Giordano or Tanev? Flames face tough Kraken expansion draft question

Giordano or Tanev? Flames still face tough Kraken expansion draft question
Getty Images
1 Comment

Peruse Cap Friendly’s fantastic Seattle Kraken expansion draft simulator, or merely leaf through various protected player projections, and you might note that it’s still unclear how many NHL teams will handle all this. Who are the right players to expose or protect? Rank the Calgary Flames among the teams facing the toughest expansion draft protection questions.

Now, for teams like the Penguins, the possibilities feel overwhelming.

In some cases, it’s not yet clear if teams will protect players from the Seattle Kraken in the more typical 7-3-1 expansion draft format (seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie) or go with eight skaters of any kind (you’d assume four forwards and four defensemen) and a goalie.

If various reports are correct, the Flames’ burning Kraken expansion draft protection question is straightforward. But choosing between Mark Giordano and Christopher Tanev might not necessarily be “easy.”

(Note: the Flames are virtually certain to protect Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson as two of their three defensemen. Thus, it comes down to Tanev or Giordano [or a bribe/side deal].)

The case for Flames protecting Tanev instead of Giordano

When the Flames signed Chris Tanev to a four-year, $18 million contract, it honestly seemed like a mistake. This was an aging, one-dimensional player whose defensive dimension didn’t even look so hot in 2019-20.

To put things mildly, Tanev exceeded expectations in 2020-21. For a largely disappointing Flames team, Tanev ended up being one of the stingiest defenders in the NHL. With Giordano taking a step back, you could argue Tanev brought more value to the table last season.

Check out how they compared at even-strength by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts:

Tanev Giordano RAPM Giordano or Tanev? Flames still face tough Kraken expansion draft question
via Evolving Hockey

Tanev, 31, carries a $4.5M cap hit for three more seasons. Meanwhile, Giordano, 37, sees his contract ($6.75M AAV) expire after 2021-22.

Considering Tanev’s younger age, and strong 2020-21 season, The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian and other Flames observers believe that the team should protect Tanev. That would mean exposing Giordano, or working out a side deal with the Kraken.

There’s room to debate the matter further, though.

Possible slippage for Tanev?

When you start zooming out, two things become a bit more complicated.

  1. Comparing Giordano vs. Tanev, as players.
  2. Considering their contracts, and perhaps trade scenarios.

It’s reasonable to expect Tanev to deliver strong defense in 2021-22. That said, it’s fair to wonder if we’ll always see “2019-20 Tanev.” One reason people grimaced at his contract was that, even late in his Canucks years, it looked like his rugged style was starting to catch up with him.

Frankly, it’s remarkable how much things change if you tweak your view. When a three-year Evolving Hockey player card goes from 2018-19 through 2020-21, Tanev looks like a defensive stud. And you don’t worry much about negligible offense:

Tanev last three
via Evolving Hockey

If you merely change the range from 2017-18 to 2019-20, things look a little shakier:

Tanev prev three Giordano or Tanev? Flames still face tough Kraken expansion draft question
via Evolving Hockey

(Meanwhile Giordano shines under just about all parameters.)

It’s not 100-percent clear if Tanev will be more worth keeping in sheer hockey terms next season. GAR projections, for instance, predict comparable defensive results for both, with Giordano bringing more offense.

So, while Tanev delivered great value in 2020-21, there’s a chance for slippage.

Comparing contracts: a matter of perspective

It’s important to note that Tanev at $4.5M looks great now, but it might not age well. (Strangely enough, there are even louder worries about Brandon Tanev. Tanev’s a very nice player, yet term and cap hit present a cost-benefit question.)

Of course, at 37, Giordano’s at an even greater risk for a collapse. That’s fair even if you realize that Giordano isn’t that far removed from a Norris Trophy win, and profiles as a more well-rounded player than Tanev.

But context is crucial, too.

If the Flames were a no-doubt contender, then it would make total sense to try to keep the band together as much as possible. Tanev’s additional years, and younger age, would make him a clear choice over Giordano. That would be true even if Tanev played over his head last season.

Instead, the Flames are in a murky spot. Calgary missed the playoffs despite a wonky North Division, and it’s unclear if they’ll maintain most of that Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanMatthew Tkachuk core.

With that in mind, Giordano’s contract becomes a potential building block for the future. The Flames could trade Giordano, either during the offseason or around the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Even if Giordano walked, he wouldn’t totally walk for nothing. His $6.75M cap hit would dissolve, giving the Flames leeway to add for the future.

If that’s the path the Flames are considering (or at least want as an option), then suddenly losing Giordano to the Seattle Kraken looks a lot worse. Elliotte Friedman recently pondered the Kraken selecting Giordano and then merely trading him in “31 Thoughts.”

A tough call

Really, it’s understandable if the Flames are pondering exposing Giordano, but bribing the Kraken not to take him in the expansion draft. That could create an even uglier scenario if the Flames fall on their faces once again in 2021-22. Especially if the bribe would cost more than they’d receive if they decided to trade Giordano later.

Losing Tanev in the expansion draft would be agonizing for the Flames, as well, though. Especially if he plays at or near the level of defense he provided last season.

Perhaps the Flames would just be “pulling off the Band-Aid” if they just exposed Giordano to the Kraken? Maybe Giordano’s age (and even his $6.75M AAV) would scare Seattle off? If nothing else, that would provide the Flames with extra cap space to work with this offseason.

(Look at how much future money the Wild burned with those Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, in part to gear up this summer.)

Overall, the Giordano – Tanev expansion draft question is a difficult one for the Flames. Really, this franchise faces plenty of riddles this offseason. It’s one of those times where maybe it’s not so sad that running a hockey team is merely a fantasy for most of us.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

blackhawks
Harry How/Getty Images
13 Comments

CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

Getty Images
3 Comments

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.