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|
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:
* 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.