Without knowing how many teams will possibly enter the league or when they might do so, trying to simulate an expansion draft is something of a fruitless exercise. That said, we can take a rough look using the last set of expansion draft rules to hazard a guess as to what the Flames might be thinking in terms of who to protect and who to potentially throw to the wolves.
In the last two expansion drafts teams have had the option of protecting either one goalie, five defensemen, and nine forwards or two goalies, three blueliners, and seven forwards. While picking between the two has got to be tough, Calgary’s pretty high on its pairing of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller. If this was a decision to be made today, I’d fully expect them to go the second route.
Who’s Definitely Protected
Mikael Backlund - He may not be the player management wants him to be- but he’s a 25 year old center who’s defensively responsible and offensively capable. He doesn’t look out of place anywhere in the roster. No way he goes anywhere.
Jiri Hudler – Teams don’t let their highest scoring player go in an expansion draft.
Curtis Glencross – Not an amazing player, but he’s good enough and the sort of culture guy that Calgary always seems to love having around.
Devin Setoguchi – Another guy who’s not really super great, but they just signed him, and he’s the sort of scoring player I can’t picture Calgary letting go of in an expansion draft.
TJ Brodie – Not a chance in hell he sees an expansion draft.
Mark Giordano – See above.
Who’s Probably Protected
Matt Stajan – On the one hand, he’s not exactly super valuable. On the other hand, he’s better than most realize. He’s similar to Glencross in terms of real value, and he’s a good "culture guy" as well, but he doesn’t quick carry the same "Calgary rancher horse dude" cachet that Glencross does.
David Jones – Is there a more mediocre player that just screams BURKIE GUY more than Jones? Nope. He’s really not worth protecting, but barring a sudden desire to keep Mason Raymond or Brandon Bollig, he’s probably protected
Who’s Maybe Protected
Mason Raymond – Not a great player, but if Treliving and Company aren’t feeling super great about Jones or Stajan, he could be the one to supplant them on the protected list.
Brandon Bollig – To call him "not a great player" would be quite a compliment. The only reason he’s on the Maybe list is that the Flames moved a fair amount to acquire him, which is pretty dumb.
Dennis Wideman – Overpaid and pretty bad at times, Wideman could be kept just because he can also be pretty okay at times.
Kris Russell – I’d argue him as a Probable, but the fact that he’s a slighter build and doesn’t have the history of success that Wideman does means that the Flames could go either way on this one.
The No-Way-In-Hell They’re Getting Protected List
Brian McGrattan – Face puncher that they can reasonably assume won’t be picked up.
David Wolf – A half-step away from being Brian McGrattan
Deryk Engelland - Brian McGrattan part two
Ladislav Smid - Old and broken, no way anyone takes him, making him a safe risk in an expansion draft.
- I’m using only players that were fulltime NHLers last year and on the Flames roster this year. Basically the roster listed at the official website.
- I also didn’t include Monahan on this list because first and second year pros are usually exempt from expansion drafts
- SVEN is pretty similar, but I’m not entirely sure what determines a guy as a first/second year pro. Is the Calder eligible season the first? Is it the first game played in the NHL? I’m thinking right now he’d be considered a second year pro.
- This is just a rough thought experiment- the numbers don’t 100% line up, and I’m aware of that
The reality here is that Calgary really wouldn’t be affected by an expansion draft much. Maybe a team takes Smid for veteran leadership, but that’s hardly a great loss. This is one of the small advantages to being a terrible team- you don’t have to worry about replacing good bottom six players with AHL bottom six players. They’re already there.
Teams like the Kings, the Blackhawks, and the Penguins will have some tough decisions to make, while Calgary and the rest of the bottom dwellers don’t have much to worry about. And really, everyone will come out a bit better because expansion teams are always awful.