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Expansion draft protection lists are due June 17

What are they, and what decisions do the Leafs have to make?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Washington Capitals - Game Five
There is one easy decision.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

On June 17, every team in the NHL has to submit to the league their list of protected players for the expansion draft. This list tells the Vegas Golden Knights who they may not select in the draft. Any eligible player not protected is available to be taken.

That means all of them, pending UFAs or RFAs, players that don’t meet exposure requirements, players that do, young players, old players, even injured players. Everyone not exempt or protected is up for grabs.

First, let’s talk about exempt players. This means exempt from the entire draft process. They cannot be taken, and they cannot be used to meet exposure requirements. There are a large number of players who fall in this category. Most of them fall under this rule:

All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).

The second category of exempt players is the short list of permanently injured players who the league has declared exempt. The Leafs have two of those: Nathan Horton and Stephane Robidas.

Their full exempt list is:

Maple Leafs Exempt Players

Name Age Position Current Cap Hit
Name Age Position Current Cap Hit
Nathan Horton 31 RW $5,300,000
Auston Matthews 19 C $925,000
Carl Grundström 19 LW $925,000
Trevor Moore 22 LW $925,000
Miro Aaltonen 23 C $925,000
William Nylander 21 C $894,167
Mitchell Marner 20 C $894,167
Frederik Gauthier 22 C $863,333
Kasperi Kapanen 20 RW $863,333
Jeremy Bracco 20 RW $842,500
Andreas Johnsson 22 LW $750,833
Nikita Soshnikov 23 RW $736,667
Tobias Lindberg 21 LW $693,333
Dmytro Timashov 20 LW $693,333
Zach Hyman 24 C $0
Sergei Kalinin 26 RW $0
Nikita Zaitsev 25 D $4,500,000
Calle Rosén 23 D $925,000
Andreas Borgman 21 D $925,000
Travis Dermott 20 D $863,333
Rinat Valiev 22 D $778,333
Andrew Nielsen 20 D $697,500
Justin Holl 25 D $0
Kasimir Kaskisuo 23 G $925,000

Now that we know who to ignore, we can discuss exposure requirements and protection schemes. In making a protection list, teams have to do two things at once, leave the required number of players exposed who meet the criteria and protect only the allowed number.

The exposure requirements are simple:

Player Exposure Requirements

* All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:

i) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

ii) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club's protected list.

The protection schemes are simple as well, it’s just choosing between them that is hard for some teams:

Protected Lists

* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

* All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).

The only person the Leafs have with a no-move clause is Nathan Horton, and he’s been declared exempt, so that’s not an issue.

The job is to go through the list of non-exempt players, pick a set of 9 or 11 players to protect and meet the exposure requirements.

Playing with this on Cap Friendly’s page is more fun than here, but for ease of conversation, I’ll give you the list (the checkmark means the player meets the exposure requirements for games played):

Maple Leafs Exposed Players

Joffrey Lupul 33 LW $5,250,000 UFA (2018) 24GR
Nazem Kadri 26 C $4,500,000 UFA (2022)
James Van Riemsdyk 28 LW $4,250,000 UFA (2018)
Tyler Bozak 31 C $4,200,000 UFA (2018)
Leo Komarov 30 C $2,950,000 UFA (2018)
Matt Martin 28 LW $2,500,000 UFA (2020)
Eric Fehr 31 C $2,000,000 UFA (2018)
Kerby Rychel 22 LW $863,333 RFA (2018) 38GR
Ben Smith 28 RW $650,000 UFA (2018)
Josh Leivo 24 LW $612,500 RFA (2018) 27GR
Seth Griffith 24 RW $0 RFA (2017) 16GR
Milan Michalek 32 LW $0 UFA (2017) 20GR
Brendan Leipsic 23 LW $0 RFA (2017) 40GR
Brooks Laich 33 C $0 UFA (2017)
Connor Brown 23 RW $0 RFA (2017)
Colin Greening 31 LW $0 UFA (2017) 39GR
Brian Boyle 32 C $0 UFA (2017)
Morgan Rielly 23 D $5,000,000 UFA (2022)
Jake Gardiner 26 D $4,050,000 UFA (2019)
Alexey Marchenko 25 D $1,450,000 RFA (2018)
Martin Marincin 25 D $1,250,000 RFA (2018)
Connor Carrick 23 D $750,000 RFA (2018)
Andrew Campbell 29 D $0 UFA (2017) 40GR
Steve Oleksy 31 D $0 UFA (2017) 29GR
Matt Hunwick 32 D $0 UFA (2017)
Roman Polak 31 D $0 UFA (2017)
Frederik Andersen 27 G $5,000,000 UFA (2021)
Antoine Bibeau 23 G $0 RFA (2017)
Garret Sparks 23 G $0 RFA (2017)
Curtis McElhinney 34 G $0 UFA (2017)

Let’s work from bottom to top. The goalie to protect is obvious, and all that’s needed to make someone meet the exposure requirements is a qualifying offer for an RFA.

The defence list is tougher. The Leafs have a lot of forwards to protect, and not a lot of high-quality defenders at risk. They will likely only protect three defencemen. There are five that meet the exposure requirements, so they’ll hit that target by default.

You get three guesses who the Leafs will protect, and the first two don’t count. The third choice is up for debate. After Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, there is no obvious answer.

The forward list is next and the exposure requirements were solved when the Leafs played Ben Smith for a few games (when he was too hurt to be effective even by his standards). That got him to 40 games and the contract extension that followed was all that was needed. Add him to Eric Fehr, and the requirements are met.

Now, which seven do you protect? Who do you risk? Fulemin will have his answers for you tomorrow, and I’ll tell you my scheme one of these days too.