We finally have clarity. Now that every eligible NHL team has released its protected list ahead of Wednesday’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft, all of the speculation over who will be made available has been laid to rest. For the Calgary Flames, the process went exactly as predicted: they used the 7-3-1 protection mode of seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie.
- Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane
- Defencemen: Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin
- Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom
That leaves some pretty big names on Calgary’s roster who are now exposed to the draft and ready to be snatched up by the expansion Kraken. So the big question remains: who will they pick? Well, sit tight, everyone, because I’ve got you covered. I’m here to break down the odds of Seattle choosing each serious candidate left unprotected – from the team captain all the way down to prospects with negligible NHL experience.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the protected list, the biggest question Flames’ management had to tackle was if they wanted to expose their long-serving captain, Mark Giordano. With that difficult decision now behind them, let’s begin this theoretical exercise with the most obvious candidate and best available player.
Mark Giordano: 70% Chance of Being Selected
I am actually on record suggesting that the odds of Mark Giordano being picked up by Seattle were around 50/50, but that was before I discovered that Kraken ownership had given management the green light to spend right to the cap. (from ‘On Kraken spending to the salary cap, Seattle’s home opener, Vegas comparisons,’ The Athletic – 7/02/21) If the expansion club from the Pacific Northwest isn’t put off by Giordano’s hefty $6.75 million cap hit, then selecting the former Norris Trophy winner should almost be a done deal.
The current Flames captain is no longer at the pinnacle of his performance level. However, he can still play a top-pairing role and offer instant veteran leadership to a fledgling expansion locker room. He could also be a valuable chip for the Kraken at the trade deadline if they feel the need to move on from the 37-year-old defenceman. And speaking of his advancing age, Giordano will turn 38 to start the coming season, so if Seattle wants to launch the franchise with a youth movement and bet on long-term success, then No. 5 may not be the best fit.
Oliver Kylington: 10% Chance of Being Selected
Just because the Kraken has the option of spending to the cap, it doesn’t mean they will. Depending on how Seattle GM Ron Francis wants to build his team, he could be looking for a cheap, third-paring option with decent NHL experience to fill out his roster. Oliver Kylington has played 94 games for the Flames since the 2018-19 season, and while he only suited up for eight contests this past year, he’s proven he can play in the big leagues.
The big knock against the native of Stockholm, Sweden, has always been his suspect defensive play, but his potential offensive upside is the reason he’s been given a shot in the NHL. There is no denying the best part of Kylington’s game is when he’s on the attack. He’s got a solid shot from the point, great vision and excellent puck-handling skills, so he would be a great candidate for Seattle to roll the dice on.
Milan Lucic: 5% Chance of Being Selected
Say what you want about the massively overvalued contract Milan Lucic has saddled the Flames with, but the guy has proven to be a solid, well-liked player who still has some gas left in the tank. Playing primarily in a bottom-six role, the big man is coming off his best year as a Flame and most points scored since his final season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2017-18. The burly left winger is from the Pacific Northwest and his physical style and big personality would likely make him an instant fan favorite.
It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the NHL’s reigning heavyweight champ and having him on Seattle’s opening night roster would send a strong message to opposing teams that messing with Kraken star players risks serious consequences. The fact that Lucic waived his no-movement clause to allow himself to be left unprotected shows he’s a team-first kind of guy who would be a great addition to any locker room.
Derek Ryan: 5% Chance of Being Selected
Derek Ryan could be described as a Swiss army knife – a very adaptable player who can be slotted up and down the lineup and play in almost any situation. The centerman is also great in the faceoff dot and could provide the Kraken with a solid veteran presence in the team’s bottom six. The 34-year-old just finished the final year of a three-year deal he signed during the 2018 offseason, so if Seattle picks him, they would have an exclusive signing period to ink a new deal.
The reliable forward is coming off a down season, with only 13 points in 43 games, but he’s actually from Washington state and played his junior hockey in nearby Spokane. If the Kraken wants to insert some local flavor into their lineup, he would be a prime candidate. In a 2019 interview with The Hockey Writers, Ryan mentioned how excited he was that his neck of the woods would be getting an NHL team: “I’m excited to have a team there, I think they will do awesome in terms of fan base and support. I think they’re probably going to have a good team right away, too if they’re anything like the Vegas Golden Nights, which will help.”
Glenn Gawdin: 4% Chance of Being Selected
Seattle gets to pick 30 players at the expansion draft, so that means not everyone selected will make the opening night roster. The Kraken will also need depth guys to play in their system and be available to call up when injuries inevitably arise. A guy like Gawdin fits this bill to a tee. Entering the 2020-21 season, he looked like a guy ready to steal a spot in Calgary’s bottom-six. As a 22-year-old, he led the 2019–20 Stockton Heat with 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 53 games.
That AHL success hasn’t translated into a regular spot on the Flames’ roster, but he did manage to get into seven regular-season games this year. His first stint with the team back in February saw him get minimal ice time in five games played, but during his second call-up in May, the solid two-way center looked more comfortable out there and proved that he could unleash a physical side from time to time.
Josh Leivo: 3% Chance of Being Selected
Like Ryan, Leivo is a UFA who would have to be signed during Seattle’s exclusive signing period. And also, like Ryan, Leivo could be a solid depth player for a Kraken team looking to round out their bottom six. The 28-year-old is a veteran of 207 NHL games, scoring a respectable 74 points along the way. After an extremely rough start to his time in Calgary, the Innisfil, Ontario native actually finished up the year with some much-improved play under new head coach Darryl Sutter.
Leivo missed a lot of time recovering from a cracked kneecap he suffered in December 2019, and he also missed games this past campaign while on the COVID-19 list. Still, if his second half of the season is indicative of how he can play, he might have piqued the interest of the Kraken management team. When playing on a line with Ryan, Leivo’s advanced metrics showed that he was one of the Flames’ better players at even strength.
Matthew Phillips: 2% Chance of Being Selected
I slot Matthew Phillips in the same camp as Gawdin, a quality AHL player who has yet to prove he can make the jump to the NHL. However, I’m lowering the odds of him being selected by the Kraken because he would definitely be a high-risk/high-reward choice. Standing at 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds (soaking wet), Phillips’ diminutive size has always been a valid reason for the “powers that be” to question his ability to compete at the highest level.
Would the Kraken really take a chance on an undersized winger? Maybe. It depends on how they view the potential for smaller players to succeed in today’s NHL. After playing three pro seasons in the AHL, no Stockton Heat player has more goals than the speedy winger. Phillips is a strong skater and an excellent set-up man who also has the ability to finish. The 23-year-old has also shown great vision, while his rapid footwork keeps opposing players guessing where he’ll go next. I actually hope he stays in Calgary because I really want to see if he can take his game to another level.
Brett Ritchie: 1% Chance of Being Selected
I’m 99% sure Brett Ritchie won’t be selected by Seattle on Wednesday, but at 1% odds that he will… “so, you’re saying there’s a chance?” Actually, not really. The only reason the Flames re-signed the 28-year-old forward was to fulfill the expansion draft forward requirements. However, the gritty winger surprised many people after making the team on a professional tryout, playing in 32 games and inexplicably finding himself on a line with Gaudreau and Monahan.
Ritchie ended the season with four goals and eight points, and it’s clear that the coaching staff sees something they like in his game. I predict he’ll be battling for a roster spot with Calgary in September, so I do not expect Seattle to select the veteran of 300 career NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and the Flames.
Flames Fans Should Prepare to Lose Their Captain
In the end, Giordano is by far the best available player and he will very likely be selected by the Kraken. For what the Flames’ captain beings to a team, both on and off the ice, the decision should really be a no-brainer. However, there is still a very small window for Calgary GM Brad Treliving and the Seattle GM to hammer out a side deal to keep the Norris winning D-man in cowtown. But, from what most hockey pundits are saying, the cost Francis is asking has been too rich for many NHL clubs to swallow – including the Flames.
Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.