Could the Flames use the expansion draft to target a forward?

The expansion draft is what it is: a means to bring a 31st team into the NHL, and in the meantime, a means to hold up the other 30 NHL teams from actually doing much.

We know the Flames need another top four defenceman; however, the draft complicates things by making it far from a sure thing that they’d even be able to keep him beyond this season. This is a team on the playoff bubble, not one that can afford to spend assets on rentals; upgrading the defence now is going to be tricky.

Upgrading the forward group, though? Not so much. And the Flames may be able to take advantage of some other teams left in a bind due to protection restrictions.

The forwards to protect

At a glance, the Flames have just five blatantly obvious forwards to protect: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik. That still leaves them with room for two more.

The general assumption is those two will be Troy Brouwer and Micheal Ferland. Brouwer, however, has been… uh… less than “good” this season, and isn’t too likely to get much better; Ferland, meanwhile, is a really great piece to have, but not necessarily crucial to success in the way the first five are.

So the Flames definitely do have room to upgrade at the forward position. And there are some teams out there who don’t have the room to keep everyone they may like.

Teams possibly affected

I’m hardly an expert on all of these teams, but some of them certainly stand to lose a decent player for nothing due to the expansion draft. Whether they’re getting boned by unfortunate no movement clauses or they simply have too many good players, some teams could have forwards ripe for the picking – and forwards who could be of long-term use to the Flames.

They’re Anaheim, Columbus, Minnesota, Nashville, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

Thanks to Kevin Bieksa having an NMC for some reason, Anaheim is pretty hooped when it comes to protecting their defencemen; in all likelihood they’ll go the eight skaters route, which will leave one of Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg available. Unfortunately, Anaheim is a division rival, so probably not too much luck there.

Nashville is another team that one can see being more likely to go the eight skater route as well, given how they have a pretty stellar top four group. They don’t have too much exciting in the way of forwards, but Calle Jarnkrok could be an interesting target.

Tampa Bay is in an interesting spot both due to the fact that they’re likely to have to leave at least one decent forward exposed, and because they’re already up against the cap with a number of restricted free agents requiring new contracts. One of them is Tyler Johnson, whose impending raise could prove problematic (though the Flames won’t exactly be swimming in cap space themselves, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a deal to be found with Tampa at all). 

A team with Stanley Cup aspirations, it’s hard to see Washington wanting to sell even with the expansion draft looming; that said, Lars Eller is at least a little bit interesting.

I skipped two teams in this section, though, and they’re the two I think may be the best ones to target.

Columbus and Minnesota

A great winning streak and solid underlying numbers have seen Columbus go through a resurgence this season, but they’re vulnerable to losing a decent forward for nothing.

Thanks to NMCs, the Blue Jackets have to protect Brandon Dubinsky, Marcus Foligno, and Scott Hartnell. That leaves them with just four forwards left they can protect: in all likelihood a combination of Brandon Saad, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Boone Jenner, and William Karlsson.

I’d say Saad, Atkinson, and Wennberg are locks to be protected, which could leave Jenner or Karlsson – two ’93-born centres – available. Jenner scored 30 goals last season, albeit with a higher-than-career-average shooting percentage (this season he’s at 18 points in 53 games), while Karlsson – who’s only in his second NHL season – is looking towards his second 20-point season (he’s currently at 19 points in 53 games).

Neither are exactly eye popping, but both fit in the Flames’ age group and could be useful longer-term pieces.

Then there’s Minnesota, who have quite a number of pretty decent forwards on hand. NMCs will see Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville protected; after them they’ll only be able to keep four of Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker. Staal is 32; the rest of the forwards are 24 (or 25, in Zucker’s case) and would fit right in with the Flames’ age group.

Granlund is the Wild’s current leading scorer and Coyle is up there as well (plus he’s really big), but Niederreiter or Zucker could be really good targets for the Flames.

Both of these teams will also likely end up with some defencemen exposed that could be attractive options for Vegas, too, so it’s not as though they’re guaranteed to lose a decent forward – but if the Flames were able to offer an asset that wouldn’t require protection (in all likelihood, picks – maybe even their first, depending on who they’re after?) then they’d at least be guaranteed to not lose someone good for nothing.

Worth it?

As much as the Flames need to round out their top four their forward group needs help as well, and the expansion draft is more likely to help them than hurt them in this case. This could be a deadline trade they might actually be able to make without fear of repercussions from the expansion draft.

Zucker is the most interesting forward to me who may be left available. He scores at a decent rate – although he does have somewhat high shooting percentages through his career – and he’s one of Minnesota’s positive corsi rel forwards (+1.25) all the while getting some of the worst zone starts the Wild have to offer.

Is there a potential expansion draft casualty you think the Flames should target? Will they be able to use it to upgrade their forward group both now and for the long-term?

  • Tanner

    Zucker or Niederreiter would be interesting. Niederreiter is a RW. He’s also 6’2″ 211lbs with 40 points in 53 games and a corsi rel of +8.4. I could see him next to Gaudreau and Monahan on the top line.

    • Kevin R

      My thoughts as well. What would we have to send back to them is the question. It would have to be significant to be done prior to the TDL because the Wild will want all hands on deck for a hopeful extended playoff run. But if they wait until later, the price tag goes down.

      Ari, what are the rules on teams trading prior to the expansion draft? Are teams able to make moves in early June(I think they are)?

      Would our 1st, Porrier & Hickey be enough?

      What about Drouin from Tampa? He is just starting to break out, nothing earth shattering but the way the last dispute went, it may be a little interesting & something Yzerman would prefer not to have to deal with. I know he’s a LW but if we move MT to RW, he could possibly play with Bennett going forward. Price would be pretty steep, our 1st, Kylington ++

    • wot96

      Niederreiter is a bit like Tkachuk, but with a lower Hockey IQ. Getting a Matty – lite, to play with Johnny and Mony would be so great that it will never happen.

    • everton fc

      Agree, except they are division rivals…

      “Ferland, meanwhile, is a really great piece to have, but not necessarily crucial to success in the way the first five are.”

      As for this statement, while I “get it”, I think you are under-estimating Ferland future value to this team. We are soft minus Ferland and Engelland. No one in the cupboard to replace either. Means a lot.

      You logically leave Brouwer unprotected if you are successful bringing in a RW.

      I like Josh Anderson in Columbus. Big RW. Boone Jenner would be nice centering Bennett on LW. Ditto Karlsson, who I suspect has much more offence in him than current production totals.

      And they won’t protect still youngish Sam Gagner…

      • freethe flames

        I agree with you about Josh Anderson and think the Flames should be knocking on that door. Columbus I expect would like a long look in the playoff and might be a good place to move Versteeg.

    • cberg

      Minnesota is having a great season and should be going into the playoffs as a leading contender for the Stanley Cup. There is ZERO chance they will be giving up either of these guys, even though I like them both. Once they’ve finished the playoffs perhaps….

      • freethe flames

        The only way Minnesota gives up one of those guys (Zucker or Niederreiter) before the trade deadline is if you replace them with another skilled guy and a depth defender and a good prospect. So the likely cost of acquiring either of them now would likely be something like Versteeg, JJ and a 4th rounder or a prospect like Spoon/Poirier. After the playoffs the cost would likely go down.

        I mentioned Johnson in Columbus and see him as another potentially good fit but again the Jackets will need to get something they need for him. He’s big, young, has about the same number of points as Versteeg and is a natural RW who actually plays the postion. He would IMO be a significant upgrade on Chiasson and for that matter a better long term fit than Versteeg or Chiasson. Again what would be the cost? Would he be a better fit than Ferland?(whom I like as a third or 4th line LW but don’t see developing beyond that) So would a package of Versteeg(skilled guy, playoff experience) and either JJ/ and a draft pick get it done?

        Another guy who might be a fit is McCarron out of Montreal but he has little in the way of an NHL resume and I don’t know if he has to be exposed for the expansion draft.

        Others out there on teams that might be an upgrade and likely would be less costly are Hayes out of Boston(he seems to have fallen out of favour), Ritchie out of Dallas(he’s been injured and has struggled) and Strome out of NYI and has struggled this year as well. All three make @Bouma money all three play RW an area we need depth in and all three could probably need a change. All three would be an upgrade on Chiasson. All three would likely be easier to trade for and less costly than the other 3.

  • Demetric

    Question: The expansion draft technically only has a minor affect on the acquisition of true rental contacts from my understanding.

    If say we pick up Franson, he would not need to be protected as he is a UFA and we still protect our top 3 no problems.

    Sure, this leaves the chance he will sign elsewhere as a free agent but that is a definition of a rental.

    Now depending on the cost of course, this would be a way to test drive a pending UFA and take a run at the playoffs. If they choose to sign else where as a UFA so be it, but there is also the chance could also re sign with us.

    The Expansion draft penalty for having a ‘verbal contract’ on these I believe will be very hard to prove. As even if you offer a contract extension before the draft the player can say he wants to test the FA waters and circle back to sign with us as well if he feels that is the best fit for him.

    So I do not think the expansion draft should affect the acquisition of pending UFA’s unless cost too high but will affect getting someone with term left on their contract if it is someone you want to keep.

  • Tanner

    I don’t know what it would take and I agree that this is one of those things that’s almost certainly too good to be true. However, if I had to wager a guess, I’d say it would be something similar to what we gave up for Hamilton (Hamilton is more valuable than Niederreiter, but the Flames stole Hamilton). I think the 1st, Poirier and Hickey sounds reasonable.

    • Lucky 13

      I see someone else is thinking what you are? Honestly I’d like to see us stick with some youth, rather than overpay for the Duchenes of the hockey world.
      Niederreitter would be a good fit as would Zucker. 24- 25 year olds are what we need nowadays, not 30+ aka Brouwer types to fill out our roster.
      I only hope he gets claimed, he’s been a disappointment for us.

      The game is evolving to speed and transition and we need to keep pace with the NHL or we will be suffering this same fate again… bubble bubble

  • knappsacked

    Nino niederreiter would be awesome. Size, skill, youth, and hes a rw. Ideal trade target #1.

    If treliving can trade for niederreiter, and sign cody franson in the summer… It will be the best bet for success going into next season.Two moves need to be made, that is all that needs to be made (getting rid of bouma aside).

    Gaudreau-Monohan-Niederriter
    Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
    Ferland-Bennett-Versteeg
    Bouma(if not claimed)-stajan/janko- f. Hamilton

    Gio-D. Hamilton
    Brodie- franson
    Kulak-(prospect who is ready)

  • Just.Visiting

    I still don’t understand why we wouldn’t try Tkachuk with Monahan and Gaudreau to see if we already had a solution to our obvious RW problem.

    Ultimately, you want those three to get top line minutes anyway, so why not give it a try for a couple of games to see if it works.

    Then move either Ferland or Bennett to the Mike line to get them going.

    Understanding if that experiment was a success, failure or inconclusive then provides useful information that can be used to set the near term strategy for the team.

    Handedness (is that actually a word) is not necessarily determinative of position (e.g., Patrick Kane, Ovechkin).

  • Jakethesnail

    Nylander on pace for 56 points.Rather watch him than watch Bennett do what he’s doing. People on here thought Bennett should be drafted number 1 that year????

    I know there are lots of boy crushes on here for Bennett but Nylander would have been a better pick but who knew?

  • Newbietwo

    Given Minnesota will make the play offs they will need a zucker like player for it so a deal involving a Bouma here where we retain some salary say $500k and give them a draft pick of sorts..

    I would atleast explore it

  • redwhiteblack

    See what BT can do with calls he gets and makes. It is trickery than usual with Vegas plucking rosters, but could be an opportunity if played right for a forward as article points out. Hoping we can score someone.

  • JoelOttosJock

    I really hope all you people preaching and that have jumped on the Cody Franson train are plain wrong about the Flames acquiring him here at the deadline or as a UFA. He is Wideman 2.o just younger so not as noticeably slow. He is not the answer to our defensive..I will say that again and even spell it out for you D E F E N S I V E problems. The Flames need a stay at home, shut down number 4 defenceman. I really like the idea of going after Nino from the Wild though. Someone big and fast with a scoring knack. Could fit quite nicely.

  • Bob's Hockey Stick

    I think if were needing a young top 4 D that’s preferable a physical 2 way D. We should target the Islander’s T. Hamonic. Going to the Isles, Sam Bennet. I know that likely won’t happen but I believe that’s the realistic cost for that sort of D man. Not sure if we’d be adding to that or not.

    Then in the off season sign franson. run with a D core of gio, hamilton. Brodie & hamonic, with Franson & kulak. wotherspoon as your 7th D. Might be an upgrade over what we have ?

    Forwards either we draft one that’s NHL ready, or trade for a 24-26 year old established rw.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      For those of you that want to give up on Bennett, I suggest you research Marc Savard….and how massive a mistake it was. I am not willing to give up on a 20 year old and relive one of the low points in the oranization.

  • Greatsave

    Why would Columbus or Minnesota, or any playoff-bound team, be trading important pieces at the deadline?

    There’s plenty of time after the playoffs to prepare for the expansion draft. I don’t see the rationale for ED-oriented moves at the TDL.

    • cjc

      It also ignores the fact that Minny could make a deal with Las Vegas to protect Zucker or Niederriter. Ditto for Anaheim, Columbus and Nashville. I fully expect Las Vegas to amass 2 or 3 first rounders or a bunch of seconds this way. The old nugget applies, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

    • supra steve

      “There’s plenty of time after the playoffs to prepare for the expansion draft.”

      I don’t disagree entirely, but some of those that have that attitude towards the deadline will end up stuck with assets they can’t protect, or will find prices for their assets have fallen way off as the deadline approaches. Last year’s Stanley Cup was presented on June 12, this years protected list must be submitted June 17, that’s not a lot of time to move an impact player…and other GMs will know you need to move quick, so good luck getting good value for your assets.

  • Fan the Flames

    If we can get the right player it would make sense to expose Brouwer . We will need to protect Ferland as we are a little short on toughness . If Brouwer gets taken we could use that money to target a good defenseman .

  • Newbietwo

    Where does everyone get this idea that top players on teams are suddenly trade able?? Let’s be clear it’s not!

    Some teams yes teams who have cap space will have opportunities at the Draft! But it will still cost them first and foremost!

    Teams will use buyouts and every other option available than to just gift quality players they will focus on the crap on the books first and they won’t take a smack on the mouth to get rid of quality.

    I am not for givin away our first round pick! I’d rather go after young with size into the system and them make trades with second and third round picks if must

  • Greg

    Do teams have to make these decisions by trade deadline? Or is there another window between end of playoffs and expansion draft where they can still move players they don’t want to lose for nothing?

  • Stan

    Pretty ridiculous that this article didn’t even mention the NYI. I love this site but to leave out a team that has OBVIOUS expansion draft issues is just poor, poor writing. I enjoyed the articles and the discussion that it created, but c’mon…