The Seattle Kraken will join the National Hockey League as a fully-fledged team in just over a week via an expansion draft. We’ve been mulling over the Calgary Flames’ protection options recently and we’re pretty confident of one thing: the Flames will opt to protect a goalie, three defensemen and seven skaters because they leave too many good players exposed by protecting a goalie and eight skaters.

The 7-3-1 option

Here’s the conventional wisdom protection list:
  • Goalie Jacob Markstrom
  • Defensemen Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev
  • Forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Dillon Dube and Sean Monahan
The best contracted player left available is 37-year-old Mark Giordano, but other than him there’s 33-year-old Milan Lucic and a smattering of players that haven’t really moved the needle at the NHL level.
But imagine if you’re the Flames. You’re probably nervous about (a) losing Giordano or (b) spending assets to avoid losing Giordano. So what happens if the Flames decide to protect four defensemen and go with eight skaters instead of seven forwards and three defensemen?
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The 8-and-1 option

Here’s our best guess at the eight skaters and one goalie protection model:
  • Goalie Jacob Markstrom
  • Defensemen Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev and Mark Giordano
  • Forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane
Before, Giordano was exposed. Now, Backlund, Dube and Monahan join Lucic on the exposure list. That’s a pretty big swing, as now the Flames would likely lose one of three players who are significantly younger than Giordano. Heck, Backlund is six years younger than Giordano.
In other words, in an effort to protect Giordano, the Flames open themselves up to losing someone with much more long-term upside. It’s the textbook definition of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face.
The Flames adore Giordano. He’s still a very useful hockey player and the club’s captain. But protecting him involves (a) protecting three defensemen and exposing Tanev instead or (b) protecting eight skaters and exposing Backlund, Dube and Monahan instead. Neither option makes sense from an asset management perspective.
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Brad Treliving might still make a side deal to try to scare the Kraken away from Giordano. But don’t expect the Flames to protect eight skaters in order to shield Giordano from expansion.