The upcoming expansion process will impact Flames decision-making

The opening of training camp for the 2018-19 season is almost upon us and, aside from a new deal for Noah Hanifin and perhaps some minor moves here and there, it appears that the Calgary Flames are set for the upcoming year.

But just over the horizon looms something that’s definitely impacting the Flames’ decision-making over the next season or two: the addition of the Seattle Grinders (or whatever they’ll end up being called) as the National Hockey League’s 32nd team. It may be a couple seasons away – the current plans for Key Arena’s renovation pegs Seattle’s addition in time for the 2020-21 campaign – but it’s worth thinking about how the upcoming expansion process could impact the Flames.

The presumptive rules

All indications from commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy Bill Daly are that the Seattle group will be given the same expansion rules as the Vegas Golden Knights received in 2017 – despite the handwringing from other teams, Seattle’s paying $650 million for a team so they’ll get the same advantages.

The expected rules are as follows:

  • Teams can protect either (a) seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or (b) eight skaters and one goalie.
  • Players with “no move” clause must be protected unless they agree to waive those clauses. (Spoiler: Very few did last time.)
  • 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) – as in, if the 2019-20 season was their first or second pro season, they’re exempt. An important distinction is that “slide” years spent in the pros count as pro seasons – Emile Poirier was available in the 2017 expansion draft despite having used only two entry-level years because he had played three pro seasons (the first season was a “slide” year).

All NHL clubs (including Vegas, presumably) must expose:

  • One defensemen who is under contract for 2020-21 and played 40+ NHL games in 2019-20 (or played 70+ games in 2018-20).
  • Two forwards who are under contract for 2020-21 and played 40+ NHL games in 2019-20 (or played 70+ games in 2018-20).
  • One goalie who is under contract for 2020-21 or will be a restricted free agent following the 2020-21 season (he must be qualified prior to the submission of the protected lists).

A quick recap of 2017’s draft

Back in 2017, the Flames opted to protect seven fowards (Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar and Sean Monahan), three defensemen (TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton) and goalie Mike Smith.

To meet their experience requirements, they exposed defenseman Matt Bartkowski, forwards Troy Brouwer and Matt Stajan, and goaltender Tom McCollum. They also exposed forwards Brandon Bollig, Lance Bouma, Alex Chiasson, Freddie Hamilton, Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Kris Versteeg and Linden Vey, defensemen Ryan Culkin, Deryk Engelland, Michael Kostka, Brett Kulak, Ladislav Smid, Michael Stone, Dennis Wideman and Tyler Wotherspoon, and goalie Brian Elliott.

Vegas ended up selecting pending unrestricted free agent Engelland.

A look ahead to a 2020 draft

Let’s assume two things: (1) Seattle joins the NHL via a 2020 expansion draft with identical rules to Vegas’ entry, and (2) the Flames sign Hanifin and Matthew Tkachuk to long-term deals that include the 2020-21 season.

If the Flames opt to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, they have some flexibility (and some decisions to make):

  • At forward, the obvious locks for protection spots are Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund, Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. With both players deep into their 30s (and the third year of their contracts), one or both of James Neal and Derek Ryan could be candidates for exposure (and would help the Flames meet the exposure requirements). That would allow the Flames to potentially protect one or two of Mark Jankowski, Austin Czarnik, Sam Bennett, or any number of minor leaguers that could push their way onto the NHL roster in the interim.
  • On the blueline, the Flames have lots of flexibility with Hanifin and Giordano under contract and Brodie, Stone and Travis Hamonic as pending UFAs. They could potentially expose Giordano heading into the final year of his contract and hope that his cap hit (and age) could scare the Grinders away, while protecting some of their younger assets – such as Rasmus Andersson or Oliver Kylington. There’s a possibility they might need to sign a depth player (ala Bartkowski in 2016-17) to meet their exposure requirements.
  • In goal, the Flames have no goaltenders under contract for 2020-21. They could potentially qualify pending RFAs Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons, then protect whichever one they prefer to keep. The other RFA would meet their exposure requirements.

Not eligible for expansion selection, due to having completed two pro seasons by the expansion draft, are Juuso Valimaki, Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin, Nick Schneider and Matthew Phillips.

But what if Seattle starts in 2021 instead?

If there’s a lockout in 2020-21 or the Key Arena renovations aren’t completed until the following season – creating a 2021 expansion draft – the Flames have some additional challenges, primarily that they’d need to potentially protect Valimaki and Dube. That said, they would retain much of their existing roster flexibility in all three categories. They have just six players under contracts for 2021-22: Gaudreau, Monahan, Neal, Backlund, Lindholm and Giordano.

Needless to say, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made going forward and a lot of things that the expansion process touches upon. The NHL’s Board of Governors meet in September and December, and given the necessity for timeline clarity, expect definitive expansion news within the next few months.

  • meat1

    Fantastic article. It still seems far away enough that there are a bunch of unknowns and potential roster changes in the meantime but it’s obviously important that they start to manage with Seattle in mind.

  • The GREAT WW

    CHIARELLI is by far the best GM at managing the expansion draft: when he came to the Oilers he was saddled with 10 years of first overall picks, but he made all the necessary moves to only lose a non NHL player (Reinhardt).

    The upcoming Seattle expansion draft will be no different; he will have strategically put the Oilers in a position where they don’t lose a NHL player.

    CHIARELLI is the man!!!!!!


    • Zeb Zadock

      Hey Walt that is some kind of infatuation with your Chia Pet… almost as bad as that Kassian crush you had going on. I like how you know more than the experts who just nominated Mr Chiarelli for GM OF THE YEAR just a season ago. Pls don’t make me remind you about Tres astute moves over his few short years that have amounted to ZERO playoff success. (Lazar, Stone, Hamonic, Hamilton, Brouwer, Grossman, Glass, Prout, draft) But then again I can’t think of another team in the past 30 years who has only made it out of the 1st round of the playoffs TWICE!!!! Maybe that’s why the city doesn’t support building a new arena. You guys can have our old one though if you want. It’s just sitting there collecting dust. We love our shiny brand new state of the art facility:)

      • Still no edit button?

        Lol what’s with your infatuation with FN? I get it’s all doom and gloom and depressing on ON because your team is terrible. I do understand you secretly want to cheer for a good team

  • The GREAT WW

    Derek Ryan is from the Seattle area.
    He will have one year left on his contract.
    After 2 successful seasons with the Flames, Seattle will pick him as the veteran feel good story…
    Like Engelland except Ryan will be under contract.


    • mrroonie

      Ryan is from Spokane. Saying he’s from the Seattle area is like saying someone from Whitecourt is from the Calgary area. It’s about the same distance away.

  • The Fall

    making Any decision about this year’s roster because something might happen in two or three years is a very bad idea. There are far too many variables.

    • Off the wall

      Hey Fall, you up for the game Calgary vs Vancouver February 9, 2019?

      Stockton’s Finest will be there, as well as myself and my step son. It would be great to have a brew with you!

    • piscera.infada

      Perhaps, but I wouldn’t oversell that premise. I mean, you can logically extend that into absurdity.

      Future consequences should factor into any decision. Obviously it’s an exercise in balancing.

    • Jimmyhaggis

      Agree completely. As far as only a few more minor moves, goaltending has not been addressed. You know Smith is going to get injured and the backups we have now just can’t cut it. Tre has to be trying to make a deal with someone.

      • MDG1600

        I agree that goaltending is probably the biggest area of risk but don’t hold your breath for a goaltending move. I think Tre will wait and see how things play out in pre-season and the first 15-20 of regular. If Gillies or Rittich look like they have taken a step forward he will do nothing. If Andersson looks NHL ready he might try to deal Brodie for a goalie but if the team is playing well I am not sure he would disrupt things. I don’t see Stone getting enough of a return to upgrade the goaltending and he should be reluctant to deal away prospects. Being at the cap will make it a problem to upgrade the goaltending if we run in to trouble with Smitty.

  • Off the wall

    Figures, I’m going camping and now it’s raining here. Dry as a popcorn fart for 2 months, and now the tap is on.

    Oh well, it’s perfect for the forest fires, so I shouldn’t be unhappy.
    But for some reason, I’m not thrilled?

    Predictability about the upcoming expansion draft is like the weather- expect the unexpected..or in my case, bring out the rain gear.

  • Squishin

    I’m excited to have a team in Seattle. It will be interesting being the same division as two recent expansion teams. Hopefully they’re not stacked like Vegas was – maybe GMs will be actually smarter and not give away people like Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, or freaking William Karlsson.

  • Cheeky

    Good article, makes me feel better knowing we may be good for who to protect. Better to protect the young guys on D (if they have transitioned to NHL) rather than Gio by that point. Expansion drafts are all the more reason not to hand out no movement clauses…

  • Jobu

    Jobu’s side news. Sources saying Hanafin is close to signing.

    Jobu wondering if Tre is waiting to extend Tkachuk prior to Hanafin signing so he knows how much dollars to commit or are available.

  • Rockmorton65

    Good article, but I think it’s too early to worry/plan for an expansion draft for a team that doesn’t exist yet.

    Best thing Tre can do is avoid giving out NMC’s or acquiring them.

    • Styxx

      I have to disagree. Future planning is done multiple years in advance…just look how much time and effort is required for cap management, depth charting, player development, drafting, etc. Knowing the draft parameters could also affect whether Valimaki is sent down to the Heat if it’s a very close decision.

      • Rockmorton65

        I agree with the future planning aspect, but you can’t make plans for things that may or may not happen. Keep an eye on it, sure. But, if a guy like Valimaki is good enough to make the team, then you can’t waste an entire year of his development in the minors because there MAY be an expansion draft in a few years. Especially if you consider him to have top pairing potential. So much can happen in two years. Trades, retirements, injuries. The draft is too far in the future to start “hiding” players.

        • JMK

          I disagree too, looking to the future is something I value in a GM. The Valimaki situation is tricky, if he blows the doors down do you play him so you can contend or do you give him AHL experience to save him for later? For me it comes down to the player but some people may prefer to contend now, will he develop better by playing AHL or NHL right now?

          An example I believe of Tre looking towards an expansion draft is signing James Neal without any NMC or NTC. He might paid a little extra because of it, but that is the kind of perspective I value.

        • canadian1967

          Surely the NHL owners/governors are aware of what will or won’t happen as far as Seattle goes?
          Then you would expect that possibly BT knows exactly what to plan for as far as when an expansion draft will occur?
          Or maybe you think FN will break the NHL expansion new to the NHL, and not the other way around?

  • mrroonie

    If the arena is going to be ready to go for 2020-21, the expansion draft will happen in June 2020 regardless of whether there is a lockout.

    There will be two possible scenarios for the start of the 2020-21 season, A) the season will start as usual at the beginning of October, or B) there will be a lockout/strike situation that delays the start of the season. The league has to be prepared for Scenario A even if they believe that Scenario B is the more likely outcome. Therefore , they will have to do the expansion draft in June 2020 to be prepared for a Scenario A situation or for the loss of only part of the season in Scenario B.

  • SeanCharles


    Pacific: Calgary, Edmonton, Van, Seattle, SJ, ANA, LA, Vegas

    Central: Chicago, STL, Nash, Dallas, Arizona, WPG, Colorado, Minny

    Likely to Protect?: Backlund, Johnny, Monny, Tkachuk, Lindholm, Bennett, Janko, Hanifin, Andersson, Kylington, Parsons

  • Lazyboy GM

    Completely off topic but would it take to get EK in a flames uniform ?
    What about : Stone, Frolik, Kylington and Rittich for EK and Anderson.
    This could solidify goaltending. Smith and Anderson could each play 40 games instead of wearing out Smith with 65+ starts. Not to mention our defence would be sick.

    • Kevin R

      Thats why EK hasnt been traded yet, Ottawa has lots of offers like what you packaged up but they want a future franchise player +++. If you are going to rent him, wait until the TDL where packages will start to look like what you are dishing up.
      The Trade Central Panels may as well set up shop in Ottawa because thats where all the prime trade targets are going to be.

  • Getpucksdeep

    Thought I’d use this string to ask all the big brained hockey folks here and mean that in the best possible way, a Hockey pool question.

    Part of my upcoming Hockey pool involves “Team Shutouts”. Not goalie total, team total. It’s worth 10 pts a shutout and if I don’t get 80-110 points I know historically that neither I, nor any of the other 50-60 entries that don’t do well in shut outs, will be in the money. I always like to track about 3-4 years of team history. Nothing however is a sure bet. Last year the 3 best longer term shutout teams from the previous 3 years all laid eggs at just 4-5 each.

    Mean while Rinnie in Nashville went off the board and with no history of high shut out totals the team ends up with a league leading 11! That may be a surprise to some but Nashville with their vaunted D doesn’t have a strong Shut out history.

    Tampa (8)and Vasilvsky had a good year as did the Jets (7) and Hellebuyck but again no solid history of lots of shut outs with either or those teams.

    LA w/Quick had been a solid pick for 3 years prior to last year when Quick was injured. Anaheim has a good track record and Gibson also only had about 5. Washington and Hotlby are 3rd but seem to have big years then average years.

    If you’re picking a team for shut out this year who would it be? Why? I do want the opinions!

    • Kevin R

      No brainer buddy. Just go with the goalies that historically post decent wins & shutouts. Nashville probably has the best goaltending tandem in the league & their D is one of the best. I like Tampa because they have a solid blueline, are a very good team & Vasi is a solid goalie. After that you have a tier of about 8-10 teams with solid #1 goalies Winnipeg, St Louis, Anaheim,Pitt, Washington, Columbus, Boston, Minny, maybe even Toronto (they will be an offensive juggernaut which can cover up for lack of D with Freddie). JMO

    • Squishin

      My picks would be Minnesota and Anaheim. Dubnyk and Gibson are both excellent, and their teams have a strong history of shutting the door once they’re in the lead.

  • Nighteyes

    Hey everyone, I’ve been a member of FN for a long time but contribute rarely, mostly just a spectator. Just wanted to let everyone here know that for the community and commentary is really great, informed, quite funny, and the trash talking is at least civilized. I just wanted to say this because I recently decided to read some sportsnet and tsn articles on the Flames…and man is the community that comments on those bad. It’s basically all incendiary trolling and uninformed Don Cherry style analysis.