Almost everything the Calgary Flames do this off-season, including the various machinations surrounding the expansion draft, will revolve around acquiring a legitimate No. 1 goalie.
The feeling in Calgary is that, even though their own pipeline is well stocked with goalies like Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons (who are still a couple of years away), the team is ready to win playoff series — providing it can find the appropriate goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury is target No. 1A, though his modified no-trade clause means the goalie will decide if he likes the team, not the other way around.
That won’t stop GM Brad Treliving from trying, however.
Here is who we think the Flames will protect, and which player we think the Golden Knights will pick.
The first six picks on the list above are obvious. Monahan and Gaudreau are first-line cornerstones, and Backlund and Frolik a second-line combo that makes life difficult for opposing coaches to match up against.
Bennett turns 21 on June 20, and is very much a work in progress, while the recently acquired Lazar is 22 and another project that Treliving wishes to see through to the finish line.
After that, the seventh protected Flames forward comes down to two big wingers: the veteran Brouwer and Micheal Ferland, who is less accomplished but also seven years younger.
Treliving signed Brouwer to a four-year, $18 million deal with a no-trade component only last summer. Brouwer under-achieved in the first year of that deal, but leaving him exposed could cause a rift between player and team, if Vegas did not select Brouwer.
On the other hand, Ferland is a former Brandon Wheat King and said to be coveted by Kelly McCrimmon, the Vegas assistant GM whose family owns the junior team in Brandon. This could be a case where Calgary adds a sweetener to leaving Ferland available – like, the Golden Knights have to also trade for Matt Stajan, for instance. Or, the player left open by the Flames could be significantly upgraded if Fleury were to be made available to them.
Very simple math here for the Flames. Giordano is the Flames’ captain; Hamilton is a 6-foot-6, 24-year-old, right-shot defenceman who had 50 points last season; and Brodie is mobile, smart and the prototypical new-age, puck-moving defenceman.
After that lot, the remaining names that could be lost are less emphatic: Brett Kulak, Matt Bartkowski, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ryan Culkin… Calgary is in the hunt for UFA defenceman Kris Russell, and might look to re-sign Michael Stone. They need another top-four defenceman, as do a whole bunch of clubs, and the market is not strong.
And again, any money spent there will come after the situation in the crease is sorted out.
It is strongly believed that only one of last year’s Brian Elliott-Chad Johnson tandem will be back, and Johnson makes the most sense. He’s a Calgary kid who would be accepting of a clear No. 2 role, and you’re unlikely to find a vastly superior backup across the league. He can give you 30-35 solid games if need be.
But a good backup doesn’t mean much if he doesn’t have a legit No. 1 to play behind. Elliott had his chance to shine last year and let the Flames down in the playoffs. Doubtful he’d be back.
VEGAS PICK PROJECTION
Micheal Ferland, LW
The Golden Knights are going to accrue a ton of draft picks in 2017 and 2018, but what they’ll want is useful players in that 21-to-25-year-old age group that will be mostly protected around the NHL. Ferland fits this bill.
He is big, and Vegas will need some size up front to avoid getting pushed around by the Ducks, Kings and Oilers in the Pacific. Plus, the Brandon relationship exists with McCrimmon and Ferland.
Privately, Calgary may prefer to lose Brouwer – we don’t know this however — but exposing Brouwer could be poisonous if he remains on the Flames roster after the expansion draft. Barring trade — and the Fleury possibility casts a shadow over all of this — they’ll bite the bullet and expose Ferland.