Milan Lucic has officially done his part to help with the team’s off-season maneuvering.
The veteran Flames winger has waived the no-movement clause in his contract for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft this summer.
“As much as I want to stay in Calgary I didn’t want to handcuff Tree (GM Brad Treliving) in the expansion draft so I agreed that I would waive it for the expansion draft if he didn’t want to protect me,” Lucic told Sportsnet.ca.
“I really enjoy it here in Calgary and I’d love nothing more than to spend the rest of my career here.”
It’s an important move as it saves the team from having to include the 32-year-old as one of its seven protected forwards and eliminates the team’s significant quandary over whether to expose a player like Mikael Backlund, Dillon Dube or Andrew Mangiapane.
Now all three can be kept, along with Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.
Granted, given the current state of the club, it’s hardly a given all seven will still be with the organization by the time Seattle gets to pluck one player from every team (except Vegas) July 21.
However, Lucic’s consent gives Treliving the assurance that regardless of moves he may make, he knows the veteran winger isn’t eating up a valuable spot on his protected list, thanks to a provision allowing players with no-movement clauses (NMC) to make such a move for expansion drafts.
Lucic confirmed that when Treliving was in the midst of orchestrating the trade that brought Lucic to Calgary for James Neal in July 2019, he gave a verbal agreement to waive his NMC. At that time, Lucic wanted a change of scenery and was more than willing to waive expansion draft protection to make it happen.
He’s kept his word and made it official.
Lucic has been one of the lone bright spots on the Flames this season, providing leadership and physicality on the third line where he’s added nine goals and 20 points en route to his 1,000th NHL game.
With two more years left on a deal paying him $5.25 million annually, chances are low Seattle would consider taking him, which suits Lucic fine.
Kraken GM Ron Francis will likely see his debate on which player he’ll pluck from Calgary revolve around Mark Giordano, Oliver Kylington and Derek Ryan.
If it’s surprising to see Giordano’s name in there, consider the obvious three candidates to be protected on the blueline are Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev.
The Flames refrained from using Juuso Valimaki in last summer’s playoff bubble so he’d remain exempt from the draft like all first- and second-year NHLers are.
Giordano is 37 and has one year left on a deal paying him $6.75 million.
Despite his age and price tag, he could make an excellent leader and cornerstone defenceman for an upstart organization, which means the Flames may have to cough up a significant asset if they want to entice Seattle to pass on the Flames captain.
Treliving is in regular contact with Francis to ensure both have a clear understanding of what the other is thinking.
The mere possibility this could be Giordano’s final season in Calgary is a conversation that makes many Flames fans uncomfortable as the Norris Trophy winner is wildly popular for all he’s done on and off the ice as an undrafted success story.
“At the end of the day you’re going to lose a player,” said Treliving of a reality no GM is thrilled about.
“After the fact you look at the Vegas expansion and everyone is a lot smarter in hindsight. How many guys are going to cut deals?”
Not as many.
Sam Bennett would likely have been Seattle’s most obvious target, but his trade to Florida at last month’s deadline for a prospect and a second rounder leaves the Kraken with very few enticing options.
Bennett’s departure also opened up a small quandary for the Flames as the club is now one forward short of satisfying the NHL’s requirements of making at least two forwards available who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played at least 27 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 54 NHL games the prior two seasons.
Brett Ritchie is one game away from satisfying those requirements, but would have to be re-signed this summer as he is an unrestricted free agent.
Other options could include acquiring a player from elsewhere or re-signing Josh Leivo, Joakim Nordstrom, Dominik Simon or Ryan.
Ryan is an unrestricted free agent this summer who has extensive ties to the Pacific Northwest where the Spokane, Wash., native spends his summers and played his junior hockey.
The Kraken have an exclusive window before the expansion draft in which they can negotiate with unrestricted free agents, and if they chose to ink Ryan he would count as Seattle’s lone selection from the Flames.
That’s how Deryk Engelland wound up being the Flames player selected by Vegas in its expansion draft.
The Flames will obviously protect Jacob Markstrom as their goalie, leaving Tyler Parsons as their exposed netminder.
The injury-ridden Parsons, who played his first game in over a year last month for the Stockton Heat, needs only to be qualified as a restricted free agent to satisfy the league’s requirements for an exposed netminder.
Again, the template the Flames have almost certainly been looking at all season long could now be ripe for an overhaul given the obvious need to retool the franchise following this lost season.
Will one or several of the team’s cornerstones be traded this summer?
Will Treliving be the one in charge of such moves?
Does Seattle have interest in Giordano? Or Ryan?
With one stroke of the pen Lucic has done well to preserve at least one of the team’s most coveted assets.
CALGARY’S LIKELY EXPANSION DRAFT SCENARIO
Protected forwards (7)
Minimum exposed (2): Lucic and another player to be acquired/signed.
Protected defencemen (3)
Minimum exposed (1): Giordano
Protected goalie (1)
Minimum exposed (1): Parsons