When the Vegas Golden Knights were announced as the NHL’s 31st team last June, the thought of an expansion draft was an intriguing, but a far off concept.
Fast-forward 12 months and the rest of the NHL is getting ready to lose a player each to the new Vegas squad.
On Sunday, teams submitted their protected players lists, either choosing to save seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goaltender, or eight skaters and one goalie.
The Calgary Flames chose the former, electing to protect Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett, Curtis Lazar, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, and the newly acquired Mike Smith.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) June 18, 2017
With those 11 protected, there are 21 players under contract by the Flames that are up for grabs ahead of Wednesday’s roster reveal.
Here are the five Flames most likely to move from the Stampede City to Sin City this week:
Aside from goaltending, there weren’t too many question marks when it came to who Calgary would protect from Vegas.
That is, except for winger Troy Brouwer.
Signed to a four-year, $18 million contract by the Flames last summer, Brouwer had a rough outing in his first season with the Flames.
Scoring just 13 goals and 25 points in 74 games, it was the lowest offensive output of the assistant captain’s nine-year NHL career.
Calgary left Brouwer exposed hoping that Vegas GM George McPhee will pick up the rest of the winger’s deal, as he is set to earn $4.5 million through 2019-20.
Don’t forget that McPhee traded for Brouwer from Chicago while with the Washington Capitals in 2011, and Brouwer could step into a leadership role on a likely inexperienced Golden Knights team.
During the Flames’ magical 2014-15 season, Lance Bouma broke out as a sturdy, depth winger able to play anywhere through the lineup.
Since then, Bouma’s game has been hampered by injuries and inconsistent play resulting in the Provost, Alberta native dropping from 15 goals to just five over the last two seasons combined.
At 27-years-old, Bouma has dropped in the lineup to healthy scratch status despite entering what should be the prime of his career.
A change of scenery might benefit Bouma, as he could still serve in a bottom-six role with the Golden Knights.
And depending on who Vegas could surround him with, there still remains a chance he could find that power forward-esque style of game in the desert.
Most of what has been said about Bouma can apply to centre Matt Stajan as well.
One of the longest-serving members of the Flames’ forward core, Stajan is entering the final year of his $3.125 million contract.
Although scoring has never been a key part of Stajan’s game in Calgary, last year he posted six goals and 23 points in a fourth-line role for the Flames.
Like Brouwer, Stajan could be selected due to his leadership abilities and his knack for connecting with the community, as Stajan has become a fan favourite away from the rink.
Vegas must get to at least 60% of the salary cap ceiling through the expansion draft, and taking on a pricier contract with one year remaining could be a viable option for the Golden Knights.
Aside from possibly Matt Bartkowski, Stone is looking like the Flames’ only top six defensive option for Vegas.
Brought over in a deal from Arizona in February, Stone played in 19 games for Calgary and racked up six points and 20 penalty minutes.
An unrestricted free agent this off-season, Stone presents an interesting option for McPhee and the rest of the Golden Knights.
Vegas is in the middle of a 72-hour window where they have exclusive rights to meet and sign upcoming free agents, such as Stone.
If Vegas were to sign the 26-year-old, Calgary would be off the hook in regards to giving up an additional player through the expansion draft.
Stone has proven to be a consistent, top-four defender in the NHL and could be an enticing expansion chip.
With Matthew Tkachuk, Jon Gillies, Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington all exempt due to rookie contracts, the Flames don’t have too many prospects out in the open.
Hunter Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier are available for Vegas but if they were to go young, the most likely sacrificial lamb would be blueliner Brett Kulak.
Spitting time with Calgary and the AHL’s Stockton Heat last year, Kulak scored three points in 21 games with the Flames and another 10 in 22 games in Stockton.
Posting 60 points in his final year of junior hockey, it’s not out of the question that Kulak could become a strong, two-way defender in the NHL.
If Vegas is alright with being patient with a prospect that is still at least one year away from being a mainstay NHL’er, Kulak could be a fit in the Golden Knights system.