Calgary’s likely expansion targets

The recent signing of Matt Bartkowski by the Calgary Flames has shone the light on June’s expansion draft once again. As general manager Brad Treliving has confirmed, the team absolutely signed Bartkowksi with the expansion draft in mind as he meets the criteria of a blueliner they’d have to expose. So, it got me thinking: who would Vegas most likely target from the Flames roster come June? I came up with my top three.

In putting together this piece, I excluded players like Deryk Engelland and Kris Versteeg, as they’re pending unrestricted free agents as it stands right now. Now, the Golden Knights could theoretically sign one of those guys in their exclusive bargaining window and have it count as their Calgary selection, but we won’t factor that in today. If Vegas were to select someone off of the Flames roster in the expansion draft, these are the three most likely targets for me.

Micheal Ferland

A few months ago I wrote about how, if possible, Ferland should be one of the seven forwards protected by the Flames when they make their list public later this year. Now that the season is 59 games old, I still believe that to be the case.

While Ferland has seen his ups and downs since I wrote that article in December, he’s still been one of the team’s more effective forwards this season. Playing primarily a bottom six role, Ferland helps the team fairly regularly and rarely hurts them.

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While his possession numbers put him in the middle of the pack, his relatively low offensive start ratio balances things a little. For instance, Ferland is in the same possession neighbourhood of players like Sam Bennett, Kris Versteeg, and Sean Monahan, but has far fewer offensive starts than they do. Turning 25 in April, I think Ferland is really starting to come into his own as an NHLer.

Now, the question is, will the Flames be able to protect him? The answer is yes, but it’s also not that simple. While many, myself included, believe exposing Troy Brouwer would be the prudent thing for Calgary to do, I just can’t see the organization actually doing it. As such, let’s go on the expectation Brouwer is one of the the team’s seven protected forwards (along with Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett, Backlund, and Frolik).

That leaves one slot for either Ferland or Versteeg. If the Flames can get Versteeg signed after the expansion draft without raising the ire of the league for circumvention, then problem solved. If they decide to sign Versteeg before expansion, though, well, all of a sudden Ferland becomes in danger of being exposed. If that ends up being the case, I think Vegas jumps on him.

Alex Chiasson

I know many aren’t a fan of Chiasson, but he really hasn’t been all that bad this season. Sure, I can understand getting a little frustrated by watching him continuously shoehorned in a top six offensive role, but that doesn’t mean Chiasson has been awful this season. In fact, he’s been one of Calgary’s best value players.

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Chiasson is a little different than Ferland in that he’s been used in a much more offensive role this season. So, in saying that, Chiasson’s possession metric is a little more expected and yet his scoring totals are still really solid. On top of that, he’s doing all this without costing the Flames much of anything.

According to CapFriendly’s cost per point, Chiasson’s contract gives Calgary the fifth-most value on the team behind only Tkachuk, Versteeg, Bennett, and funny enough, Ferland. For a guy getting paid less than a million per season, and for a guy acquired straight up for Patrick Sieloff, I have a hard time being too critical of what Chiasson has done this season.

Unlike Ferland, though, I don’t think there’s a discussion as to whether the Flames will protect Chiasson. He’ll be exposed and, as a pending RFA, I think there’s a solid chance Vegas would look at Chiasson as a good value addition. If Ferland is available, I think the Golden Knights select him ahead of anyone else on the team. If not, then I think Chiasson’s name enters the discussion.

Brett Kulak

Not knowing exactly how Vegas wants to build their team makes any exercise like today’s article a tough one. That said, if the Knights want to select players more aimed at the future, then I think Kulak is an interesting target because I think there’s a lot of upside there.

With only three points in 21 games this year, and because he’s a defenceman, I’m not including Kulak’s scoring totals in my breakdown below. Also, unlike the prior two players, I’m calculating Kulak’s rank amongst just Calgary defencemen as opposed to the rest of the team.

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Believe it or not, Kulak actually gets the second fewest offensive starts of the blueline group this season behind only Deryk Engelland. That makes his positive possession number actually pretty impressive; Kulak trails Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, and Dennis Wideman in that category. 

When he’s been in the lineup, I’ve found him to be an effective and reliable third pairing defencemen with a nice first pass and a good ability to close gaps. While not physically imposing, I think Kulak holds his own just fine in the defensive zone and rarely finds himself in fire drill situations.

Kulak is an interesting potential target because of his age, position, and experience level. While he’s not Aaron Ekblad or Seth Jones, Kulak has 30 NHL games, and 172 total professional games, to his name at the age of 23. I think there’s still a nice amount of upside there, and, depending on what the rest of their selections look like, I think Vegas might agree.