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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames still need to sign another forward for expansion purposes

On July 21, 2021, the inaugural roster of the Seattle Kraken will begin to take shape.

The Kraken signed forward prospect Luke Henman to a three-year contract last month; to this day, he remains the only member of the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

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The Vegas Golden Knights used their 2017 Expansion Draft picks to bring in multiple players who became integral during their run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, including Marc-Andre Fleury, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Brayden McNabb, and David Perron.

It remains to be seen whether the Kraken will even be able to come close to replicating any of Vegas’ early success. In less than a month, they’ll take the biggest step in their journey to bring NHL hockey to Seattle.

The 2021 Expansion Draft will operate using the same rules as its 2017 counterpart. Each participating team will be able to utilize one of these two player protection schemes:

  • Seven forwards, three defensemen, one goaltender
  • Eight skaters (any position), one goaltender

Players with three or more professional seasons in the AHL or NHL require protection from Seattle; those with two seasons or fewer are exempt and cannot be selected.

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Here is the full list of Calgary Flames players eligible for the Seattle Expansion Draft:

  • ForwardsMatthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Byron Froese, Justin Kirkland, Zac Rinaldo, Josh Leivo, Dillon Dube, Brett Ritchie, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Spencer Foo, Dominik Simon, Buddy Robinson, Derek Ryan
  • Defense: Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Alex Petrovic, Nikita Nesterov, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone
  • GoaltendersJacob Markstrom (NMC), Tyler Parsons, Louis Domingue

As a result of his no-movement clause, goaltender Jacob Markstrom will automatically be included on the Flames’ protection list. Milan Lucic’s contract also features a no-movement clause but the 32-year-old forward previously agreed to waive it for expansion.

At this point in time, here is our projection for what the Flames’ protection list will look like next month:

  • Forwards: Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube
  • DefenseNoah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev
  • Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

As a result, we’re projecting the Kraken will have the ability to select one of these players:

  • Forwards: Milan Lucic, Byron Froese, Justin Kirkland, Zac Rinaldo, Josh Leivo, Brett Ritchie, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Spencer Foo, Dominik Simon, Buddy Robinson, Derek Ryan
  • Defense: Mark Giordano, Alex Petrovic, Nikita Nesterov, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone
  • Goaltenders: Tyler Parsons, Louis Domingue

Three players are listed above in bold text: Milan Lucic, Mark Giordano, and Tyler Parsons. These players qualify to help the Flames satisfy the exposure requirements for the 2021 Expansion Draft.

In their pool of exposed players, each team is required to include a certain number of players at each position who meet a selection of criteria. The Flames must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman who:

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  • Remains under contract through 2021–22
  • Played at least 27 games in 2020–21 or at least 54 games combined between 2019–20 and 2020–21

The Flames must also expose at least one goaltender who:

  • Remains under contract through 2021–22 or is an RFA after the 2020–21 season

Parsons has never played in the NHL but satisfies the Flames’ exposure requirements for the goaltending position by virtue of being a pending restricted free agent. If the Flames expose Mark Giordano (or any other member of their top-four), they’ll also meet the exposure requirements on defense.

However, assuming the listed seven forwards are protected, the Flames currently have just one man up front who has played the required total of games while possessing a valid contract for next season. Milan Lucic has played 124 games in Calgary over the last two seasons and is signed through 2022–23, putting the Flames halfway to meeting the exposure requirements for the forward position.

Barring any trades, the Flames will need to re-sign one of their forwards for the purposes of exposure.

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We can rule out Joakim Nordstrom, who would meet the games played aspect but already signed in the KHL for 2021–22. That leaves the following players who, if extended, could serve as the second exposed forward to help the Flames become compliant:

  • Josh Leivo
  • Brett Ritchie
  • Dominik Simon
  • Derek Ryan

Of these four, Simon is both the only RFA and the least likely to return. He played 11 scoreless games with Calgary last season and, as a 26-year-old, failed to establish himself under either of the Flames’ two head coaches. Simon will almost certainly not be tendered a qualifying offer and may not return to the NHL next season.

Leivo is more interesting. The right-shooting 28-year-old got off to a slow start—to be expected, perhaps, after he missed a massive chunk of 2019–20 with a fractured kneecap—before finishing the season with six goals in his last 20 games. At 6’2″ and 192 pounds, Leivo brings Sutterish bottom-six size while also driving play (he contributed 4.3 expected goals above replacement in 2020–21, according to Evolving-Hockey).

Ritchie is another 1993-born right-handed forward. After attending the Flames’ 2020 training camp on a professional try-out, the 6’4″ behemoth inexplicably spent a substantial chunk of the 2020–21 season playing on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Ritchie scored eight points (four goals, four assists) in 32 games while shooting a career-high 11.1% and posting the second-worst 5-on-5 expected goals percentage on the team.

Finally, Ryan is the best of these four players but might be the most expensive. He’s 34, but he has only five full NHL seasons under his belt and is coming off a year where he posted a sparkling 61.05 on-ice expected goals percentage at 5-on-5. Ryan is a versatile checking centre who shoots right, can play in all situations, and has a terrific mind for the game. He’s a good skater and can be counted upon to elevate his linemates.

All four of these players have played enough to satisfy the “games played” portion of the exposure requirements. The Flames simply need to sign (and expose) one of them to become fully compliant before expansion.