Prior to today’s roster freeze, the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off a trade to acquire forward Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
NHL rosters were frozen as of 3pm EST today, but the Toronto Maple Leafs joined in the flurry of significant trades around the league to add Jared McCann to their forward corps – ahead of submitting their Expansion Draft protected list to the Seattle Kraken.
The full trade sees the Leafs acquire McCann, who is entering the final year of a $2.94 million AAV contract, in exchange for forward prospect Filip Hållander and seventh round pick in 2023.
McCann has developed into an impressive player at the NHL level, having arguably a breakout season with the Penguins this year – scoring 14 goals and totalling 32 points in just 43 regular season appearances. He added a further assist in six playoff games.
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While he is likely to regress somewhat in his production from this year, the Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn’s model projects him to be a solid second line player, which would see him partner the likes of John Tavares and William Nylander in Toronto.
McCann will be a restricted free agent once his current deal expires, meaning the Leafs will still retain his rights and have the opportunity to extend him should he have a successful season north of the border.
The trade sees the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound reunite with general manager Kyle Dubas, who was his GM in juniors from 2012 to 2014, and potentially provide the Leafs with a player ready to replace Zach Hyman, who is expected to leave the team in free agency.
The cost of acquiring McCann is a low draft pick as well as a prospect originally taken from the Penguins in the Kasperi Kapanen trade prior to the 2020 Draft, with the Leafs also landed promising prospect Rodion Amirov with the 15th overall pick the Penguins also sent.
For the Leafs, the trade likely reveals their intentions with regards to their protection list for the upcoming Expansion Draft. While many originally believed the team to take an eight skaters and one goaltender approach, it now seems clear the team will protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender.
Protecting the ‘Big Four’ is obvious, but by acquiring McCann it now seems that the Leafs would prefer to protect another three forwards, leaving Justin Holl and Travis Dermott as the most likely candidates to be taken by the Seattle Kraken.
It also appears to make the team’s offensive corps far clearer than previously expected, with Alexander Kerfoot now presumably one of the players that will be protected by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There is still a chance the Kerfoot is exposed, with McCann potentially able to fill the role of 3C should he be taken, but there is now a stronger reason to believe that the Leafs have made the decision to protect him.
Now that the roster freeze has been implemented, it is just a matter of time before the Leafs’ protected list is unveiled and their plans for the upcoming Expansion Draft, as well as moving forward in general, become known.