NHL Expansion Draft: Calgary Flames Protection Strategy

The Calgary Flames looked like a great team throughout the regular season, winding up in the playoffs. They’re also a young team. So who do they protect in the NHL expansion draft? Part of a daily series.

The Calgary Flames are a great young team. They’re fun to watch and they’ve got a lot of great players. Which is why they’re expansion protection plan is going to be important. They could potentially lose somebody great in the NHL Expansion Draft this year.

Or, because they’re a young team, they might have all their players exempt, able to keep everyone they want. Which one is it?

Flames Forwards

NHL Expansion Draft

Calgary Flames left wing Micheal Ferland (79) controls the puck (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

There are seven forwards on the Calgary Flames roster that meets the minimum requirements. There are two restricted free agents this season that the Vegas Golden Knights could potentially draft, and there are six other restricted free agents worth taking a look at.

Those first seven forwards are Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, and Lance Bouma. Currently, only five of those forwards can be protected. Out of this group, Monahan, Gaudreau, and Backlund are certainly safe. Between them, they were the Flames top 3 scorers and posted 172 points.

Brouwer is 31 and perhaps didn’t live up to his 4.5 million dollar contract. The Flames may leave him exposed, and that would be a smart decision. Which means there are two more spots for three more forwards if the Flames choose to use their spots in this way. Michael Frolik is protected as well, as he was the sixth leading scorer and fourth on this list.

The next two spots should belong to restricted free agents Sam Bennett and Alex Chiasson. Chiasson posted 24 points in 81 games with the Calgary Flames. Bennett has a strong history of being a Flames forward, and even through his disappointing season this year should be safe from the NHL expansion draft. So that’s six.

The last spot should belong to 25-year-old winger Micheal Ferland, who posted 25 points in 76 games for the Flames, including fifteen goals.

Calgary Defensemen

The Calgary defensive core is a very young unit that should be powerful. Still, the Calgary Flames defense hasn’t been overwhelming in the regular season or playoffs. The Calgary Flames will have four defensemen who meet the minimum requirements.

NHL Expansion Draft

Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie (7) controls the puck (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

They are Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, and Matt Bartkowski. Giordano is certainly safe – he is the Flames number one defenseman. Hamilton is also safe, he was the fourth-leading scorer for Calgary this season.

Which leaves Bartkowski and Brodie. Brodie posted more points than Bartkowski played games. So that’s not really even a decision.

The Flames should want to hold on to Michael Stone, who played beyond exceptionally since joining the Flames. But they shouldn’t sign him before the NHL expansion draft, then make every effort to re-sign him long-term. That top four of Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie and Stone could be a lot worse, and besides Nashville, might be the best foursome in hockey.

Goaltenders & Exempt Players

The goaltenders on the Calgary Flames are both free agents. The Flames could protect Tom McCollum, who’s 27, but he didn’t play any games this season for the Flames. Jon Gillies, the third goaltender who did play games, is exempt. If it was possible to not hold onto a goaltender in the NHL expansion draft and instead use a spot on another skater, the Flames may have already re-signed Stone.

Because the Flames do need to use a spot on a goaltender (yes, that’s a rule), the Flames need to re-sign Chad Johnson. Johnson played fewer games in the regular season than Brian Elliott and posted worse stats. But he played better in the playoffs, and that’s what the Flames are going to

NHL Expansion Draft

Calgary Flames goalie Chad Johnson (31) guards his net (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

need more. Besides, Johnson can be re-signed for a cheaper contract.

And also, the Flames may trade for someone like Marc-Andre Fleury at the entry draft and then protect him in the NHL expansion draft. The Flames are in a unique position in that way. They can reward the Penguins with a good deal in exchange for a player who can fill an unfilled protection spot.

The exempt players’ list reflects the Flames position as a younger team. Besides Gillies, there’s Matthew Tkachuk and numerous other prospects.

Vegas’s Selection

Which leaves the list of Calgary Flames unprotected players looking a little barren. Among names like Troy Brouwer and Matt Stajan, there are young guys like Hunter Shinkaruk and Curtis Lazar. Defensively, there’s Matt Bartkowski and restricted free agents Brett Kulak, Ryan Culkin, and Tyler Wotherspoon.

In the goaltender realm, Tom McCollum will be exposed.

NHL Expansion Draft

Calgary Flames right wing Curtis Lazar (20) controls the puck (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Vegas has a tough choice in regards to Calgary. Do they choose a defensive prospect like Kulak or Culkin? Do they wait for Calgary to sign their two goaltenders and then choose one of them? Do they get either Shinkaruk or Lazar?

That’s the one they do. Shinkaruk or Lazar, whichever one they would want out of that duo, is the one they should be chasing. Lazar was hurt most of the last season, but the year before he had scored a 20-point season. In his time in Calgary, he had 3 points in 4 games. Shinkaruk hasn’t been in the NHL for very long, playing only 8 games last season and 7 in this one.

Therefore, Vegas should go with Curtis Lazar and let him try and stay healthy.