In roughly seven weeks, the National Hockey League will officially add a new member to its family as the Vegas Golden Knights finally become a fully-fledged team. Before the June 21 announcement of the team’s new roster, we’ll have several weeks of guesswork and speculation regarding which players will be exposed or protected in the 2017 Expansion Draft.
Well, that is except as it regards the Calgary Flames. To be honest, it seems like the Flames’ expansion draft protected spots are all but set in stone.
From the NHL, here are the rules regarding the protected lists:
* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:
a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
* All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement” clauses at the
time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be
protected (and will be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).
* All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be
exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection
Not eligible for selection
The following players do not meet the experience requirements to be eligible for expansion draft selection.
- Goaltenders: Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald, David Rittich, Nick Schneider and Tyler Parsons
- Defensemen: Rasmus Andersson, Josh Healey, Keegan Kanzig, Oliver Kylington and Kenney Morrison
- Forwards: Austin Carroll, Dillon Dube, Garnet Hathaway, Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, Ryan Lomberg, Andrew Mangiapane, Brett Pollock, Daniel Pribyl, Hunter Smith, and Matthew Tkachuk
- Any unsigned draft picks
In Hathaway’s case, he’s played three professional seasons but he’s only played two seasons under an NHL contract so he’s not eligible for selection.
The projected protected list
Let’s presume that the Flames go with seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, for reasons we’ll get into as we go along. Who gets protected?
A Goaltender: They’ll need to sign one or trade for one (or execute a sign-and-trade with another club) before June 17 in order to fill this spot. We’ll write a lot of words about goaltending between now and then, but the fact that the Flames haven’t gotten it locked down gives them an opportunity to upgrade their goaltending and potentially bail out another team from losing a netminder to Vegas for nothing.
D T.J. Brodie: He’s young. He’s fast. He’s on a sweetheart contract considering how versatile and effective he can be for the Flames. He’s a no-brainer.
D Mark Giordano: The team captain and arguably the team’s best two-way defender these days. He’s getting older, but his cap hit ($6.75 million, tied with Johnny Gaudreau for top on the team) reflects how important he is to the club. Another no-brainer.
D Dougie Hamilton: Two years ago at the draft, Brad Treliving flipped three draft picks for a fully-formed young NHL defenseman. He was pretty good last year and he was very good for much of this season, standing out as arguably the club’s top offensive defender. Another no-brainer.
At this point, let’s ask a very simple question: are there any other defensemen under contract (or that are pending restricted free agents) that the Flames need to keep? Eligible for selection in the expansion draft are Ryan Culkin, Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon and Matt Bartkowski. Bartkowski is the only defenseman under contract that meets the expansion draft experience requirements for exposure, so he needs to be left out. As Pat detailed, Culkin and Wotherspoon aren’t guaranteed to be retained by the Flames anyway, so there’s probably no point to protecting them. That leaves Kulak, who was a promising tweener player this past season and seems like he could be an NHLer next season.
F Mikael Backlund: Calgary’s most consistent player over the past season, perhaps over the past two seasons. A no-brainer.
F Sam Bennett: A past first round selection (by the current general manager), Bennett wasn’t amazing this season as he tried to become a full-time NHL center, but he was superb in the playoffs. He’s a lock to be protected.
F Micheal Ferland: A late round selection from a previous regime, Ferland has basically become found money for the Flames. When he’s on his game, he’s one of the team’s better physical players and he arguably plays the direct “north-south, to the net” game that Glen Gulutzan loves better than anybody else on the entire team. He’s a virtual lock.
F Michael Frolik: Another very good two-way player in the Backlund mold, he was almost as consistent and almost as good. He was a prominent free agent signing by Treliving two summers ago, and he’s arguably his best free agent success story as a GM. He’s a lock.
F Johnny Gaudreau: The team’s highest-paid player, along with Giordano, their most potent offensive threat and most marketable player. He’s a lock.
F Curtis Lazar: Acquired by the current GM very prominently at the trade deadline, with a second round selection going the other way. There’s no chance they risk losing him for nothing so quickly after acquiring him, especially for that price and especially after he’s only played five games. A virtual lock.
F Sean Monahan: The team’s top center and a past first round selection, signed long-term by the current GM. He’s a lock.
If the Flames opted to protect eight skaters (four forwards and four defensemen), that would mean they protect Kulak instead of all three of Lazar, Ferland and Frolik. There’s zero chance that’ll happen.
The question in your mind is probably some version of “Oh wow, so they’ll be exposing Troy Brouwer?” The answer is “Probably, yes,” with the rationale behind the exposure likely being that the cap hit ($4.5 million) and remaining time (three years) on his current contract should be enough to scare Vegas away from selecting him.
Plus, let’s be honest here:
- If Ferland is claimed, there aren’t many players on the team that can play with his energy and put pucks on net.
- If Lazar is claimed, then the Flames threw away a second round pick with nothing to show for it.
- If Brouwer gets claimed, the Flames get cap space to go out and find a low-cost replacement or they could simply promote a kid from Stockton to play in the bottom six.
The only possible way I can see Brouwer being protected is if the Flames feel they can replace Ferland’s attributes somehow, which I don’t really anticipate happening.
Remaining exposed players
Here are the players that would be eligible for selection from the Flames, presuming all of these assumptions are correct:
- Goaltenders: Tom McCollum
- Defensemen: Matt Bartkowski, Ryan Culkin, Brett Kulak and Tyler Wotherspoon
- Forwards: Lance Bouma, Troy Brouwer, Alex Chiasson, Freddie Hamilton, Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Matt Stajan and Linden Vey