KOSHAN: Losing Kerfoot in expansion draft would help Leafs financially, but create another depth hole

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A best-case scenario for the Maple Leafs in the expansion draft next Wednesday would be the loss of forward Alex Kerfoot.


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Financially, we mean. Certainly not for Toronto’s depth chart.

It’s not that the Leafs would be happy to see Kerfoot leave and become a member of the Seattle Kraken — the 26-year-old has demonstrated a commendable versatility with Toronto in two seasons after being acquired from Colorado — but it would allow the Leafs more room within their off-season budget.

Clubs across the National Hockey League (minus the relative new kids Vegas Golden Knights, who are exempt) must submit their protected lists by 5 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.

The Kraken’s initial roster, including at least 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goalies, will be revealed on Wednesday night.

NHL teams have the choice of protecting seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie; or eight skaters and one goalie.


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Our thinking is that Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas would lean toward going with the latter option. In that case, forwards John Tavares (who must be protected since he has a no-move clause), Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, defencemen Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl and goalie Jack Campbell would be the best group of players to protect.

If it’s 7-3-1, Dubas would open the team to losing Holl or Travis Dermott. Watching either one leave wouldn’t be overly palatable. At an annual average value of $2 million US for each of the next two seasons, Holl has a good contract.

Dermott recently signed for two years with an AAV of $1.5 million. Not only is that type of contract a proper fit for the Leafs, there’s Dermott’s age and background to consider.


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A second-round pick by the Leafs in 2015, Dermott won’t turn 25 until December. While it might be true that the Leafs don’t know absolutely what they have in Dermott, we would make the bet that his best NHL days are ahead of him. The Leafs would be loathe to lose not only a home-grown player, but one who could just as easily prosper with Seattle as he might eventually with Toronto.

No matter who the Leafs lose in the expansion draft — forward Pierre Engvall could be another candidate — it’s bound to hurt more than what happened in 2017, when forward Brendan Leipsic was chosen by Vegas. In his following 181 NHL games with four teams, Leipsic scored just 15 goals and spent last season with CSKA Moscow in the KHL.

As of Friday afternoon, Dubas had approximately $9.3 million of space under the $81.5-million cap at his disposal. With 17 players on the NHL roster, Dubas has some adding to do (most crucially in net, unless the club manages to find a way to keep Frederik Andersen), and Kerfoot’s AAV — $3.5 million in each of the next two seasons — would give Dubas more cash with which to work.


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If Kerfoot’s contract was off the books, would there be enough to retain winger Zach Hyman, who is headed for unrestricted free agency on July 28? Probably not, though Hyman’s first choice would be to stay with his hometown team and presumably finish his career in Toronto. 

Now that Todd Reynolds, the agent for Hyman, has been given permission by the Leafs to speak to other NHL teams, interest in the 29-year-old is picking up across the league.

As of Friday, the expectation was that at least one-third of NHL general managers, if they had not already, were lining up serious proposals to land Hyman.

Of the clubs that have shown interest, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are thought to be in the thick of it. Seattle has made inquiries as well.

If Hyman gets a deal to his liking before July 28, the Leafs will attempt to work out a trade so Hyman isn’t lost for nothing.

While the expectation has been that Hyman will have a new contract for six or seven years, we’re told that more than a few clubs are fine with an eight-year pact if they can work out a sign-and-trade with the Leafs.

And never mind $5 million a year for the services of Hyman, who was paid $2.5 million in each of the past two seasons. Something in the range of $6-million is probable.

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