So who will the Maple Leafs say goodbye to?
With the expansion draft looming on Wednesday, the Leafs protected eight skaters and a goalie before Saturday’s deadline, and the rosters were released Sunday. The Seattle Kraken will have to remove the hands of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin, Justin Holl and Jack Campbell.
There really was no debate about four of the forwards, three defenders and the goalkeeper. But the inclusion of Holl, a 29-year-old mid-pair defender, over forwards Alex Kerfoot and newly acquired Jared McCann is sure to spark a debate in the team, at least until Seattle makes its selection.
Exposed to the Kraken are Kerfoot, McCann, Travis Dermott, Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza, Pierre Engvall and Adam Brooks. If the Kraken takes McCann, the 25-year-old will have acted as insurance to keep the versatile Kerfoot. You could see it as the Leafs losing a prospect (Filip Hallander) and a 2023 seventh-round pick in the expansion process. That was the price they paid to the Penguins, who thought they would lose McCann in Seattle for nothing else.
If the Kraken takes Kerfoot, then McCann is its replacement and cheaper. Kerfoot has one year left at $ 3.5 million (US), McCann one year left at $ 2.94 million. The difference of around $ 600,000 may not seem like much. But for the Leafs, who only have about $ 6.4 million in capitalization space as-is, it could make a difference.
A case had to be made to protect Dermott, five years younger than Holl, or seven forwards (including Kerfoot and McCann) but only three defenders, meaning both Holl and Dermott would be exposed. But the Leafs chose to trust Holl, a lanky, late-blooming, dexterous defender.
Now Seattle General Manager Ron Francis has a list to build. You can also speak to any pending free agents, who have the same rights as the player’s team. That gives Francis the opportunity to offer eight-year contracts to players like Zach Hyman, Taylor Hall and Dougie Hamilton if he chooses. You have a lot to go over in the next few days.
Francis is believed to have a deal for Florida free agent goalie Chris Driedger. But some other options, notably Montreal star Carey Price, were left unprotected.
Price would be a tempting pick, given he’s from the Pacific Northwest and a true star. It would be a bit like Marc-André Fleury fell into the lap of the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft four years ago. Price had to waive his no-move clause.
The logic, on behalf of Montreal CEO Marc Bergevin, is this: the price is very expensive with a cap of $ 10.5 million and you owe $ 54 million over the next four years. You must doubt that Francis bites. This allowed Bergevin to protect Price’s backup Jake Allen, who could be the number one goalkeeper elsewhere and could have been a target for Seattle. Allen led the Canadiens in the regular season when Price was injured, while Price took over for the Stanley Cup final. Price, however, can appreciate a move closer to home in BC.
Other tempting goalkeepers: Minnesota’s Kaapo Kahkonen, Vancouver’s Braden Holtby, Ottawa’s Matt Murray, Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith and San Jose’s Martin Jones.
A joke can be made about who won the Shea Weber-PK Subban trade with both of them exposed. Weber’s future is in doubt due to injuries, and Subban is likely no longer worth the $ 9 million salary cap.
There are types of leadership available, including Calgary captain Mark Giordano, and some decent record boosters like Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo, Anaheim’s Kevin Shattenkirk, and Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere. Josh Brown of Ottawa, at 5’8 ” and 27 years old with a $ 1.2 million contract, might be worth a try. He’s probably the best Senator player available and he shoots with his right hand.
Francis could also take the free agency route here for Carolina’s Hamilton or St. Louis’s Vince Dunn. Boston’s Jeremy Lauzon, Detroit’s Troy Stetcher and Columbus’s Dean Kukan would also be welcome additions to any team’s bottom pair.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have to be thankful that they are only going to lose one player. Will it be Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson? Francis could get off the board and try to squeeze Lightning’s manager Julien BriseBois for a bit more to get rid of some headaches. But Gourde could easily be the Kraken’s number one center between the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko and perhaps Washington’s Conor Sheary. Tarasenko has asked St. Louis for a change.
A second line could feature Nashville’s Ryan Johansen, looking for a fresh start after a 22-point season, with Carolina’s Nino Niederreiter and Florida’s Joonas Donskoi, though if Driedger’s reports are correct, the rest of Florida’s players they are out of the game. Maybe Francis takes James van Riemsdyk from the Flyers and leaves Gostisbehere alone.
The Leafs’ Kerfoot could center a third row with Josh Bailey or Jordan Eberle of the Islanders plus Brendan Lemieux of the Kings. Edmonton’s Devin Shore, six-foot-one, could run in the middle in a big, youthful fourth line with six-foot-five Julien Gauthier of the New York Rangers and six-foot-two Christian Fischer of the Arizona Coyotes.
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