The Seattle expansion team has a name: the Kraken. A year from now they’ll also have a player claimed from the Calgary Flames, and a prime candidate to join the Kraken may be Sam Bennett.
Teams have two options for expansion protection: seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters (in any combination) and a goalie. When Vegas joined the NHL, the Flames opted for the 7/3/1 scheme and it seems likely they’ll do the same again.
We’ve discussed the Flames’ expansion draft approach in the past, and their protection list – barring a major trade or signing – will look something like this:
- F Johnny Gaudreau
- F Sean Monahan
- F Elias Lindholm
- F Matthew Tkachuk
- F Mikael Backlund
- F Andrew Mangiapane
- F Dillon Dube
- D Mark Giordano
- D Noah Hanifin
- D Rasmus Andersson
- G David Rittich
So that’s a bunch of cost-controlled long-term assets, plus the two best up-and-comers on the roster, plus whoever their top goalie is at the time.
But this obviously leaves Bennett on the outside looking in. And when you compare him to the seven forwards the Flames are likely protecting, it’s tough to see him clawing his way in – even with a reappearance by Playoff Sam Bennett.
- Gaudreau is the team’s most dangerous offensive player and even with his shooting percentage cratering was one of the team’s top scorers. He’s signed for a dirt-cheap deal for a guy that had 99 points a season ago.
- Monahan is the team’s most reliable goal-scorer. He’s also signed for a dirt-cheap deal.
- Lindholm is the team’s “line fixer,” a forward that can play the wing or center and can basically be put anywhere and give strong minutes. He, too, is signed for pennies on the dollar.
- Tkachuk may be the team’s best all-around player. He’s an effective two-way player and the second-best agitator in hockey.
- Backlund is a shutdown guru and has gotten Selke votes every season.
- Mangiapane is the team’s second-best even strength producer and has begun his apprenticeship with Backlund. (He’s also younger and cheaper than Bennett.)
- Dube is made of hustle. He’s arguably the team’s best forechecker. He’s also younger and cheaper than Bennett.
Honestly, it’s hard to justify bouncing any of those players for Bennett. Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Backlund are established players playing key roles at market (or below market) rates. Mangiapane and Dube are players the club has high hopes for and likely will continue growing into key roles.
Bennett? He’s 24. He’s played five seasons in the NHL. He’s more expensive than Mangiapane and Dube, older than both of them, and has less of a clear role than either of those players. Even if Bennett goes on a tear during this post-season, barring a trade that opens up a spot it’s very unlikely that Bennett will be protected in 2021. This means that Bennett is in a very tough position heading into the 2020 playoffs and the 2020-21 season, as his fate may be all-but-sealed in Calgary.
And if he’s exposed, claiming a hungry, 25-year-old Bennett seems like a no-brainer selection for the Kraken. Even with a superb summer, we may be a year away from Playoff Bennett becoming Seattle Sam.