With the playoffs on the horizon, talk of the expansion draft – and which players teams might protect or lose – has somewhat dwindled lately. But with the trade deadline coming in less than a week, many of the transactions that will happen (or have already) will be done with the Vegas Golden Knights in mind.
The most high-profile case of this is the situation between the St. Louis Blues and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Looking to deal the pending unrestricted free agent, the Blues are seeking a deal that involves Shattenkirk signing a long-term extension with his new club, so that they can get more in return for the highly sought after blueliner.
The issue here is that any team acquiring and signing Shattenkirk would obviously look to protect him in the upcoming expansion draft, which means exposing another one of their defensemen to the Golden Knights. Problematic for the team looking to acquire Shattenkirk, and in turn problematic for the Blues.
Factoring in how any acquisition affects your list of protected players will be at the front of every general manager’s mind over the next few days. So, with that in mind, how might looking ahead to June’s expansion draft affect the Calgary Flames‘ strategy between now and the March 1 trade deadline?
The Protected List
Earlier this season, our own Ryan Pike took an in-depth look at the expansion draft and who the Flames might look to protect and expose.
The team will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie — although having neither Brian Elliott nor Chad Johnson under contract for next year means that the goaltending conversation is a bit redundant for now.
The group of skaters most likely to be protected includes Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Sam Bennett, Troy Brouwer, Michael Ferland, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and TJ Brodie.
As Brad Treliving told us yesterday, Bartkowski addition absolutely has expansion draft motivation. He meets exposure criteria. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) February 16, 2017
Protecting these 10 players would leave Matt Stajan, Lance Bouwma, Alex Chiasson, Hunter Shinkaruk, Matt Bartkowski and Brett Kulak as the most likely candidates to be plucked from the organization by the Golden Knights.
Flames Deadline Needs
A couple of weeks back, I took a closer look at some acquisitions that might be able to help the Flames make a playoff push. It’s worth noting that since that piece was published, the team has gone 4-1-1 and established a six-point cushion on a playoff spot.
While this recent run will hardly motivate the front office to go “all-in” at the deadline, it does provide a little more incentive to maybe make another low-cost deal to improve the team’s chances down the stretch.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 22, 2017
Brad Treliving has already signed Matt Bartkowski and traded for Michael Stone in an attempt to address the issues on the back end. Coupling those moves with the fact that each of the three defensemen set to be protected by the Flames (Hamilton, Giordano and Brodie) should all be considered untouchable via expansion, it’s likely that any other deals by the Flames would be to improve scoring up front.
While any trade for a pending UFA (i.e., Stone) won’t affect the Flames’ expansion protected list, trading for a player still under contract beyond this year would mean replacing someone who would otherwise have been protected.
It’s safe to say that Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund, Bennett, and Frolik are all locks to be protected, and Ferland’s combination of value and versatility make him someone the Flames would probably like to keep on board.
That leaves Troy Brouwer. Signed for another three more years at $4.5 million per season, Brouwer is set to be paid handsomely throughout his declining years. It’s hard to imagine that Treliving doesn’t regret this signing, or that he’d lose any sleep if that contract were to be taken off his hands.
On top of it all, it looks likely that the crop of forwards around the league made available to Vegas will be much better than the group of defensemen. With that in mind, even if Brouwer were to be left exposed, there’s a good chance that Golden Knights GM George McPhee might elect to pluck a young blueliner like Brett Kulak from Calgary before bringing on Brouwer’s albatross of a deal.
If the price is right, it might not be a bad idea for the Flames to bolster the team beyond this year by adding a quality forward with term, such as Jannik Hansen. The team could upgrade beyond just this year and exposing Brouwer might not even change who Vegas takes from Calgary anyway.
Calgary-based writer covering all things Flames. Follow me on Twitter @glenneberth