The Flames will have a new division rival starting in September 2017. The Las Vegas TBAs will be entering the NHL and will need enough players to actually form a team. Thus, the first expansion draft in over 15 years will be upon us in June 2017. All 30 previously established teams will lose 1 player from their organization, with no compensation. Losing an asset for nothing is never an ideal situation, but some teams may be more significantly impacted than others. Lets take a look at how the Flames are shaped up for the upcoming expansion draft.
When the Las Vegas team was formally announced, the NHL also revealed the rules of how the expansion draft will be conducted. This included how teams are able to protect players, which players are eligible to be taken, and the sort of players that teams must be able to expose. If you wanted to review the entirety of the rules for all parties in the expansion draft, the full information is available on the NHL website.
Teams have two options for players they want to protect in the Expansion Draft:
Option 1: Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
Option 2: Eight skaters and one goaltender
- All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft must be protected. (This is not an issue for the Flames, as Dennis Wideman is the only player on the roster with a NMC and his contract is expiring at the end of the 2016-2017 season, therefore the Flames will not need to protect him.)
- All first and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection. This list will include players such as Jon Gillies, Hunter Shinkaruk, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, Mark Jankowski and Oliver Kylington.
Player Exposure Requirements
All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:
1. One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
2. Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
3. One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18.
Note: While the penalties for teams that fail to comply with these terms has yet to be laid out, the NHL has said that teams who do not comply will be penalized in the form of loss of draft picks and/or players. Not a situation where a team wants to find out what the punishment is.
So Who Do the Flames Protect?
The Flames will go with the 7 forwards, 3 defensemen format, as the 8 skaters format is only useful if you really need to protect 4 of your defenders. If the Flames went with the 8 skaters format to protect 4 defenders, they would lose either Backlund or Frolik, both of whom have much more value than any of the defensemen after Brodie, Giordano and Hamilton.
(F) Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik
(D) Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton
These players will almost certainly be protected by the Flames. Something drastic would have to happen for them to not be, as they are all a significant part of the Flames core and if the team wants them off the roster, these players hold enough value that the Flames could get some useful assets in return for them via trade. Expect to see all of these players protected.
The Almost Locks
(F) Troy Brouwer, Micheal Ferland
(G) Brian Elliott
Barring the acquisition of a highly talented forward, or Brouwer's contract immediately looking like an albatross, expect Brouwer and Ferland to be protected. They just signed Brouwer because the organization values what he brings to the table and it would not look so good on the Flames to immediately expose a guy who they just signed for years to the expansion draft. Regardless of how Ferland's upcoming season goes, there is a lot to like about his game and even if he is just a 4th liner, it is tough to see the Flames wanting to give him up to a division rival. The only foreseeable way that Ferland is exposed is if the Flames acquire a more talented forward or if recently acquired Alex Chiasson has a terrific season.
Elliott is almost a lock, in the sense that he seems like he should be the starter over Chad Johnson this upcoming season and if Elliott succeeds, the Flames will likely want to sign him to an extension. Of course, maybe Johnson emerges as the guy and the Flames choose to protect him, but the safe bet would be that Brian Elliott is the Flames protected goalie in the draft.
Who is exposed?
- Players on expiring contracts can be selected in the draft, but ultimately this seems fairly impractical for Las Vegas as they are trying to build themselves a team, so I am leaving them out of the group of players who will be exposed. Those players are Brandon Bollig, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, Ladislav Smid and Chad Johnson.
(F) Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Alex Chiasson, Freddie Hamilton
- Between Matt Stajan, and Lance Bouma, the Flames will be able to meet the requirements for forward exposure. Stajan played 80 games this past season, while Bouma can hopefully manage to get in 26 games next season. Both are signed through to the end of the 2017-2018 season.
(D) Tyler Wotherspoon, Jyrki Jokipakka, Ryan Culkin, Brett Kulak
- Of these 4 defensemen, Jokipakka is the only player who has already come close to the games played rule. He played 58 over the past season, so he will need to get in 12 to satisfy the requirement. Wotherspoon is yet to sign a new contract for this upcoming season, but all of the other three's contracts expire following next season. It is almost impossible to see Ryan Culkin getting in 40 NHL games next year, so between Jokipakka, Wotherspoon and Kulak, the Flames need to make sure one of these players satisfies the games played/contract rule. The easiest solution is to get Jokipakka in those 12 games next season and sign him to an extension, or sign Wotherspoon to a two year deal if he is ready to be an NHL regular this upcoming season.
(G) David Rittich
- From my understanding (and I am not yet a lawyer so do not hold me to this), since the Flames will not have any goalies under contract, the rules for goaltender exposure mean that they would have to expose someone who is a restricted free agent, which David Rittich will be. There is no NHL games played requirement for the goaltending position, so they should be able to get away with just exposing Rittich. If it turns out they cannot, extending Chad Johnson and exposing him is really the only other option.
Who Would Vegas Take?
Barring a shocking resurgence from Alex Chiasson, it is tough to see the Flames losing a forward in this scenario. Freddie Hamilton is a depth forward, while Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma are veteran players that may garner some interest, but both are overpaid for what they provide and there are likely more appealing forward options throughout the league.
It is also unlikely the Flames lose a goaltender here, as top prospect Jon Gillies is exempt and it looks as though they could use recently signed prospect David Rittich to fulfill the goaltending exposure requirement.
The most likely scenario is that the Flames will lose a young defenseman in this expansion draft. Barring a huge leap forward, we can scratch Ryan Culkin from the list of candidates. So, that leaves Jyrki Jokipakka, Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak as the Flames defenders for Las Vegas to take. Today, it seems as though Jokipakka would be the defender that Vegas would select, as he has the biggest NHL resume and has performed fairly well in his brief NHL career. However, the draft is still a year away, so if either Wotherspoon or Kulak happens to emerge as solid NHLers in the course of the upcoming season, Vegas could turn their attention to either of them. We will have to wait and see, but one of these guys seem like the most likely candidates to be lost.
While the idea of losing an asset in the expansion draft does not sound too good, the reality is that for the Flames, they will not be very adversely impacted. All of their most valuable prospects are ineligible to be taken, their very solid top 3 defenders can be completely protected and all forwards in the organization that are significant contributors are safe. Losing a young defenseman looks like the most likely outcome and while that is unfortunate, it is not the end of the world. If they lose one of Jokipakka, Wotherspoon or Kulak, they still have the other two. Combined with Giordano, Brodie, Hamilton and a group of prospects that include Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson and Brandon Hickey, that is hardly a tragic outcome. Of course, things change over the course of a season so who knows who will be in the Flames organization by the time the draft roles around and who might be worth protecting/exposing. As things change, check out the beautiful Expansion Mock Draft Tool at GeneralFanager, which can help you run your own mocks of the expansion draft.