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Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

Are the Flames’ expansion draft protected spots locked in?

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.

The rules

From the NHL, here are the rules regarding the protected lists:

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
limits).

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
    • Lets Get Something Clear

      He has a NTC for the first two years of his contract; the last two years it’s a modified NTC under which he submits a list of 15 teams he will not be trade to. Because the expansion draft is not a trade, only players with NMCs have to be protected.

  • redwhiteblack

    Looking at our list I am not that optimistic about by anybody on it. Kulak stands out. Vegas must be forecasting to take Kulak. A deal for Brouwer to go instead will Protect Kulak AND Free up $. A deal should be presented to Vegas for Brouwer.

    • Pyroflatulence

      It depends what the club has to give up to get rid of Brouwer. From what I’ve read Vegas would like to load up on picks and prospects. Too bad we don’t have a boatload of picks for this years draft.

      • Baalzamon

        Honestly, I think even losing a first round pick would be worth getting rid of Brouwer. His effect on the team (economically as well as on-ice) is so enormously detrimental that I actually think it’s worse by far than losing a (probably late) first rounder for nothing.

        Just my opinion, but I don’t think it’s a stretch.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I find it funny that everyone is keen on writing off Brouwer. He signed a 4 year contract and his first year was sub par. He may on the wrong side of 30 and slowing down but that does not mean that he can’t change is training and diet to gain some speed. Ask yourselves, how many people have started a new job with a new organization and struggled their first year only to figure it out and come back with a better year.

        • loudogYYC

          I’d say Bennett was sub par this season, Brouwer was straight up out of place. He may be slowing down and all that but at no point did he ever look like he belonged in the system GG has them playing now. I have no doubt he could do well elsewhere like Vegas or maybe even Montreal, he’s just not a fit here. No need to wait another year to confirm that.

  • smatic10

    The expansion is going to be pretty interesting because I can’t confidently say anyone in particular will DEFINITELY be picked. Kulak is a lesser known name even at the AHL level. We all like him as Flames fans but who knows what the rest of the league thinks. They may pick Brouwer because they need to ice an actual NHL team next year. They need to fill out at least a spot or two with veterans and they need to reach the cap floor. Or they see the contract length and run away screaming. They may take Chiasson if they want a cheap player who can play up and down the lineup. They might see Shinkaruk as someone who despite his injuries, has finally matured enough at the AHL level and they’ll take a chance on him. Who really knows?!
    Let’s not forget that Tree can make a trade. What if Bouma is sent to Vegas along with a pick.

    I can’t honestly say I’ll lose any sleep if any of those guys are picked. I will however get a little upset if Shinkaruk goes and we have to hear Canucks fans brag about how Granlund is the best thing since sliced bread.

    • BendingCorners

      Which Ryan acknowledged in the article. Leaving zero signed goaltenders to protect, which was point A in his list of players that will be protected.

  • BendingCorners

    Well-reasoned. I would love to see Troy moved this year but it might take a pick and a prospect to persuade Vegas, which is a bit much. That leaves a trade in 2018 or eating his salary in the AHL (assuming he would clear waivers, which is not a given. But if some other team picked him up the resulting cap space would make it worthwhile). I wonder though what Brad thinks of Troy after this past season; he’s unlikely to say anything negative so unless he does find a way to move him we won’t know how Troy is viewed by Brad and by other managers around the league.

  • C Watson

    IMHO. I like Ryan’s protected list. Now, encourage Vegas to take Brouwer. Reason to take him: he will help Vegas to the cap floor, we will throw in Bouma (more help to the cap floor). Need more sweetener, throw in whatever combination of Shinkaruk, Poirier, Hathaway or late round pick to seal the deal is required. Just don’t mention any of the Stockton Dmen.
    Going forward, I am thinking something like this for next year:
    Gaudreau – Monahan – Tkachuk…..Bennett – Backlund – Frolik…..Ferland – Jankowski – Versteeg…..
    Lomberg – Stajan – Chaisson
    Defence: Giordano – Hamilton…..Brodie – Andersson…..Kulak – Stone.
    Goal: TBD – could be Elliott, Johnson…Elliott, Gillies or Rittich…or whatever
    Popcorn duty: Lazar, Engelland
    Reasons: Lomberg adds speed and snarl, builds balanced and dangerous lines with grit throughout, is cost effective.