Toronto is in a great spot this expansion draft, as the majority of their young stars are exempt from the Expansion Draft, thanks to their rookie contracts. Just to clarify, Matthews, Nylander, Marner, Kapanen, Zaitsev, Hyman and company are all exempt from the hands of George Mcphee. With that in mind, Horton who is on the long term IR is also exempt.
One name we must discuss ahead of time is Brian Boyle. A veteran in the league is in a tough position. He is a UFA come July first and can go to any team afterward. By doing so, the Leafs can informally agree to a contract with him, or mutually agree he will not sign in Toronto. In which case he will not be protected in the draft. Because he is a UFA, he won’t necessarily have to sign with Vegas either. The unpredictability of Boyle’s contract will free up a spot to protect another player under contract.
Forwards the Leafs are likely to protect: JVR, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Connor Brown, Josh Leivo and … Brian Boyle or Matt Martin?
The reason I placed the huge question mark beside Martin’s name is simply because I truly don’t know whether or not he is worth protecting, and whether or not the Leafs will protect the UFA in Boyle. The rest of the exposed forwards for the Leafs are all extremely expendable. The majority of players listed below are not full time Leafs, UFA’s at the end of this year, or are simply unremarkable players in the league.
- Joffrey Lupul – Injured, likely never to play for the Leafs again.
- Brooks Laich – UFA – if they can sign him, he’d be a great depth option.
- Milan Michalek – UFA
- Colin Greening – UFA
- Eric Fehr – Honestly he is my pick for Vegas. He won’t leave a hole in the Leafs, but is the most experienced player on this list who can actually play. He is signed for longer than a season, and has been an NHL regular for years.
- Ben Smith – battled for a depth position on the fourth line, with Boyle brought in he was replaced.
- Seth Griffith, Kerby Rychel and Brendan Leipsic all show promise, but no NHL experience. As the Leafs are stacked with young talent they could simply be left in the wake of the starting rookies, but these young guns will likely go untouched.
On defence, the Leafs will likely protect Gardner, Reilly, and Conner Carrick.
This exposes: Roman Polak, Martin Marincin, Matt Hunwick, Alexey Marchenko, Steve Olesky, Andrew Campbell.
The back half of these D men are not NHL regulars. If Vegas wants to take a chance on any of them, they will be heeding the risk. There are many depth D men around the league that they could pick from and the Leafs are not a suitable for the team Mcphee is looking to build.
So Leafs fans, this is an expansion draft to celebrate. The teams in the Metro and Atlantic are almost all likely to lose a skilled player or a piece of their future. The Leafs aren’t truly losing an integral part of their roster, nor a young prospect.
My pick: a veteran in Erik Fehr, or Brendan Leipsic.