Appearing on Sportsnet Central after the conclusion of the 2021 expansion draft, Elliotte Friedman provided a recap on the Leafs’ expansion draft decisions and the possibility of a sign-and-trade with Edmonton involving pending-UFA Zach Hyman.
Quite simply, Pittsburgh and Toronto realized Seattle liked McCann and Kerfoot. They worked it out where Pittsburgh got something in case they lost something — Hallander and a seventh rounder — and Toronto knew one of those two players were going to be on their roster. That is what Toronto wanted
The other thing with Justin Holl: To replace him at his salary slot — $2 million — I think it was going to be borderline impossible for the Maple Leafs. That also factored into the decision.
At the end of the day, Toronto has lost a lot off of their roster. They are going to lose Zach Hyman. He is likely going to sign in Edmonton. I just think they wanted to get as much stability as they possibly could before they started to look at how they want to rebuild their group.
The above point about stability on the blue line was one Anthony Petrielli laid out on today’s MLHS podcast. The Leafs could’ve been in a position where they were looking to replace Zach Hyman, shore up their forward depth, find a new 1A or 1B goalie, and — in choosing to potentially lose Justin Holl via expansion — would’ve also been forced to remake the look of their top four and overall defense group with the likely loss of another dependable right-handed defenseman in Zach Bogosian in addition to Holl, all with limited cap space to maneuver.
Instead, after the first season in forever where the defensive results were strong and the defense pairings meshed and were consistent all year, Kyle Dubas opted for continuity with the top four (for now, assuming there isn’t a big Morgan Rielly trade in the works this offseason).
Friedman also provided an update on the recent buzz around Zach Hyman signing a big contract with the Oilers, who Hyman met with in Edmonton today, and the possibility it could be preceded by a rights deal or a sign-and-trade:
You could potentially see a Zach Hyman deal in Edmonton. We’ll see if Toronto makes a trade with them so Hyman can get the eighth year and Toronto can get a draft pick out of it. The Leafs are a little short on draft picks.
Unlike in the NBA, it is exceedingly rare to see a sign-and-trade for an imminent UFA occur in the NHL — we have occasionally seen it happen with RFAs such as Marian Hossa and Kyle Turris — so it’s tough to forecast the type of asset the Leafs could fetch out of GM Ken Holland and the Oilers if this came to fruition tomorrow after the trade freeze lifts (1 p.m. EST) or in the leadup to the opening of the UFA period on July 28. There was some speculation among insiders that the Islanders were pondering an attempt at this with John Tavares back in 2018, but that obviously did not come to fruition.
Rights trades for pending UFAs have certainly happened over the years — usually landing somewhere between a fourth and a seventh-round pick as the return — but facilitating the eighth year on a major contract is a more significant advantage to be affording the Oilers in order to keep Hyman’s average annual cap value down. A fair return should reflect this.
The Leafs are currently without their first, third, fourth, and seventh-round draft picks in this weekend’s entry draft. In addition to possessing just three picks in 2021, the Leafs own just three in 2022 — their first, their second, and their seventh-round selections.
Having watched James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner, and Tyson Barrie leave the organization without a return as notable UFAs, the Leafs snagging a decent asset in return for Hyman before he walks out the door would be a more-than-welcome sight.