Five Predictions for the Maple Leafs Upcoming Offseason

The cone of silence from NHL general mangers as the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft was looming has made for a load of speculation and rumors, some even crazier than normal. It’s been an odd offseason, with what seemed like so much space with so little actual action. 

That’s about to change with the expansion draft starting at 8 pm tonight Eastern Time. In fact, as I write this post, the Kraken’s expansion draft picks have already been placed in the hands of the NHL’s central registry office. Likely, over the next few hours, hockey insiders such as Elliotte Friedman will tell us who’s been chosen even before it even happens.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Eight Predictions for the 2021-22 Season

However, even if we know much of what happens in the draft, the next few weeks should be interesting. Once the draft has concluded, the cork should be off the bottle and things should begin to bubble to a head.

What Happens After the Expansion Draft with the Maple Leafs?

How will that expansion draft and the ensuing couple of weeks immediately thereafter play out? What will happen with the Toronto Maple Leafs? 

Once again, I’m collaborating with THW reader, frequent commentator, and long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith to put out a list of five predictions for the more immediate offseason future before the 2021-22 NHL regular season begins. As fans, we’re trying to move past the dark days of the Maple Leafs’ 2020-21 playoffs to look ahead. 

If you’re a reader and interested in making other predictions, we invite you to add your own predictions for the 2021-22 offseason in the comment section. We’ll share some of the best and attribute them to your THW handle.

Our Five Offseason Predictions

Prediction One: Kyle Dubas Will Seek More Draft Picks

We predict that Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas makes a deal between the end of the expansion draft and the end of the entry draft to pick up more draft picks. Although the Maple Leafs were in full “win now” mode last season and will be again this season, Dubas won’t be satisfied with only having three picks in the entry draft this weekend.  

Kyle Dubas Toronto Maple Leafs Draft
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although this draft is seen as a bit more uncertain than most, it might be a time that Dubas and his new-school advanced statistics team might shine. We believe Dubas will make at least one deal, to get him more picks over the next while. 

Prediction Two: Frederik Andersen Will Sign Elsewhere 

Despite both sides – Frederik Andersen’s agent Claude Lemieux and the Maple Leafs –  saying all the right things, Andersen will sign somewhere else. Sadly, for Maple Leafs’ fans, he’s gone.  

Related: Worst Colorado Avalanche Trades

The bottom line is that Andersen believes he is a #1 goalie and he wants to play for a team that regards him, and pays him, like a #1 goalie should be paid. We don’t believe he wants to play second fiddle to former back-up Jack Campbell. 

Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The only caveat we put on this prediction is the fact that there might be a commitment from last season’s team that they want redemption for their poor playoffs. If that’s the case, and we’ll get a bit of a hint when we find out the landing spot of Zach Hyman, the offseason might be really exciting. 

Prediction Three: The Maple Leafs’ Roster Will Shift Towards Prospects

During the next few weeks, we’ll get a hint that changes are afoot in the philosophy of next season’s team. The coaching hires suggest that player development will be a focus, and we’ll come to learn that the 2021-22 roster will highlight more space for its prospects. 

We predict interesting changes on next season’s roster. One of our readers, ozzard, already has put his belief forth that Nick Robertson should be on a line with John Tavares and William Nylander and that Ilya Mikheyev should play with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. He believes Mikheyev and Robertson would both flourish playing left-wing on the top two lines. 

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

That’s the kind of speculation we’ll get used to next season.

Prediction Four: Maple Leafs Will Trade for a Young Goalie

We predict that the Kraken will choose both of the two young goalies who have surprisingly been made available – Kaapo Kahkonen from the Minnesota Wild and Vitek Vanecek of the Washington Capitals. Kahkonen has a modest salary-cap him of $725,000 for one year and Vanecek an even more modest hit at $716,667 for one year. 

Related: NWHL Roundup: Lewicki Retires, Top Pick Girard Signs with Whale

We think that one or both of these young goalies are on Dubas’ radar. The 24-year old Kahkonen had a 19-9-1 record last season with a 2.90 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. The 25-year-old Vanecek played 37 games last season, with a 21-10-0 record, a save percentage of .908 and a goals-against-average of 2.69. 

Interestingly, new Maple Leafs’ assistant coach ​​Spencer Carbery was Vanecek’s coach with the Hershey Bears for a few seasons. Simply coincidence?

Prediction Five: Zach Hyman Re-Signs with the Maple Leafs – Soon!

Contrary to popular belief, Zach Hyman will not only re-sign with the Maple Leafs, he do it in the next week or so. Dubas needs to know exactly how much cap room he has going into free agency. His first priority will be to get Hyman’s signature on a contract, and then see how much he has to spend on a goalie, along with anything else he can afford. 

Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

The purpose of giving Hyman’s camp permission to talk to other teams before free agency started was to see what the market was for Hyman. Don’t forget, weeks ago Dubas stated he wanted Hyman back, and that he deserved a fair contract. This contract will get done.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Just to show how wrong (but fun) predictions can be, one of our predictions was that the Maple Leafs would sign Mike Smith to back up Campbell in goal. It was a brilliant idea – and I have to credit Stan for this one, but I wish I would have thought of it myself. Stan believed the Maple Leafs should have tried to sign Kingston, Ontario, native Mike Smith to backup Campbell.

I agree. It would have been magic. Smith is a perfect backup for Campbell. At 39, Smith is coming off of his best season in nine years, with a .923 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 2.31. Because of his age, he signed a $2 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Bertuzzi, Hyman, Hall & Crazy Rumors

He would have been good enough to step in if Campbell faltered, but wasn’t a threat to take his starting job away from him. With his age, experience, and deep desire to win, Maple Leafs’ fans can only imagine the impact Smith would have had on the locker room. He’s a battler like no other, and on top of that he could have helped Campbell keep an emotional even keel.  

But, really, with predictions, that’s just what they are. As you can see, we’re not always right. As a reminder, if you have predictions you’d like to add, go for it in our comments’ section. I’d like to share them.

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