There’s just about a month until the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely preparing themselves to lose Alex Kerfoot when all is said and done.
When July 21st rolls around, the Toronto Maple Leafs will lose one player from their roster to the Seattle Kraken as they look to establish themselves as the 32nd team in the NHL.
For all teams in the NHL, except for the Vegas Golden Knights, they must select players to protect from the draft; ensuring they do not lose the services of their best players for nothing.
There are two ways that teams are able to choose which players they protect; either by listing seven forwards, three defencemen and a goaltender (11 total players), or a combination of eight forwards and defencemen as well as one goaltender (eight total players).
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The approach that teams take will largely determine which players will be exposed for selection during the draft, and for the Toronto Maple Leafs they will likely take an approach to keep their defensive core together at the expensive of exposing Alex Kerfoot.
The Leafs will undoubtedly protect to ‘Big Four’ forwards of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, and the priority after that will likely see them opt to protect a further four defencemen – seeing them opt for the 8FD/1G protection approach.
Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, Morgan Rielly and Justin Holl make up a strong core for the Leafs, who improved in almost every defensive area during the 2021 season, and keeping them together for another year should be of high importance to general manager Kyle Dubas.
To do this, it will mean that no further forwards can be protected and the Seattle Kraken will have the chance to add one of the most underrated forwards on the team to their initial roster.
Kerfoot is capable of playing at both wing and centre, but he has primarily been deployed as the third line centre since arriving in Toronto as part of the Nazem Kadri trade.
While he has not put up the offensive numbers that he had with the Colorado Avalanche, Kerfoot has shown himself to be a valuable defensive player that has arguably been one of the better Leafs in his own zone.
There is always the potential that the Kraken are keen on snatching away restricted free agent defenceman Travis Dermott, who is still young and could easily slot into a bottom pairing role on the team’s defensive corps, but Kerfoot also has the enticing contract with term.
The 26-year-old has two more years on a contract that pays him an AAV of $3.5 million, giving the Kraken a player that will be around beyond their first season and does need to have a new deal negotiated until after he has shown what he can do for them.
Losing Kerfoot will be disappointing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the freed up cap space would let them replace the Vancouver native at a lower cost, potentially even allowing them to spend more on a top-six forward that can contribute offensively alongside the team’s big names.
Speculation will be rife until the expansion draft is officially over, but it would be a smart bet to begin preparing for life after Alex Kerfoot when the Toronto Maple Leafs have their turn.