Last summer, I took an assessment from just under a year out, at how the Flames looked to be impacted through an expansion draft. Going through the circumstances at the time, it appeared to me that the players most likely to be lost in the expansion draft would be either Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Kulak or Tyler Wotherspoon.
Things have obviously changed a fair bit since then. For one, Jyrki Jokipakka was pretty horrendous this season and is now a member of the Ottawa Senators after the Curtis Lazar trade. Tyler Wotherspoon spent almost the entire season in the AHL and may not even be qualified by the Flames. Brett Kulak is the only one of those players that actually stands a reasonable chance of being selected.
Another added wrinkle is that it was revealed that prospects Hunter Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier would be eligible to be selected in the draft. Although they only have played 2 years of their entry-level contracts, they both played a season of professional hockey before the entry-level deals began.
But who are the other candidates to be taken? Who will be protected? Here is an updated look at how the Flames are situated heading into the expansion draft.
A Refresher of the Rules
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 amount 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. The Flames have no continuing “No Movement” clauses and thus will not be impacted by this rule.
- All first and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection. First and second year professionals include players such as Matthew Tkachuk, Jon Gillies, David Rittich, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk and Andrew Mangiapane. Prospects such as Tyler Parsons, Dillon Dube and Adam Fox will also be exempt from selection.
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. It is not a situation where a team wants to find out what the punishment is.
Upcoming Free Agents
Las Vegas has the ability to negotiate with pending free agents during the 72 hours they have to make their expansion draft selections. If they strike a deal with a free agent in that negotiation period, they lose the opportunity to select a player from the team that player belonged to. Pending UFAs on the Flames include Kris Versteeg, Michael Stone, Deryk Engelland, Dennis Wideman, Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott.
This is unlikely to impact the Flames, as they really do not have any pending UFAs that will be sought after enough that Vegas needs to jump the queue to sign them. For instance, if they want Deryk Engelland, they can just wait until July 1st to sign him, which would still allow them to take an asset from the Flames in the expansion draft.
So Who Do the Flames Protect?
One aspect of the situation has not changed at all for the Calgary Flames. They will protect 7 forwards and 3 defensemen rather than 8 skaters. Giordano, Hamilton and Brodie remain the only eligible defensemen worth protecting.
Protected: Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Micheal Ferland, Curtis Lazar
Exposed: Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan, Alex Chiasson, Lance Bouma, Freddie Hamilton, Hunter Shinkaruk, Emile Poirier
Protected Forward Analysis
To me, it seems pretty obvious who the Flames are going to protect at forward. It is an absolute consensus that Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett, Backlund and Frolik will be protected. They are all very valuable to the club and if the Flames wanted to move any of them for whatever reason, they would get a great return in a trade. Not the sort of players you would give away for free.
Micheal Ferland was a borderline option to start the season, but there is no way the Flames should leave him exposed after the season he just had. He fit in nicely on the top line toward the end of the year and has proven himself to be a solid top-9 forward that can provide physicality to go with his skill.
Finally, Curtis Lazar will need to be protected. While he had a pretty dreadful season, the Flames spent a second round pick on him at the trade deadline. They believe in him and are going to see it out. To do otherwise would be horrendous asset management.
Exposed Forward Analysis
The exposed forwards fall into two categories: young affordable players with some upside and overpaid veterans.
On the affordable side, Chiasson had the best NHL season out of any of the aforementioned players, putting up 24 points and strong possession numbers. Hunter Shinkaruk would be the other appealing choice as he is only 22, has succeeded at the AHL level and will be on an entry-level contract next season where he does not need to clear waivers. Emile Poirier has had two very rough AHL seasons in a row and it is tough to see Vegas having any interest in him.
On the expensive side, Matt Stajan fits the bill of a responsible veteran that can play well in a depth roll. He also only has one year left on his contract at just over $3 million, so there would be no long-term financial commitment. Lance Bouma also has one year left on his contract at just over $2 million, but he has been extremely unproductive with poor possession stats the last two seasons, he is unlikely to be taken.
Then, there is Troy Brouwer. The player most tuned in fans want Las Vegas to select. He had a horrible first season in Calgary, scoring just 25 points to go along with posting the worst possession numbers among Flames forwards and making every single teammate of his worse when they were on the ice with him. He will also be 32 at the start of next season and has three more years left on his contract at $4.5 million a season. Could Vegas take him? It is possible if they value his “leadership” and “intangibles” but as we have written here numerous times, there are much cheaper and productive ways to get players with those attributes. Expect Troy Brouwer to remain a Calgary Flame past the expansion draft, but it would be such a gift for him to be taken.
Protected: Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton
Exposed: Matt Bartkowski, Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ryan Culkin
Protected Defense Analysis
This is an extremely easy decision for the Flames. Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton are all top-pairing defensemen. They are all better than Adam Larsson who fetched the New Jersey Devils Taylor Hall last summer. If the Flames want to move one of them (which they should probably refrain from doing so) they would get a huge return.
Exposed Defense Analysis
Matt Bartkowski was essentially signed to expose in the expansion draft. He was the worst defenseman on the team last season, there is no logical reason why Vegas would take him.
Brett Kulak is probably the most appealing player the Flames will expose in the expansion draft. He is only 23, has put up good possession stats in 30 games of NHL experience and is a top-pairing defender in the AHL. Just coming off his entry-level contract, he will not cost very much to sign and he definitely has a lot of upside to be an every day NHL player.
Tyler Wotherspoon and Ryan Culkin have not tracked to be NHLers at this point and do not really make sense as players Vegas would take.
Exposed: Tom McCollum
Right now, there is nobody for the Flames to protect, other than the rights to Brian Elliott or Chad Johnson. They have no NHL goalie signed for next season. Jon Gillies and David Rittich are exempt from being selected. If the Flames acquire a goaltender before the expansion draft, that is who they will protect.
Tom McCollum was signed strictly for expansion purposes and therefore will be exposed. He played just 6 games for Calgary’s minor league affiliates, before being loaned to the Charlotte Checkers.
Ranking Who Vegas Is Most Likely to Take
- Brett Kulak: He looks ready to step into an NHL role, is cheap and is a young defenseman. If Vegas does not have a place for him, I think they could probably find another team that does and trade him for a draft pick.
- Hunter Shinkaruk: He is an actual prospect that is eligible to be selected. The Golden Knights do not have a lot of players like that available to them. He is not waiver eligible next season, so they could send him down to their farm team with no worries of losing him. He has offensive abilities and has been a highly touted prospect for awhile. He makes a lot of sense to take.
- Alex Chiasson: Good, cheap, depth forward that can kill penalties and post respectable possession stats.
- Matt Stajan: Veteran leader with just one year left on his contract, at a reasonable price. Could be viewed as a good transitional piece.
- Troy Brouwer: Vegas GM George McPhee has traded for Brouwer once before, albeit that was a few seasons ago and Brouwer had posted better numbers then. Still, maybe they value his leadership on a young team transitioning. I would not count on it, but it could happen.
The Flames are better prepared than a lot of other teams for this upcoming expansion draft. The worst case scenario involves them losing a good young defenseman that may be ready for the NHL, or a promising young forward prospect. While losing Kulak or Shinkaruk would be unfortunate, it is hardly catastrophic. The Flames have plenty of young defensemen in the organization with value, such as Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Adam Fox and Brandon Hickey. They also have a lot of skilled young forwards around Shinkaruk’s age, like Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk and Andrew Mangiapane.
Losing any of the veterans would be the best case scenario, as it would free up some cap space and open up a spot on the roster for a young player to come in and make a push. While it seems like the less likely outcome, we have no idea what the Golden Knights’ approach to building their team will be, or how the available players from the other 29 teams will look.
The expansion draft is just weeks away, so we will find out. Stay tuned for a mock draft once the NHL releases the protected lists of all 30 NHL teams on June 18th.
Who do you think Las Vegas will take from the Flames?
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