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A Slightly Less Early Look at the Leafs and the Seattle Expansion Draft

Today, finally, the 32nd team to join the NHL has a name.

While many are taking the time to discuss how sweet those jerseys are, or how awesome it is that the front office staff is 49% women and 24% are persons of colour, this is a Leafs blog so we’re really here to answer one question.

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How Does This Affect the Leafs?

To put the cart before the horse: one of Travis Dermott or Justin Holl will probably be playing for Seattle.

In more detail: at the end of the next NHL season, Seattle will get a chance to pick one player from each of the non-Vegas NHL teams. The NHL has stated that the exact same rules will apply for Seattle as they did for Vegas, which makes punditry nice and easy. We can probably make this same article 15 to 20 times before the draft actually happens, since we have so much time to prepare! 

This will be, by my count, the fourth article we’ve released on this site posing the Seattle expansion draft question, with the latest being Jon Steitzer’s look back in April. Of course, our perspective on this team can’t have changed much since April, since they haven’t been playing. However, it’ll still be fun to hash this question out from one additional perspective.

The same players will be exempt from the draft, I will list those again with the addition of two recent acquisitions by the Leafs (bolded):

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EXEMPT AGE POS CAP HIT EXPIRY
ABRAMOV, MIKHAIL 19 F $810,000 RFA (2023)
SCOTT, IAN 21 G $805,833 RFA (2022)
ROBERTSON, NICHOLAS 18 F $850,000 RFA (2022)
DER-ARGUCHINTSEV, SEMYON 19 F $783,333 RFA (2022)
HOLLOWELL, MAC 21 D $799,766 RFA (2022)
SANDIN, RASMUS 20 D $894,167 RFA (2022)
LILJEGREN, TIMOTHY 20 D $863,333 RFA (2022)
DUSZAK, JOSEPH 22 D $800,000 RFA (2021)
WOLL, JOSEPH 21 G $800,000 RFA (2021)
KORSHKOV, YEGOR 23 F $925,000 RFA (2021)
LEHTONEN, MIKKO 26 D $925,000 RFA (2021)
BARABANOV, ALEXANDER 25 F $925,000 RFA (2021)
MIKHEYEV, ILYA 25 F $925,000 RFA (2020)
KIVIHALME, TEEMU 24 D $792,500 RFA (2020)

There are a number of players who we may not need to worry about, but we’re not sure yet. These are players who will become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) at the end of this season or next season. Here is that list, with 2021 FAs in italics.

FREE AGENTS AGE POS CAP HIT EXPIRY
BARRIE, TYSON 28 D $5,500,000 UFA (2020)
CECI, CODY 26 D $4,500,000 UFA (2020)
CLIFFORD, KYLE 29 F $1,600,000 UFA (2020)
SALOMÄKI, MIIKKA 27 F $750,000 UFA (2020)
SPEZZA, JASON 36 F $700,000 UFA (2020)
GAUDET, TYLER 26 F $700,000 UFA (2020)
GRAVEL, KEVIN 28 D $700,000 UFA (2020)
LORITO, MATT 29 F $675,000 UFA (2020)
KASKISUO, KASIMIR 26 G $675,000 UFA (2020)
HYMAN, ZACH 28 F $2,250,000 UFA (2021)
ROSEN, CALLE 26 D $750,000 UFA (2021)
MARINCIN, MARTIN 28 D $700,000 UFA (2021)
ANDERSEN, FREDERIK 30 G $5,000,000 UFA (2021)
AGOSTINO, KENNY 26 F $737,500 UFA (2021)
KOSSILA, KALLE 26 F $700,000 UFA (2021)
WILSON, GARRETT 29 F $725,000 UFA (2021)
PETAN, NICOLAS 25 F $775,000 RFA (2021)
LINDGREN, JESPER 23 D $775,833 RFA (2021)

Many of these 2020 free agents, were they to come back with the Leafs after the conclusion of this season, would probably be on 1-year deals anyways, with the obvious exception of Tyson Barrie, and the possible exception of Kyle Clifford. For the sake of this post, I will assume that Toronto does not re-sign either of these players.

Release the… Protection Lists!

With all of that said, let’s get to what Toronto’s protection list will probably look like. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie. As a reminder, here are the rules they have to follow when making players available in the draft:

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  • Players with no-movement clauses who decline to waive those clauses must be protected.
  • First- and second-year NHL players and all unsigned draft choices are exempt from selection and do not count toward protection limits.
  • One available player must be a defenseman who is under contract in 2021-22 and played at least 40 NHL games in 2020-21 or 70 games in ’19-20 and ’20-21 combined.
  • Two available players must be forwards who are under contract in 2021-22 and played at least 40 NHL games in 2020-21 or 70 games in ’19-20 and ’20-21 combined.
  • One available player must be a goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or who is a restricted free agent having received a qualifying offer from his team.
  • Players who missed the final 60 games of the ’20-21 season or who have otherwise been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury cannot be exposed in the draft without league approval.

Forwards

It’s pretty clear that the Leafs won’t have more than three defenders that they want to protect, which would be the only reason to choose the “8 skaters/1 goalie” option. So for the forwards, they will likely choose to protect the following 7 players:

  1. John Tavares (NMC)
  2. Auston Matthews
  3. Mitchell Marner
  4. William Nylander
  5. Pierre Engvall
  6. Alexander Kerfoot
  7. Andreas Johnsson

Leaving Zach Hyman (UFA), Kapanen, and the above-mentioned free agents exposed to be picked by Seattle.

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On Hyman: all indications are that Toronto loves Hyman and has no intention of losing him. However, the Seattle expansion draft will probably happen before the July 1st deadline to re-sign Hyman. As such, Toronto could leave him unprotected and unsigned, then re-sign him once the expansion draft is over. That allows them two of Johnsson/Kerfoot/Kapanen to be protected, if they aren’t moved.

Of course, Toronto is looking to make some moves to improve upon the team, and will probably end up using Kerfoot/Johnsson/Kapanen to do it since they’re expensive players to have in your bottom six forwards. If one or more of those players are moved, Toronto will have to sign some players through 2022 that have the required “two forwards with 40 games in 2021-22 or 70 games across 2019-21”. One option would be keeping 4th-line-mainstay Frederik Gauthier around. Another would be adding a cheap 4th line player this offseason who is signed for at least two more years.

My assumption will be that they trade one of Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, maybe not specifically for an upgrade on defence but traded to create space at least, and leave Zach Hyman exposed as a UFA.

Defense

For the defenders, as it stands now, the Leafs would probably protect the following three players:

  1. Morgan Rielly
  2. Jake Muzzin
  3. Travis Dermott (RFA 2020)

However, were the Leafs to find a significant player to improve their defence in the upcoming offseason, or at next year’s NHL draft, that will leave Travis Dermott exposed to Seattle. Similarly to Zach Hyman, all indications are that Toronto want Travis Dermott to remain a part of this team. And, similarly, they could sign Dermott to a 1-year deal this offseason so that he’s a restricted free agent (RFA) again in 2021. However, Seattle would still be able to select Dermott and hold on to his rights, even if he did not want to sign with them.

Justin Holl will also have to be exposed, unfortunately, but this does satisfy the requirement of “one defender under contract with 40 games in 2020-21 or 70 across 2019-21.”

My assumption will be that Toronto uses the assets they acquired in the Johnsson/Kapanen trades (not limited to the one of the most important assets for Toronto: cap space) to get a top 4 defender that will have to be protected from Seattle.

Goalies

Lastly, for the goalies, it’s a little tougher to predict, because unlike Zach Hyman, it’s not abundantly clear that Toronto will re-sign Frederik Andersen when his contract is up in 2021. If they were to make the decision to leave Frederik Andersen unsigned when the expansion draft comes, regardless of their future plans with him, they could leave him unprotected and protect Jack Campbell instead. However, they would then have to have a goalie signed to satisfy the requirements of the “one goalie under contract in 2021-22” rule. My assumption is that this is the route they will go, so they will protect:

  1. Jack Campbell

This would leave a UFA Frederik Andersen and some third goalie signed through until 2021-22 available to be selected by Seattle. There is no # of games requirement, so it could be any old goaltender that they can park in the minors for two years, as long as his contract is good through until the 2021-22 season.

Who Will Stay and Who Will Go?

To re-cap, I am assuming that the Leafs will:

  1. Trade away one of Johnsson and Kapanen
  2. Leave Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen unsigned going into the expansion draft
  3. Acquire a good defender
  4. Acquire or bring up from the Marlies two depth forwards that can be exposed
  5. Acquire a depth goaltender that can be exposed

This puts us with the following players that Seattle could take:

  1. Justin Holl
  2. Travis Dermott (RFA 2020)
  3. Frederik Andersen (UFA 2021)
  4. Zach Hyman (UFA 2021)
  5. Nic Petan (RFA 2021)
  6. Adam Brooks
  7. Jeremy Bracco (RFA 2020)
  8. Denis Malgin (RFA 2020 and probably going to play in Russia)
  9. Pontus Aberg (RFA 2020, UFA in 2021 if signed for 1 year)
  10. Max Veronneau (RFA 2020)
  11. Kalle Kossila (RFA 2021)
  12. Kenny Agostino (UFA 2021)

Looking at this, it’s fairly obvious that they will take whoever they prefer between Justin Holl and Travis Dermott, as mentioned above.

Is there anything you would do differently? Put your protection list in the comments with whatever wacky assumptions you can come up with. Have some fun with it.

And go Kraken… I mean… Go Leafs Go!