Welcome to the Expansion Plan, our summer series projecting the protected lists for the 30 NHL franchises who will participate in the June 2021 Expansion Draft.
Over the next two seasons, every team – save the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be exempt – will be planning for the arrival of the NHL’s 32nd franchise and Seattle GM Ron Francis will begin to consider the options for his inaugural roster. As such, over the course of the next 30 days, we will profile one team, in alphabetical order, and forecast their potential list of protections and exposures, as well as address each team’s expansion strategy, no-brainers, tough decisions and what lessons they learned from the 2017 expansion process.
This exercise requires some important ground rules. The 2021 Expansion Draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 Expansion Draft, but some assumptions are necessary. These are the guidelines followed:
- No pre-draft trades
- All no-movement clauses are honored
- Players who will become restricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 remain with current teams
- Players who will become unrestricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 either remain with current teams or are left off lists entirely (eg. Nicklas Backstrom protected by the Washington Capitals, Tyson Barrie not protected by Toronto Maple Leafs or any other team.)
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There are a few reasons Flames fans were well within their right to have gripes about the Milan Lucic trade with the Edmonton Oilers, not least of which was the fact that the veteran winger carries a no-movement clause that will still be in place comes the 2021 expansion draft. That means Lucic is a player Calgary will be forced to protect – assuming, of course, that he’s still on the roster.
That’s the bad news. The good news, though, is that Lucic’s forced protection shouldn’t prove to be all that great a hindrance to the Flames’ plans at the draft or to their success beyond that point. Calgary has built a foundation on its offensive stars, led by Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, but last season was proof positive that the attack is even deeper. Elias Lindholm was a standout and Matthew Tkachuk staked his claim as one of the bright young stars in the game.
One interesting note about the Flames in the lead up to the 2021 expansion draft is that three of their big-name blueliners will come off the books after this season. T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Michael Stone can all hit the open market next summer, so Calgary will have to make a choice about which rearguard, if any, to keep in town.
PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G):
- Milan Lucic (NMC)
- Johnny Gaudreau
- Sean Monahan
- Mikael Backlund
- Elias Lindholm
- Matthew Tkachuk
- Dillon Dube
- Noah Hanifin
- Juuso Valimaki
- Rasmus Andersson
- Jon Gillies
NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, Mark Giordano, Oliver Kylington, David Rittich
STRATEGY: The big decisions aren’t up front. Those are on the back end. You’ll note Giordano isn’t protected – more on that below – but Hanifin, Valimaki and Andersson are. The three young rearguards have been heralded as the future of the defense in Calgary and keeping the trio in place will ensure the Flames aren’t scrambling to plug spare parts onto the defense in an attempt to compete. Even if Calgary does re-sign a couple of their pending UFA rearguards, this is still the trio of protected defensemen that makes the most sense.
Meanwhile, goaltending presents another quandary. Does Calgary ensure Rittich sticks around or do they instead go with Gillies? We went with the latter because of his pedigree. The NCAA standout was considered one of the Flames’ top prospects at one point and could be an NHL regular in short order. It might not matter either way, though. Seattle can pluck another worthwhile player from the Calgary roster.
THE NO BRAINER: Choosing to go the seven-forward protection route is as obvious as the day is long, particularly given the breadth of offensive talent in Calgary. By using the seven-three-one scheme, the Flames keep almost their entire top six together and ensure that the attack will continue to be one of the league’s most lethal. Being able to keep Dillon Dube in the mix is an added benefit, too, as the youngster had a special AHL campaign that brought with it promise for a bright NHL future.
THE TOUGH DECISION: Yes, Mark Giordano is left unprotected, but at least listen to the reasoning. In June 2021, Giordano will be months away from his 38th birthday and one year away from unrestricted free agency. Despite his aging like a fine wine, chances are he’s going to have lost a step by that point and won’t be worth the near $7-million cap hit Seattle would have to incur. Some might see it as a gamble, but there will be enough talent exposed elsewhere that Giordano should remain a Flame.
LESSON LEARNED: The Flames shouldn’t expect Seattle to do their dirty work for them. Left exposed at the 2017 expansion draft were Troy Brouwer, Brandon Bollig, Michael Stone and Brian Elliot, but the Golden Knights took Deryk Engelland and left Calgary to deal with some of those tough contracts.
Up Next: Carolina Hurricanes
(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)
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