How the Toronto Maple Leafs Fumbled the 2021 Expansion Draft

The Toronto Maple Leafs Fumbled the 2021 Expansion Draft.

In 2017, when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL, they proved that through the expansion draft a team can become immediate contenders. When the Seattle Kraken joined in 2021, their impact was not as great. However, the franchise’s best move was to the detriment of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For a full year leading to the 2021 Kraken Expansion Draft, teams positioned themselves in preparation.

The Maple Leafs were no different. General Manager Kyle Dubas had a plan that he and the organization wanted to execute. Unfortunately, we now know that that plan was a poor one.

How the Toronto Maple Leafs Fumbled the 2021 Expansion Draft

Every team had to submit a list of players protected from being drafted by Seattle. The clubs could either protect eight skaters and one goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The Maple Leafs chose the former.

The Kraken were unable to touch:

Auston Matthews
John Tavares
Mitch Marner
William Nylander

Jake Muzzin
Morgan Rielly
T.J. Brodie
Justin Holl

Jack Campbell

Leading up to the draft, the Leafs decided to make a move in order to keep Alex Kerfoot from being the one selected by Seattle’s general manager Ron Francis. Dubas swung a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in order to acquire someone it was believed Francis was after. That is why Filip Hallander and a 2023 seventh-round draft pick were sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jared McCann.

At the time, McCann had just come off a his second 14 goal season in a row. In his final year with the Penguins, he played 43 games which also included 18 assists, giving the left-winger 32 points.

That was enough of a showcase for Francis. Instead of taking Kerfoot, who had just come off a 56 game season where he recorded eight goals and 15 assists for 23 total points, Francis selected McCann. It was a great decision for the Kraken and a poor one for the Leafs.

In retrospect, the Leafs should have chosen the other protection model. That would have allowed them to save more forwards including McCann but fewer defensemen. It was believed at the time that Dubas made it a priority to protect Holl. This was not the right call.

While Holl has been a serviceable player, McCann has been fantastic. Upon joining the Kraken, the Stratford, Ontario native scored 50 points on 27 goals and 23 assists. This season, not only has McCann not slowed down, but he’s improved.

McCann is currently tied with defenseman Vince Dunn as Seattle’s leading point getters. Both players have 63 points on the campaign. For McCann, that’s come on 37 goals and 26 assists in 74 contests. For comparison’s sake, McCann has more goals than Marner (28) and Tavares (33). He has the same number as Nylander (37) and just one fewer than Matthews (38).

Dubas would certainly like a do-over. The Leafs would love to be heading into the playoffs with another scoring threat as great as McCann. For all the poor choices Seattle made in 2021, it’s hard not to see that they fleeced the Maple Leafs.

Note: All statistics are from Hockey DB.