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Handicapping the expansion draft and the Flames

Folks, we’re just eight days away from the NHL’s clubs setting their protection lists and 12 days away from the Seattle Kraken unveiling their selections in the expansion draft. As we approach the date that the NHL truly expands to 32 clubs, let’s take a look at the expansion process from a Calgary Flames perspective.

For our purposes, we’ll assume that the Flames are opting to protect a goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards because protecting eight skaters wouldn’t make much sense.

Protection and exposure status, at a glance…

Goaltenders [one can be protected]

Jacob Markstrom

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  • Age: 31
  • Cap Hit: $6,000,000 (through 2025-26)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: The team’s undisputed top goaltender has a no-move clause that he won’t be asked to waive in the first year of a six year contract.

Eligible, exposed: Tyler Parsons (RFA), Louis Domingue (UFA)

Exempt: Artyom Zagidulin (RFA), Dustin Wolf

Markstrom will be protected. Parsons will most likely be tendered a qualifying offer to meet the exposure requirement.

Defensemen [three can be protected]

Noah Hanifin

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  • Age: 24
  • Cap Hit: $4,950,000 (through 2023-24)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: Hanifin finally took the long-awaited step forward in 2020-21, leaping from being a good defender with some upward potential to a guy you can use on the top pairing. (A case can be made that his pairing with Chris Tanev was the Flames’ top pairing based on usage and performance.) Young, good, and under a great contract, he won’t be exposed.

Rasmus Andersson

  • Age: 24
  • Cap Hit: $4,550,000 {through 2025-26)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: Everyone hoped Andersson would take a leap forward in 2020-21, and couldn’t quite do it. That said, while he wasn’t a top pairing guy (and struggled at times with Mark Giordano) he’s still young, inexpensive and really useful with the right partner and usage. And given his age, you can’t rule out him taking another step (or two) before his contract ends.

Chris Tanev

  • Age: 31
  • Cap Hit: $4,500,000 (through 2023-24)
  • Status: Probable
  • Rundown: Tanev was a revelation in 2020-21, elevating every pairing he was on and finding chemistry with both Hanifin and Giordano. His play didn’t even take much of a dip while he was playing through a fairly significant rib injury in the last chunk of the season. Based on his age and really friendly cap hit, he seems likely to be protected.

Mark Giordano

  • Age: 37
  • Cap Hit: $6,750,000 (through 2021-22)
  • Status: Unlikely
  • Rundown: Giordano is Calgary’s captain, a former Norris Trophy winner, and was their most impactful player last season from a Wins Above Replacement perspective. But he’s six years older than Tanev and losing Tanev would arguably have a bigger on-ice impact given the amount of time he has remaining on his deal.

Eligible, Exposed: Giordano (probably), Oliver Kylington (RFA), Michael Stone (UFA), Nikita Nesterov (UFA, signed with CSKA Moscow), Alex Petrovic (UFA)

Exempt: Carl-Johan Lerby (RFA, signed with Malmo), Alexander Yelesin (RFA, signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl), Connor Mackey (RFA), Johannes Kinnvall, Yan Kuznetsov, Juuso Valimaki (RFA), Colton Poolman (RFA), Ilya Solovyov

This is the position that probably gives Flames general manager Brad Treliving pause. If you take out the sentimentality, exposing Giordano and protecting Hanifin, Andersson and Tanev makes complete sense. But losing your captain and a former Norris Trophy winner, for nothing, in the expansion process would be terrible optics. But so would sending Seattle anything of significance in order to dissuade Kraken GM Ron Francis from selecting him. Exposing either Giordano or Tanev will meet the exposure requirements.

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If we had to bust out a crystal ball here: the Flames leave Giordano exposed, but send a second or third round pick to Seattle and keep Giordano. A second or third would be a bit of an overpayment, but it allows the club to keep a useful veteran player – albeit one that’s likely well past his best years.

Forwards [seven can be protected]

Matthew Tkachuk

  • Age: 23
  • Cap Hit: $7,000,000 (through 2021-22)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: Calgary’s highest paid player and an alternate captain, Tkachuk definitely won’t be exposed.

Johnny Gaudreau

  • Age: 27
  • Cap Hit: $6,750,000 (through 2021-22)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: The Flames’ most dynamic offensive player overall, Gaudreau definitely won’t be exposed.

Elias Lindholm

  • Age: 26
  • Cap Hit: $4,850,000 (through 2023-24)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: The Flames’ most complete 200-foot player and the lone right-handed centre on the roster, Lindholm definitely won’t be exposed.

Mikael Backlund

  • Age: 32
  • Cap Hit: $5,350,000 (through 2023-24)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: An alternate captain and arguably the team’s most effective shutdown forward, Backlund is a useful veteran who definitely won’t be exposed.

Sean Monahan

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  • Age: 26
  • Cap Hit: $6,375,000 (through 2022-23)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: Monahan has slid down the rotation in recent years – he’s not as complete a player as Lindholm or as effective defensively as Backlund – but he’s a reliable goal-scorer. He’s come up recently in trade rumours, but he won’t be given away for free. He won’t be exposed.

Andrew Mangiapane

  • Age: 25
  • Cap Hit: $2,425,000 (through 2021-22)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: Mangiapane may be the Flames best player at even strength and he won’t be exposed.

Dillon Dube

  • Age: 22
  • Cap Hit: N/A (restricted free agent)
  • Status: Lock
  • Rundown: Dube didn’t have an excellent year in 2020-21, but he’s useful, versatile, and has tons of upside. He won’t be exposed.

Eligible, Exposed: Milan Lucic (no-move clause waived), Derek Ryan (UFA), Josh Leivo (UFA), Matthew Phillips (RFA), Byron Froese, Glenn Gawdin (RFA), Zac Rinaldo (UFA), Justin Kirkland (RFA), Brett Ritchie (UFA), Buddy Robinson (UFA), Dominik Simon (RFA)

Exempt: Connor Zary, Emilio Pettersen, Jakob Pelletier, Luke Philp (RFA), Eetu Tuulola, Adam Ruzicka, Martin Pospisil, Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Spencer Foo’s NHL rights, Walker Duehr

The forward decision-making is really cut-and-dried now with Lucic waiving. The Flames need to sign one other forward – my money’s on Ritchie – to meet exposure requirements. The Flames have a few interesting options for Seattle here, but nobody that would irreparably harm the club’s NHL lineup.

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Who’s going to be selected?

Let’s operate under the assumption that the Flames (a) expose Mark Giordano and (b) send Seattle a pick in order to dissuade them from kidnapping Calgary’s captain. Here’s how we handicap the remaining players expected to be exposed, listed from most tantalizing to less so.

D Oliver Kylington

  • Pros: He’s young, dynamic, Swedish, and can play the left or right side of the ice. His puck movement is superb and his defensive game is at worst adequate.
  • Cons: He’s somewhat untested at the NHL level. He probably needs to be paired with a stay-at-home type in order to really unlock his potential.

C Derek Ryan

  • Pros: He’s a right-handed centre from Spokane who can be the team’s answer to Deryk Engelland. He’s also a savvy two-way forward who can kill penalties rather well.
  • Cons: He’s 34-years-old and is probably due to start his descent at some point.

C Glenn Gawdin

  • Pros: A great AHLer, he’s a right-handed centre who can provide depth and versatility.
  • Cons: His NHL sample is quite small, so Seattle needs to be sure he can translate his AHL success to the NHL.

RW Matthew Phillips

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  • Pros: A great AHLer, he’s a right-handed centre who can provide depth and versatility. (He can play centre, but he’s probably a winger at the NHL level based on his size.)
  • Cons: His NHL sample is quite small, so Seattle needs to be sure he can translate his AHL success to the NHL. He’s small by NHL standards, but his AHL success suggests that he can succeed as a pro.

LW Milan Lucic

  • Pros: He’s a physical forward who can provide leadership, grit, and a decent amount of offense. He’s from just across the border in Vancouver, so he’s almost a local kid.
  • Cons: He’s not amazing defensively, he’s 33-years-old, and he has two years left at a nearly buyout-proof contract with a $5.25 million cap hit. (The Kraken might not want to give the Flames any cap relief.)