Toronto Maple Leafs: Decisions To Be Made For Expansion Draft

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in an interesting spot for the expansion draft for the incoming Las Vegas franchise.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have the option to protect eight skaters or seven forwards and three defenders – the latter of which is likely going to be the route for the Leafs.

On defence it’s pretty simple: protect Rielly, Gardiner and whichever one of Marincin, Carrick, Loov or Corrado is deemed to have more chance of a future moving forward with the club.

Up front is where the decisions get a little more tricky.

According to General Fanager’s expansion tool the Toronto Maple Leafs have 15 forwards to choose from to protect, although the list includes UFA’s to be Brooks Laich, Milan Michalek and Colin Greening.

In that group, minus the pending UFA’s, are the following players:

Nazem Kadri, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk, Kerby Rychel, Connor Brown, Nathan Horton, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Brendan Leipsic, Joffrey Lupul, Peter Holland and Josh Leivo.

Of that group, barring any unforeseen trades, Kadri, van Riemsdyk, Komarov and Brown should be locks for protection. That only leaves three spots and, inconveniently, also leaves Leipsic, Rychel and Leivo still awaiting protection.

There is zero chance that Horton, Holland and Lupul get protected – so the protection battle is really now down to Leipsic, Rychel, Leivo, Bozak and Martin.

With Bozak’s stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs almost guaranteed to be over when his contract ends due to the upcoming youth there’s no need to waste a protection spot on him over a younger player with potential.

Of the three remaining young players, Leipsic has the most questionable future – but does the team want to protect a fourth line player in Martin over potential youth (and maybe a cheaper fourth line option) for the future?

The Leafs are still in building mode, even if they’ve got a solid foundation they’re still putting the framework on the structure. Protecting all of Leipsic, Rychel and Leivo is akin to protecting their future; ensuring that the prospect pool doesn’t lose someone for nothing.

Maybe Matt Martin scores 20 points and sets a new career high while leading the league in hits, taking less penalties and defying history by having a completely positive impact on the Leafs. Even a combination of all of that doesn’t fully justify losing a potential young piece for the competitive years because you protected a fourth liner.

In saying all that, Leipsic, Rychel and Leivo will be under close watch for the very reason there is an expansion draft. A downward trend in play for any of the three could lead to their exposure but, as it stands now, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be foolish to give a decent prospect up for nothing with where they are in the build.