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Barring the dissolution of society as we know, we know one thing is fairly set on the National Hockey League’s horizon: the introduction of the Seattle Kraken as the league’s 32nd franchise. The 2021 expansion draft is expected to be held in tandem with the 2021 NHL Draft in late June 2021, potentially in scenic Seattle, Washington.

14 months from the expansion draft, here are a few things the Calgary Flames are juggling.

The rules

Seattle will select a player from each of the NHL’s 30 original teams – Vegas is exempt from selection, but they also don’t get a cut of the expansion fee.

Players are eligible for selection if they have completed three seasons under the NHL’s standard player contract system as of the end of 2020-21. This means that players who have spent time in European pro leagues before signing their first NHL deals – like Artyom Zagidulin, Carl-Johan Lerby and Alexander Yelesin – are exempt, as are players who spent time under AHL contracts. Simply put: if you haven’t completed three seasons of North American pro under a valid NHL contract, you’re exempt.

Juuso Valimaki will also reportedly be exempt because he missed all of 2019-20 with an injury. He’ll be tagged for a year of experience (“accrued service” per the CBA) towards his potential unrestricted free agency date, but it won’t count as a year of pro experience for the purposes of expansion.

Teams must meet specific requirements for exposing experienced players (we’ve updated the dates from the 2017 Vegas exposure rules, but otherwise these are identical):

1) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

2) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

3) One goaltender who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

Protection rules

Teams are given two options for protecting eligible players:

  • One goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards
  • One goalie and eight skaters (in any combination)

Players with no-trade clauses aren’t automatically protected. Players with no-move clauses are automatically protected unless they formally waive that clause for the draft.

Exempt Flames

Players not meeting the experience requirements include goalie Artyom Zagidulin, defensemen Juuso Valimaki, Connor Mackey, Colton Poolman, Alexander Yelesin and Carl-Johan Lerby, and forwards Jakob Pelletier, Luke Philp and Dmitry Zavgorodniy.

Any player the Flames sign to an entry-level deal between now and the expansion draft would also be exempt (as are unsigned draft picks).

Eligible Flames under team control for 2021-22

Here are Flames players that are definitively under contract for 2021-22 or will be restricted free agents at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Forwards:

  • Matthew Tkachuk
  • Johnny Gaudreau
  • Sean Monahan
  • Mikael Backlund
  • Milan Lucic
  • Elias Lindholm
  • Sam Bennett (RFA)
  • Dillon Dube (RFA)
  • Eetu Tuulola
  • Adam Ruzicka
  • Martin Pospisil
  • Matthew Phillips (RFA)

Defensemen:

  • Mark Giordano
  • Noah Hanifin
  • Rasmus Andersson

Goalies:

  • Nobody

Some upcoming X-factors

Buckle up, because things could get wacky.

First up: Milan Lucic has a no-move clause on his current deal. If he doesn’t waive, he’ll have to be protected. Has he committed to the Flames that he’ll waive? Nobody can say definitively, but it undoubtedly was discussed with his camp before the trade was executed. Would he be claimed by Seattle? Probably not, as he’ll be 32 and whoever has him under contract will be on the hook for $5.5 million in bonuses (and two years of salary). But he negotiated the ability to call his shot in terms of where he wants to play, and so that’s a card he can play if he wants.

Pending RFAs this summer who would be expansion eligible include Andrew Mangiapane, Mark Jankowski, Glenn Gawdin, Oliver Kylington and Tyler Parsons. Jankowski might not be re-upped because his qualifying offer would be a hefty $1.75 million, but the other four would all be expansion eligible. Heck, simply signing Parsons for a one year deal would handle their exposure requirements for goalies (as he’d be a RFA at the end of 2020-21 anyway.)

The bigger X-factor revolves around unrestricted free agents: Cam Talbot, Travis Hamonic and TJ Brodie are up this summer, as is David Rittich next summer. It seems incredibly unlikely that a team would re-sign a player – especially a defender like Hamonic or Brodie – only to expose them in expansion a year later.

Today’s hypothetical protection (and exposure) scenario

Based entirely on my own intuitions and fuzzy logic, here’s what I think the Flames would do if the expansion draft were coming up immediately:

Protected:

  • Goalie (1): Rittich
  • Defense (3): Giordano, Hanifin and Andersson
  • Forwards (7): Tkachuk, Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund, Lindholm, Dube and Mangiapane

Exposed:

  • Goalie: Parsons
  • Defense: Kylington and Erik Gustafsson (my prediction is the Flames re-up him this summer)
  • Forwards: Lucic (he waives) and Bennett

Based on this, I would imagine Kylington or Bennett gets claimed by Seattle due to their cheapness and/or youth.