(April 15, 2016) – A verdict on the potential expansion of the National Hockey League is due ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. While there has been no 100% guaranteed-official format announced, the NHL has discussed a potential format for an Expansion Draft (full details here): Teams will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender OR eight total skaters and one goaltender with the choice belonging to the team. It is unknown what will happen with players who have a No Movement Clause (NMC) or a No Trade Clause (NTC) in their contract, but the same report states that any player in their first or second year of professional play will be exempt. It also looks like each team would lose one player if there is one expansion team, or two if both Las Vegas and Quebec City are awarded teams.

For this 30-part #TFTPB series, we will be taking a closer look at each current NHL team and what players might be available to a new franchise at the conclusion of the 2016-17 NHL season. For the sake of simplicity, players with a NMC/NTC will not be made automatically exempt. All contract and salary information for this series is courtesy of NHLNumbers.com.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

 

FORWARDS:

Top prospect Mitch Marner ($0.925 million) hasn’t started his pro service time clock yet, so he’ll be exempt from selection in an Expansion Draft. As for players who will need protection, Nazem Kadri ($4.100 million this season, $4.500 million starting next season) and P.A. Parenteau ($1.500 million) finished the season 1-2 on the Leafs in points. This summer, Parenteau becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent. Kadri was destined to become a Restricted Free Agent, but the Leafs inked him to a six-year extension earlier this week. Close behind them in points were Leo Komarov ($2.950 million) and Tyler Bozak ($4.200 million).

James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250 million) and prospects William Nylander ($1.744 million) and Kasperi Kapanen ($0.894 million) will be all protected. Brendan Leipsic ($0.894 million) lit up the AHL this season with 54 points in 63 games and will warrant consideration. Leipsic becomes an RFA in 2017. Connor Brown ($0.894 million) posted big AHL numbers both this season and last, with 88 points in 108 total AHL contests. He also had six points when he debuted for the Leafs in seven NHL games this year.

Joffrey Lupul ($5.250 million) has managed just 35 points over the last two seasons (101 games) after putting up 147 points over his first 179 games with Toronto. Michael Grabner ($3.000 million), Milan Michalek ($4.000 million), Brooks Laich ($4.500 million), Colin Greening ($2.650 million) and Brad Boyes ($0.700 million) all become UFAs either this offseason or next, and none are likely to be protected from the Expansion Draft, though Greening has found some success in his limited action as a Leaf this season (15 points in 30 games).

Nathan Horton ($5.300 million) is the highest-paid player on the Maple Leafs at the moment, despite being unlikely to ever play in the NHL again (he has not played since 2014). His contract will be on the books until the end of the 2019-20 NHL season.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Morgan Rielly ($1.744 million this season, $5.000 million starting next season) and Jake Gardiner ($4.050 million) are likely to be the first two defensemen locked up. Gardiner is signed through 2018-19 and Rielly was signed to a six-year extension on the same day as Kadri. For the other spot, Martin Marincin ($0.700 million) and Frank Corrado ($0.700 million) are both RFAs this summer, as well. Prospects Stuart Percy ($1.076 million) and Connor Carrick ($0.783 million) are also options and are also both RFAs this summer.

Matt Hunwick ($1.200 million) and Andrew Campbell ($0.575 million) both become UFAs next year, while T.J. Brennan ($0.675 million) is a UFA this offseason. Stephane Robidas ($3.000 million) will become a UFA after next season.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Jonathan Bernier ($4.150 million) becomes a UFA in 2017. Prospects Garret Sparks ($0.770 million) and Antoine Bibeau ($0.800 million) become RFAs in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

 

THOUGHTS:

The Maple Leafs have committed themselves to building around youth, so they’ll likely center their strategy around their young players. For the forwards, Nylander, Kapanen, Van Riemsdyk and Kadri would be a strong start. For the final three spots, veterans Komorov, Bozak and Parenteau would battle with other young players like Leipsic and Brown.

Like with the forwards, expect the young defensemen to take priority for Toronto. Rielly and Gardiner will likely be joined by another young blueliner. Stuart Percy only has 12 games of NHL experience to-date, but does have 175 games (and 63 points) in the AHL. However, Martin Marincin could push for that spot, as could Matt Hunwick, who ranked second on the Leafs in average ice time this season.

In goal, while both Bibeau and Sparks are young up-and-coming options, Bernier will be just 29 years old at the end of the 2017 offseason. If re-signed ahead of the Expansion Draft, he’d be the goalie protected by Toronto. Bibeau and Sparks are unlikely choices for an expansion team given the talent available elsewhere, but it is possible for the Leafs to lose one of them.

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the Vancouver Canucks.