In 2017, the Calgary Flames were relatively lucky during the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft as they only lost veteran defenceman, Deryk Engelland. They had enough spots to protect their stars while Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett did not meet expansion requirements. However, in this year’s expansion draft for the league’s 32nd team in the Seattle Kraken, the story will be a little different.
The organization’s management will have some tough decisions to make as not everyone that they’d probably like to protect can be protected. The Flames have a younger core of forwards, who should all be protected and using the 7-3-1 protection format, one defenceman in their top four will be left exposed. The Kraken will have a collection of Flames’ forwards and defence, both young and old, to pick from.
Derek Ryan is a prime candidate to be picked by Seattle for a few reasons. Firstly, he is a Washington State native, and the Kraken may be interested in having a guy from the area. Secondly, he’s a veteran guy who’s been in the league for five seasons now and would likely be a part of the team’s leadership group. Finally, Ryan is a very good bottom-six defensive forward and would benefit the team on the ice as well as in the locker room.
Ryan grew up in Spokane and played a full career for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. He could step into Seattle’s locker room and either become a captain or an alternate captain and at the very least, a veteran voice in the room. He is a very well-spoken person when listening to post-game interviews and is often quite insightful. In his three seasons with the Flames, he has helped to elevate most of the teammates he has played on a line with. He’s on the back half of his career, but Ryan would satisfy the analytics side, the hockey intangibles, and the hometown guy aspect.
After playing 86 games in his first two seasons with the Flames, it seems as though Oliver Kylington was the odd man out in 2021. He was only put in the lineup for eight games this season and accumulated just one point. When he was in the lineup, he played well and continued to show his great skating ability. At 24 years old, he still has some time to improve and get better as a player and getting regular games with the Kraken may see him reach his potential.
Kylington is an RFA after this season and will need a new deal after signing a one-year pact back in November of 2020. If the Flames do decide to keep him, it’s probable that he signs to a similar deal, once again. Being that he is one of the odd men out for protection, he may also be on the trading block over the next month leading up to the expansion draft. He could be part of a bigger package that Calgary management uses to shake up the core of the team.
There may be a possibility that Milan Lucic is the Flame who gets picked this summer after he agreed to waive his no-move clause. Lucic had a good season for the Flames playing in a bottom-six role, it is only the price tag on his contract that undermines his season. Through the 56-game 2020-21 season, Lucic scored 10 goals and added 13 assists. A pretty decent stat line to have in your team’s bottom six.
Seattle has a front office roster of intelligent analysts, researchers, and developers who will probably make the case against drafting Lucic. Kraken general manager Ron Francis may be interested in bringing him in to be a part of the leadership group and a voice in the room. Calgary’s young stars are very fond of “Looch” just from watching interviews and social media interactions. In reality, it would take some persuasion from the Flames brass to take Lucic, which is unlikely.
One of the longest-tenured Flames in franchise history, and the longtime captain is reaching the end of his career. Mark Giordano has one year left on his contract at 6.75 million dollars, and he hasn’t been the player he was during his Norris Trophy season. Playing the first half of the season with Rasmus Andersson, it looked as though Giordano was nearing the end of his career. In the back half of the season, he saw a bit of a resurgence playing alongside Chris Tanev.
Giordano has been noted by Flames general manager Brad Treliving as one of the best leaders he’s ever known. He could bring a solid leadership aspect to the Kraken, who may go with a young team. It would be tough for fans to see the captain go since he’s been with the team for over 10 years now, but the savings on the cap could really help the team shake things up and add some talent. Using an asset to protect him wouldn’t be the wisest decision, but don’t be surprised if the team decides to do so.
Matthew Phillips has played just one NHL game, he was the shortest listed player to suit up in the league in 2020-21, 134 games of AHL experience, but there’s a possibility Seattle take the diminutive forward. It will depend on how the Kraken plans to build their roster as they’ll be picking 30 players, but an NHL roster only contains 23 players. At some point, they will be looking at some prospects to start building their farm system.
Phillips got into the final game of the 2020-21 regular season and performed relatively well. He was able to display the skill that has got him to this point despite his size. His 57.89 CF% and 76.70 xGF% were among the best on the Flames in that final game. He mostly played against the Vancouver Canucks bottom rotation, but it’s encouraging to see he and his linemates completely outplayed their opponents. He would be a bit of a dark horse pick as Seattle has options of NHLers to pick from the Flames. Depending on how the draft shakes out, they may take a chance on Phillips for his skill.
The Seattle Kraken Select…
Derek Ryan. It will come down to the wire between him and Kylington, but the Kraken will opt for the hometown veteran. He will be able to immediately step in as a third or fourth center and could help boost some younger guys who may be getting their first real shot with an NHL team. He will give the team some stability defensively and will be able to give the Kraken some depth scoring off the hop.
Kylington may find himself in a new home if the Flames want to get some value for him and believe that Seattle will take him. His body of work in the NHL isn’t very large, but he could fetch a mid-round draft pick or a swap for a prospect from a team that could protect him, the Los Angeles Kings come to mind. Seattle would be making a fine choice if they decide to take Kylington over Ryan.
Ryan and Kylington are way above the other three in terms of their chances of being selected by Seattle. Depending on how the Kraken decide to build their roster and who is and isn’t available may change the team’s roadmap to building the 32nd franchise. Giordano could bring leadership and some solid defending. Lucic would also bring leadership, and his contract could get them to the floor if contract values become an issue. Phillips could be a nice addition if the NHL roster becomes filled up and Seattle looks to add some prospects. The expansion draft is just over a month away and should create some action around the league as the playoffs come to a close.
Brett is a freelance writer covering the Calgary Flames here at The Hockey Writers. He is an enthusiast of hockey stats and continues to learn every day about the sports analytics movement. Brett enjoys using both statistical analysis and the old-fashioned eye test in his writing to create the best content for readers. His work at THW has been featured on the Calgary Flames’ news feed for The Score and on Yardbarker. Brett is also part of THW’s Flames Faceoff YouTube/podcast show where he brings his opinions each week on the team’s current state of affairs.