It’s finally here. The Vegas expansion draft is officially in-process right now, with teams’ protected lists now unveiled to the public and the Golden Knights themselves.
For the Leafs, the big debate among supporters was whether or not Matt Martin would (or should) be protected. Doing so would leave Toronto in a position of having to make a decision on exposing two of Josh Leivo, Kerby Rychel, and Brendan Leipsic.
Well, get ready to rage, because that is indeed what’s happened. Here’s the Leafs’ list of protected players, as first reported by Kristen Shilton:
|F||James van Riemsdyk|
Truthfully, there aren’t any real shocking developments here. As mentioned, the Martin pick has been contested, but I think most expected it to happen. The only other slight surprise is that Leivo was protected, presumably leaving Brendan Leipsic available for Vegas. I’d say most folks who completed a mock draft included Leipsic in the protections, mainly due to Leivo having such a hard time getting into the lineup this past season.
But none of this is set in stone, anyway. Vegas has made it clear they’re looking to make deals to gather up other assets to let teams hold on to players they’re particularly keen on. For all we know, Lamoriello has something else in place to keep Leipsic in the fold. [Remember, in this expansion window, the other 30 teams are only allowed to cut deals with Vegas directly. Otherwise, rosters are locked.]
It should be noted that Toronto will require waivers to send down each of Rychel, Leivo, and Leipsic next year, so perhaps they’re fine with losing one now. I mean, there’s a reasonable chance they ship off all three by the time this summer is over.
Beyond the Leafs’ list, there’s a ton more happening around the league as we see other teams’ exposed players. Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen, for example, have both been left available by Anaheim. Rumours have circulated that the Ducks have something worked out as a side deal to keep those guys, but maybe that’s part of something bigger. Vegas can take players of value and immediately flip them, so that might be something to keep an eye on with regard to the Leafs.
Vegas will have its roster announced at the NHL Awards Show on Wednesday night. This roster freeze that the rest of the league is currently under will be lifted on Thursday morning, where we’ll likely get a better idea of what the Leafs are up to on the trade front.