NHL Expansion Draft: Toronto Maple Leafs Primer

NHL Expansion Draft: Toronto Maple Leafs Primer

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Toronto Maple Leafs expansion draft primier

The Maple Leafs rebounded from a last place finish in 2016 to getting to the playoffs for the first time in four years due mostly to the exploits of a roster heavily populated with rookies, including Calder Trophy nominee Auston Matthews, forwards William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev.

The rookie invasion in Toronto has GM Lou Lamoriello in a fortuitous position entering the expansion draft, as his club does not have any players with no-movement clauses, most of the youngsters are exempt from being selected and that allows the Leafs to protect most of their veterans.

Forward Decisions

Toronto has four players in Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown and James van Riemsdyk that are locks to be protected unless there is a trade made before the final protected list is submitted.

Brown and van Riemsdyk (in the final year of his contract) have been rumored to be what it would cost for the Leafs to acquire a top-four defenseman.

It is likely that two of the remaining three spots would be occupied by veteran wingers Leo Komarov and Matt Martin, both favorites of head coach Mike Babcock who provide leadership and intangibles. The remaining spot will be a choice between Josh Leivo, Kerby Rychel and Brendan Leipsic.

Leivo was kept on the NHL roster for fear of being claimed off of waivers and recorded 10 points in 13 games, but could never break through as a regular. Rychel led the AHL Toronto Marlies in scoring with 52 points, but there is some question of whether he has the speed to play in the NHL. Leipsic,22, missed nearly half the season with concussion issues, but has the speed and skill to succeed at the next level.

Defense Decisions

Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are sure to be on the Leafs protected list and the exemption of Zaitsev gives Toronto an open spot to protect a defenseman if they choose to make a deal before the expansion draft.

If the status quo remains, Connor Carrick will likely be the third blueliner, ahead of Alexey Marchenko and Martin Marincin. The 23-year-old is a former draft pick of George McPhee in Washington and played most of the season on the second pairing with Gardiner, but saw limited ice time in the playoffs.

Goaltender Decisions

The Golden Knights will not find much help in the goaltending area from the Leafs. Starter Frederik Andersen will be protected and one of RFA minor leaguers Garret Sparks or Antoine Bibeau will receive a qualifying offer to be the available netminder.

Projected protected players and their cap hits
Forwards

Nazem Kadri – $4,500,000 through 2022

James van Riemsdyk – $4,250,000 through 2018

Tyler Bozak – $4,200,000 through 2018

Leo Komarov – $2,950,000 through 2018

Matt Martin – $2,500,000 through 2020

Connor Brown – $686,667  RFA

Brendan Leipsic – $653,333  RFA

Defensemen

Morgan Rielly – $5,000,000 through 2022

Jake Gardiner – $4,050,000 through 2019

Connor Carrick – $750,000 through 2018

Goalie

Frederik Andersen – $5,000,000 through 2021

Likely Expansion loss for Toronto

The three most likely selections off the Leafs roster are Leivo, Rychel and Marchenko

If the Leafs were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why?

Toronto can absorb the loss of a young forward, since they have many of them in the organization, but it is possible that if they chose to protect Rychel or Leivo and expose a veteran in Komarov, that the Leafs would give Vegas a draft pick to not take the feisty Finn.

If Toronto does move van Riemsdyk for a defenseman, Carrick would be vulnerable and the Leafs could use him as an enticement to prevent McPhee from taking a player they do not want to lose.