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Maple Leafs Expansion Draft Exposure and Protection Scenarios

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Who can be taken, and who can’t.

NHL: MAY 31 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Canadiens at Maple Leafs Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’ve all talked about the scenarios for the expansion draft and who should be exposed or protected, but here it is right in front of us to see the choices the Leafs have.

Cap Friendly has a tool you can use to look at every team and do a mock draft, but this list is for the Leafs’ fan point of view, so the contract amounts listed are not current, but for this coming season, which is what the Leafs care about.

These are all the players that are not exempt, so if you don’t see someone you expect, it’s because they’re a first or second year pro under the rules. Only one player must be protected, and that’s John Tavares, no one else has a no-move clause in both this season that just ended and the coming year.

Maple Leafs Expansion Draft Eligible Players

Goalies 2021 Contract Defenders 2021 Contract Forwards 2021 Contract
Goalies 2021 Contract Defenders 2021 Contract Forwards 2021 Contract
Jack Campbell $ 1.650 Jake Muzzin $ 5.625 Auston Matthews $ 11.640
Michael Hutchinson $ 0.725 Morgan Rielly $ 5.000 John Tavares $ 11.000
Frederik Andersen UFA TJ Brodie $ 5.000 Mitch Marner $ 10.903
David Rittich UFA Justin Holl $ 2.000 William Nylander $ 6.962
- - Travis Dermott $ 1.500 Alexander Kerfoot $ 3.500
- - Zach Bogosian UFA Pierre Engvall $ 1.250
- - Ben Hutton UFA Wayne Simmonds $ 0.900
- - Calle Rosén UFA Joey Anderson $ 0.750
- - - - Jason Spezza $ 0.750
- - - - Adam Brooks $ 0.725
- - - - Riley Nash UFA
- - - - Zach Hyman UFA
- - - - Nick Foligno UFA
- - - - Alex Galchenyuk UFA
- - - - Stefan Noesen UFA
- - - - Nic Petan RFA
- - - - Kenny Agostino UFA
- - - - Joe Thornton UFA
- - - - Scott Sabourin UFA
- - - - Denis Malgin RFA

There are two protection formulas:

  • Seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie
  • Eight skaters and one goalie

There are three exposure requirements no matter the protection formula:

  • One goalie
  • One defender
  • Two forwards

Exposure rules require that the player is under contract for 2021-2022, and that they’ve met the games-played threshold for their position. On this list, the only players who don’t meet the exposure rules and are currently under contract are Adam Brooks and Joey Anderson.

There are enough players under contract now to use either protection formula and meet the exposure rules.

The only reason not to use the first protection formula is to protect more than three defencemen. If the Leafs were to protect the top four defenders on that list and then the top four forwards, they’d be exposing:

  • Travis Dermott
  • Alexander Kerfoot
  • Pierre Engvall
  • Wayne Simmonds
  • Joey Anderson
  • Jason Spezza
  • Adam Brooks
  • All the UFAs and RFAs

Seattle can make a deal with and then sign a UFA or RFA and have that count as their selection. They can also select someone who does not meet the exposure criteria, so if they really wanted Joey Anderson, they can take him.

The assumption is the choice in this scenario is Dermott or Kerfoot.

If the Leafs use the first protection formula, and protected the highest AAV forwards under contract they would be leaving exposed:

  • Justin Holl
  • Travis Dermott
  • Joey Anderson
  • Jason Spezza
  • Adam Brooks
  • All the UFAs and RFAs

They could protect Spezza instead of Simmonds, but both of those players are safe to expose because Spezza simply won’t play anywhere else, and the no-trade clauses and salary structure in Simmonds’ deal make him a very unattractive “veteran presents” selection.

The assumption is the choice here is Dermott or Holl.

There is no structure where the choice is Dermott and someone unlikely to be missed in a meaningful way, so while Dermott’s contract looks like it was signed simply to have him be Seattle’s choice, that’s not certain.

Unless the Leafs make a trade, they have to pick one set of minor gambles over another. My take has always been that there should be no good reason to use the eight skater formula and protect four defenders on the Leafs. Neither Holl nor Dermott, when looked at out of the team context, are particularly valuable players. But unless the Leafs are certain they can add a legitimate top-four defender (either Rasmus Sandin or a new player added in trade or free agency) then they can’t just let Holl go. He can play a top-four role that Travis Dermott cannot, or more importantly, will not with Sheldon Keefe as the coach.

In short, the Leafs like Holl more than most of you do, more than I do, because they have to consider the context of roster construction and who they can afford to add.

The choice really is Holl or Kerfoot, with a wish held in the heart that Seattle chooses Dermott. Alexander Kerfoot isn’t a terribly valuable player either, and has some five-on-five value and not much else. But he is, like Holl, filling a role that has to be filled by someone else if he’s to be lost. His cap hit won’t be missed, but having a centre who can play wing on the top six when needed is a characteristic shared by zero other players on the Maple Leafs.

This protection scenario question makes one thing very obvious — it’s nearly irrelevant to the future of the Maple Leafs. What is relevant is all the holes on the roster that already exist, not the prospect of one more with the loss of a player to Seattle. Good teams usually give up a usable roster player in an Expansion Draft. The trouble with the Leafs right now is that they don’t have any extras.

You can and you will argue for days yet over which peripheral player will get taken and what it all means, but what it really means is that there are too few players better than Holl, Kerfoot and Dermott, or you’d be more indifferent to their fate.