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Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

A jam-packed summer including expansion and tough decisions starts this week

Wednesday’s NHL Draft Lottery kicks off what could, and should, be a fascinating offseason for the Flames. Between now and the end of July, Calgary has a crucial expansion decision to make and multiple others in player personnel. Add in some interesting contract negotiations and a weird draft and you’ve got the makings of a really interesting couple of months.

In chronological-ish order, here’s a look at what’s on general manager Brad Treliving’s to-do list over the next number of weeks.

The Draft Lottery

While completely out of the team’s control, Wednesday’s lottery still offers a little intrigue for Flames fans. The team has just over a two percent chance at winning the number one pick, and slightly better odds for number two overall. By the middle of this week, though, we’ll know exactly where Calgary will be picking on night one of the NHL Draft in late July.

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Here’s a crash course on how Wednesday’s lottery will work. The Flames have a 2.2% chance of being selected in the first draw to determine number one overall. The odds for the remaining 15 teams after draw one will increase proportionately for the second draw, which determines second overall. Either way, it’s a long-shot for Calgary.

The one wrinkle is Arizona, who have been assigned lottery odds but have forfeited their 2021 first round pick due to sanctions announced last summer. If the Coyotes are selected in either two draws, the league will do that drawing again. So, the Flames kind of have better odds than the ones shown above…but…not really.

Draft weekend

Once we know where Calgary is picking, we can turn our eyes to the 2021 NHL Draft, which goes virtually on July 23 and 24. As of now, the Flames have seven picks over six rounds of this year’s draft, including four in the top 96.

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RD 1 RD 2 RD 3 RD 4 RD 5 RD 6 RD 7
1 1 2 0 1 1 1

Currently, Calgary has their own picks in each of the first three rounds and also owns Edmonton’s third round pick, dating back to the Milan Lucic for James Neal swap from July 2019. Neal had to score 21 or more goals and at least ten more than Lucic for the pick to change hands.

While those conditions weren’t met due to a shortened season, the league still ruled Calgary should receive the pick. The Oilers then had the choice to move that third rounder in 2020 or 2021; they chose the latter. The Flames sent their fourth round pick this year to the LA Kings when they acquired defenceman Derek Forbort at the 2020 trade deadline.

Expansion

So here’s where things really get interesting. Will Calgary even have their full complement of picks come draft weekend? Or will they have used one or two in a side deal with the incoming Seattle Kraken? We’ll find that out a few days prior.

Expansion Timeline (all times Mountain)
July 16
  • Last day to place players on waivers prior to Expansion Draft.
  • 3 pm deadline for players to agree to waive No Move clauses prior to Expansion Draft.
July 17
  • Rosters frozen at 1 pm. No trades, waivers, or signings until after Expansion Draft.
  • Expansion protection lists due to NHL Central Registry at 3 pm.
July 18
  • Protection lists made official at 10 am.
  • Kraken can start interviewing UFA and RFA players made available for Expansion Draft.
July 21
  • Kraken to submit Expansion Draft selections by 10 am.
  • Expansion Draft selections announced at 6 pm.

The expansion rules are the same in 2021 as they were for Vegas in 2017. The Flames can opt to protect 11 players (7 forwards, 3 defencemen, 1 goaltender) or nine players (8 skaters, 1 goaltender), with the expectation being they’ll go with the former. If that’s the case, the team’s biggest decision will come on the blueline.

Calgary has four D-men eligible for protection with only three slots. With the roster as it is now, that means one of Mark Giordano, Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson, or Noah Hanifin will be exposed to Seattle. Juuso Valimaki is exempt.

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Giordano is the hot button, of course. The captain turns 38 in October and is entering the final year of his contract. For me, it makes the most sense to expose Giordano, as every one of Hanifin, Andersson, and Tanev factor more into the team’s long-term future. Whether the team actually makes him vulnerable or works a side deal with the Kraken is another question, though. Personally, giving up a pick (or picks) and/or a prospect to shield Giordano doesn’t seem like proper asset management.

“I guess we’ll circle back in the next couple weeks on that,” Giordano said earlier this month after admitting he and Treliving discussed expansion in their exit interview. “For me it’s pretty obvious as a player there’s going to be certain situations…we’re going to have to talk about. But as far as personally, I mean, I’ve been here my whole career and I love it here. Obviously I still want to be here next here.”

On top of Giordano, other reasonable options for Seattle include Washington product Derek Ryan, Milan Lucic (who has already agreed to waive his NMC), Matthew Phillips, and Oliver Kylington.

Qualifying offers

QO’s to pending restricted free agents are due July 26, the Monday after the draft. As per usual, Calgary will have decisions to make on a few players. If the team opts not to tender an offer, that player will become an unrestricted free agent a few days later. This year’s RFAs are listed below, with an asterisk signifying arbitration rights.

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Forward: Dillon Dube, Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin, Dominik Simon*, Luke Philp*, Justin Kirkland*
Defence: Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington*, Connor Mackey*, Alexander Yelesin*, Colton Poolman*, Carl-Johan Lerby*
Goaltender: Artyom Zagidulin*, Tyler Parsons

Some of these are no-brainers. Dube, Mackey, and Valimaki are all getting qualified, for instance. On the same token, it would be a surprise to see the Flames qualify Simon knowing he played a grand total of 11 NHL games this season. There are a few larger question marks, though.

I think they’ll qualify Kylington, but it sure does feel like that relationship is on the rocks. Are Yelesin and Zagidulin heading back to Russia? Lerby has already signed in Sweden, do the Flames qualify him just to keep his NHL rights? And, after another season marred by injury, does Calgary opt to cut bait with Parsons? Or does he have one more QO in him?

Free agency

All of this leads up to July 28, when unrestricted free agency officially opens. That date is equally significant for Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, as it’s the day they’ll become eligible to sign contract extensions. We’ll have plenty of time to have those discussions in the coming weeks.

This summer’s potential big name UFAs include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dougie Hamilton, Taylor Hall, Gabriel Landeskog, and Zach Hyman, among others. We’ll see how many of those players end up hitting the open market. And, a few of the things we’ve highlighted already will also help determine how much cap space the Flames will be working with.