As the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft looms ever closer, every hockey fan is left wondering who their team will be saying goodbye to. With the Calgary Flames, their team is already going to be looking towards the free-agent market to bring in some more players and some fresh legs, as their roster seems to be continually shrinking. The only position that isn’t up for debate is goalie, as it is already decided by a no-move clause in Jacob Markstrom‘s contract.
Who to Protect
In the case of forwards, the Flames have a relatively easy decision to make. Only one forward has a clause n their contract stating they cannot move, being heavyweight Milan Lucic. This leaves six other spots open to protect other forwards. Due to the star power of the team, it is highly likely that key players such as Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Andrew Mangiapane. Two other obvious picks are team leaders Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund.
It is the last forward to be protected that sees some debate, as Elias Lindholm and Dillon Dube both make arguments for deserving to be protected. Lindholm holds seniority with the team, while also being the first-line center. The player also put up the second-highest amount of points during the 2020-21 NHL Season.
Dube on the other hand is a younger winger at only 22 years of age. He plays on the third line but has plenty of potentials to move up to become a top-six forward. The player put up 22 points in the season and has already shown some growth with his team, as well as some line chemistry. The added risk to losing this player is that he will become an RFA should new contract terms not be negotiated, which could see the Seattle Kraken gain more picks from the Flames if they try to sign him back.
Overall, it is likely that the Flames will elect to protect the veteran Lindholm over Dube, as the player has shown that he is more vital to the team’s chemistry, as well as his abilities to score goals at vital moments and lead his team back to victory.
The Flames have a likely controversial decision to make, as there is the potential to not protect their aging veteran captain, as it is becoming increasingly likely that the team will defend their younger players. Two picks become obvious with the idea of protecting young talents, with 24-year old stars Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson. These two players have proven themselves to the team with the team being weakened by the injury of Hanifin. Andersson has played as a top-four defenseman and shown that he deserves his spot in the team.
The final pick for who to protect is a difficult call yet again, with an underperforming top defensive pairing, and a backline that hasn’t had much stability, the team has a choice between protecting Chris Tanev, Mark Giordano, or Michael Stone. Out of these players, if Stone were to not sign a new contract they would potentially lose him as a UFA, where Tanev still has time left on his contract.
While Giordano is left out of that consideration, it is due to his advanced age, and the likelihood of a need for change in leadership for the Flames organization if they hope to better their chances of winning the Stanley Cup. This leads to the conclusion that Tanev would be the most sensible player to protect with their final protected spot for defensemen.
Who Could be Leaving
Out of the players who may be left unprotected, the top three potential losses are captain Mark Giordano, young gun Dillon Dube, and veteran Derek Ryan, who has the highest +/- of the unprotected players. These players are the most likely to leave out of the players left to pick.
In losing captain Mark Giordano, the Flames would be able to start a reorganization that could see them grow younger players into leadership positions, as well as having a first-line defensive position available to move a player into. This would also see the Kraken gain a potential candidate for a captain, with the veteran player having served in a captaincy role for a long time, and potentially being able to tie together the newly created team.
If the Kraken were to choose young forward Dillon Dube, they would be picking a player who has time to develop into a strong top-line forward. Currently, the player makes for a good depth forward and allows the team to begin developing more potential for their future. Currently, the Flames would be losing a top-nine forward, which they could see filled from within with rising star Connor Zary or by 26-year-old Dominik Simon.
Finally, with the choice of Derek Ryan, the Kraken would be gaining a solid defensive forward, and begin to build a good penalty kill unit. The center is a veteran talent, who has served in a leadership role in the AHL, as well as having been a fairly consistent player throughout his career. The player makes a solid depth forward, but won’t be expected to put up many points.
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