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Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

The expansion dilemma: retain veteran leadership or gain cap flexibility?

A few days ago, we delved into expansion draft history to figure out what it could cost to deter the Seattle Kraken from claiming Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano in the upcoming expansion draft. The basic underlying premise behind sending assets to Seattle to safeguard Giordano is that the Flames value Giordano’s skill, leadership and overall hockey-playing package, even if he’ll be 38 when next season begins.

But a counter-argument that’s stirred up during expansion draft discussions around here is quite simple: would the cap space freed up by one of the Flames’ veterans being claimed by Seattle be more valuable than the veterans themselves?

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The Flames have two key veterans that should be in the mix for expansion draft exposure, depending on what the club does roster-wise over the next six weeks.

  • Mark Giordano – 38 in October – $6.75 million AAV (through 2021-22)
  • Milan Lucic – 33 in June – $5.25 million AAV (through 2022-23)

From a Seattle perspective, arguably Giordano and Lucic are the easiest veteran deals to claim and eat. Mikael Backlund is 32, but he’s a useful two-way player with three seasons left on his deal. If Backlund’s leaving town, there’s still value there and so it’s more likely to be as part of a hockey trade rather than through expansion wrangling.

Giordano is a few years removed from a Norris Trophy win and played a ton of hockey in 2020-21, with his second half performance representing a nice bounce-back from a shaky first half. If you’re putting together a team of guys that haven’t played together before and probably haven’t played roles as large as they’ll experience in Seattle, having a veteran like Giordano to hold things together in all game situations could be really useful. It would hurt the Flames to lose their captain (and second longest-tenured player ever), but $6.75 million in cap space would allow the team to immediately lock down Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane to long-term extensions and still have room to maneuver this summer.

Lucic is a tougher contract for Seattle to eat, given that it’s a year longer than Giordano’s and, all due respect to Lucic, he’s not as useful a player as Giordano is. But Lucic is a capable depth player and a locker room leader who could bring a lot of the same intangible attributes to Seattle that he’s done in Calgary. Like with Giordano, Lucic could be a huge asset for a team looking to establish a culture and given that Lucic is from just across the border in Vancouver, he could bring some local flavour to the Kraken. The financial advantages of losing Lucic aren’t quite as large as Giordano’s, but his $5.25 million cap hit would give the Flames a ton of breathing room as they seek to upgrade their forward group.

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Would you be on board with sending Seattle a first or second round pick in order for them to claim Giordano or Lucic in the expansion draft? Would the cap space be worth the pain of losing one of these key veteran players? Let us know in the comments!