50Mark Giordano
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY SPORTS

WWYDW: The Flames and the expansion draft, round 2

In 2017, the NHL held its first expansion draft in quite some time. With Seattle set to enter the league in a few years, teams will once again have to prepare for another expansion draft, this time in 2021.

It’ll be a little different for the Flames, though: in 2017, they didn’t have too many good players who needed protecting (hence why Curtis Lazar was one of their protected forwards, and they legitimately didn’t have any better options at the time). In 2021, they probably will – and that means they may very well lose a good player for nothing.

The expansion draft is still a couple of years away, but the Flames will likely be preparing for it far earlier than that, so let’s take the time to muse on what any one of us would do, as well.

With the same rules in place as 2017, it’s too early for us to consider entry-level exempt players: every single player the Flames currently have in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL will be open for the taking.

Knowing that, it’s just a matter of who they’ll choose to protect. They can go either the route of seven forwards, three defencemen, and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie. Recall that the Flames have really boosted their defence over the past couple of seasons though, and that includes the emergence of several young defencemen – so protecting more than three defencemen may be on the board for this team, even at the risk of exposing more skaters.

Flames players presently under contract for the 2021-22 NHL season (because why protect someone who’s going to be a free agent anyway) are:

  • F Johnny Gaudreau
  • F Sean Monahan
  • F James Neal
  • F Mikael Backlund
  • F Elias Lindholm
  • D Mark Giordano
  • D Noah Hanifin

This doesn’t include impending restricted free agents who are almost certain to sign new deals carrying contracts past that year: in particular, F Matthew Tkachuk and D Juuso Valimaki. Strong contenders to be added to this group include F Sam Bennett, F Mark Jankowski, F Dillon Dube, F Andrew Mangiapane, D Rasmus Andersson, and D Oliver Kylington.

(There are some goalies among there as well, but seeing as how we don’t have a clue who will be in net for 2019-20, I figure we’re good to ignore that position at the moment.)

That likely leaves as few as nine and as many as 15 potential players for the Flames to protect, barring any future trades or signings.

In determining a preliminary “who to protect” list, it’s probably best to start with the players who, under absolutely no circumstances, the Flames will want to give up. I’m going to assume those first players to be:

  • F Gaudreau
  • F Monahan
  • F Lindholm
  • F Tkachuk
  • D Hanifin
  • D Valimaki

That’s already got me at four forwards and two defencemen, and has me leaving out the two longest tenured Flames in Backlund and Giordano.

It’s bad optics to leave Giordano exposed, but he’ll be 38 years old and on the last year of his contract; it may be the smartest risk for the Flames to take, particularly if Andersson and/or Kylington prove themselves invaluable within a few years’ time (not to mention any potential TJ Brodie or Travis Hamonic extensions). One season of a 38-year-old Giordano probably won’t be worth several seasons of a relatively young, really talented defenceman, should it come to that.

That could completely shift whether or not the Flames opt to protect seven forwards or just eight skaters.

If the Flames go the eight skater route, then we probably already know the four forwards they’ll have to protect. If they don’t, however, then they’ll have room for another three, possibly including Backlund, who will be 32 but may still be playing at a high level. If he’s still elite defensively, then they’ll have room for whichever other two forwards stand out over the years; if he isn’t, then he could be exposed, and the Flames would be able to fit in three other standout forwards.

A lot of the Flames’ decisions for the upcoming expansion draft are going to depend on just which young players make themselves invaluable over the next couple of seasons, as well as what positions they play – and whether the organization is going to be able to stomach leaving Giordano exposed for the final year of his contract, even if he still is playing at a Norris level. That, or if they’ll want to make a trade to protect even more players, as some teams did in the 2017 expansion draft.

The good news is, even if the Flames lose a good player, they can only lose one.

It’s early yet, but it might be time to start thinking about this. How would you start preparing for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft? Who’s on your radar to protect at all costs? What would you do?

  • The GREAT WW

    I’m jealous of the Oilers; once again CHIARELLI has put them in an enviable position where they won’t lose a single NHL player in the expansion draft.

    Saddled with a decade of first overall picks and that nifty move by trading the Barzal pick for Reinhardt keeps another NHL top level player out of the hands of Seattle!

    The Flames on the other hand will lose a solid NHL player.

    Long live CHIARELLI!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Sea of Redd

    I’m hoping the GMs that got embarassed for the Vegas expension have learned from their mistakes. Don’t need another powerhouse in the pacific. Hoping Seattle is crap (still better than Edmonton) for a few years.

  • Bawcos

    Even if it’s early, let’s give this a go:
    7F, 3D, 1G
    F – Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuck, Lindholm, Dube + 2 of
    Backlund, Bennett, Jankowski, Mangiapane or someone else that makes a name for themselves. Out is Neal and Ryan
    D – Hanifin, Valimaki, Andersson. Out is (sorry)Giordano. Maybe re-sign Hamonik/ Brodie for 1 year deal to prepare. Maybe offer compensation to protect Giordano and/or Kylington

    G – ???

  • SetTheWorldOnFire

    I agree that it is really early to look at this issue…but, with the rule regarding no movement clauses forcing you to protect certain players for this expansion draft, how does that apply regarding Mikael Backlund and Mark Giordano, since they have no trade clauses on their contracts?

  • The Beej

    We are a couple years away. So players we think we should protect today may not be who we want to protect in the future.

    For example how will Backlund and Giordano be performing? Who will emerge in the next couple years?

  • Avalain

    It is a long way away, so it’s really hard to consider what will be when the team could look quite a bit different (though I’d argue that if we have even moderate success in the playoffs then the team won’t change as much as it has been).

    Anyway, at this exact moment I can’t see us going for 8 skaters because you can’t protect all the D that you want to even then. Let’s assume Hanifin and Valimaki are locks and that they take the risk and expose Gio. that still leaves Andersson, Kylington, Hamonic, and Brodie. Let’s say we’ve traded Hamonic or Brodie. That leaves 1 spot for the other one and still Andersson and Kylington exposed. No way would anyone in their right mind protect 5 D because that would leave a forward exposed that we seriously do not want to leave exposed (would anyone trade Lindholm for Andersson right now? No, obviously not). So really, all that you get for exposing 3 additional forwards is the chance to only kinda protect one of our young, good defenseman. I don’t feel that it’s worth it. Better to protect Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Monahan, Lindholm, Backlund, Bennett, and Jankowski (though I’m hoping Dube makes himself more valuable than Bennett in a couple years).

    • cberg

      Let’s see, that’s 2021 which is 3 full seasons hence. If the Flames win a Cup or two by then they’ll be looking for a mini-retool. In that scenario I’d say Gio, Brodie and Hamonic all are available for trades, as well as Backlund, maybe Bennett and possibly even Gaudreau. Instead of focusing on who the Flames will protect in 3 years, I think the first thing is to figure out who will still be here then? If the team wins by then, it would be hugely strategic to make some longer-term trades to keep it going for years to come.

      Saying that, I’d likely be 7-3-1, perhaps as follows:
      F=Lindholm, Tkachuk, Monahan, Gaudreau/(new via trade), Jankowski, Bennett, Dube
      D=Hanifin, Valimaki, Anderson/Kylington/(new via trade)
      G=Parsons/(new via trade)

      • cberg

        Let’s see, some possible trades for thought, after team success:
        Gio – Liljegren & Johnson/Kapanen
        Gaudreau – Nolan & Koneckny
        Backlund & Hamonic – BTkachuck
        Brodie & Czarnik – Parayko

  • The Doctor

    We got lucky last draft because outside of our core, we didn’t really have a lot. Now we’re better and deeper. So chances are we Flamea fans are going to be unhappy after this Seattle draft by comparison. Because we’re going to have to expose players that we like and that we’d like to keep. We’re not going to lose a Deryk Engelland this time out, it’s going to be someone better than that.

      • The Doctor

        Perhaps so, but the fact is that our other exposed players in the Vegas expansion draft were no screaming hell. Fer Crissakes I remember people on this site fretting about the catastrophic possibility of losing Brett Kulak.

      • mrroonie

        Geographically, Spokane is 360 km from Seattle. That’s about the equivalent to saying that someone from Ottawa is from around Toronto (364 km), or someone from Las Vegas is from around LA (380), or someone from Detroit is from around Chicago (377 km).

        Ryan will be a pending UFA when the expansion draft happens so if he is still with the Flames and hasn’t signed an extension it’s a moot point anyway.

  • Flaming Duck

    An interesting wrinkle for Vegas, they are exempt from losing a player in the draft. Vegas doesnt get to share in the expansion fee distribution, thus they worked it into their deal with the league that they would be exempt from losing a player. Not only will they not lose a player, they can likely use this as leverage with other teams that have players that they cannot protect. This will be a very intwresting wrinkle as it plays out.

    • oilcanboyd

      Lose a player to Seattle or make a trade with Vegas and still lose that player? Could likely make that same deal with Seattle. C’mon the maximum each team can lose is ONE player!

    • Cfan in Van

      I think the reasoning behind that detail is that everyone thought Vegas would need years of building to see any success. I kinda wish they needed to lose a player this time.

      • The Doctor

        Air was the most ridiculously generous expansion draft in sports history. One of the things the brain trust failed to take into account was how the draft rules interacted with free agency and the salary cap (and thus salary dumping decisions), all of which worked in Vegas’ favour.

    • Cfan in Van

      No doubt. Kulak was the solid, promising young D that we were pining for every year. Now it’s “Brett Who? I can’t hear you with all my promising young D plugging up my ears”.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Too far out to speculate. Let’s focus on the great rivalry Seattle will bring, especially with Vancouver. Arizona didn’t fit in the Pacific division.

  • deantheraven

    Tre got MacPhee to take Engelland, doing everyone a favour.
    Have faith he’ll pull off another one, like maybe they’ll want a veteran leader, one who’s been there like #18…
    If Neal is still on the books by the draft, it could be worth some insurance.