaMan

    Bit off topic but somewhat related, some of the Flames one time up and comers appear to have fallen off and are becoming a depreciating asset. Examples include Shinkaruk, Poirier, Morrison, McDonald and a few others. Yes they are young, but their stock is trending down.

  • Ole YELLEr

    On a different note I’ve heard posters referencing Vegas’ need to hit the cap floor, I’m going off my faulty memory here but I thought they had a year or two of leeway where they only have to hit a certain %(less than 100 obviously) of the cap floor.

  • Greg

    I used to worry about the expansion draft a lot, but the first option is becoming so blatantly obvious, and the list of players we risk losing is becoming so blatantly inconsequential, I no longer think about it from the Flames perspective at all. There’s really nothing to debate here.

    Versteeg? UFA.

    Kulak? There’s going to be a dozen better/more established dmen out there – risk that we lose him is low.

    Shinkurak? He’s projecting as what, a 20-30 point tweener now?

    Bouma/Stajan? Thanks for the cap space!

    There’s a lot of teams in much worse situations. Anaheim is almost certainly going to lose Silferberg or a good young D. If Pittsburgh can’t move flurry they’ll have to protect him and then they lose Murray.

    To me, we can/should/MUST stop debating who the flames will protect and examining who the flames might be able to acquire!

  • OKG

    Keeping Versteeg/Ferland and losing Brouwer would be perfectly A-OK with me. Then trade our first for Blake Wheeler, who we could then afford with the cap space that would open up!

  • freethe flames

    “Emile Poirier
    Young, has upside
    Four seasons of team control until UFA
    Hasn’t established himself yet (despite many chances)
    Lacks consistency
    Could benefit from fresh start.”

    Poirier has been given many chances? He has played 8 nhl games and if my memory is correct he played on the 3/4th line almost all of the time. He is likely never going to be the player we hoped he might be but at least paint the correct picture. He had a good AHL rookie year and took a step back last year. This year his numbers stay down yet he was rewarded with an A by Huska earlier in year so he must be doing something right. I don’t want to protect him but I want to see what he might do with an extended stay and playing in the top 6.

  • Brodano12

    What the fuck why do people not want to keep one of the best defensemen in the league? That contract is fucking amazing. Compare it to Burns 8 million until he’s 39! And Gio is better than Burns!

    WTF are we gonna do with that cap space anyways? No #1D is gonna sign as a UFA with us for that $$$.