In this editon of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll comment on what seems to be confusing information about two of the team’s unrestricted free agents – Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman. If you’re a fan of the team and want to know where these players will land next season – and what Maple Leafs’ fan doesn’t – the information can be confounding. Even the hockey pundits can’t agree on what the rumors mean.
As well, the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft coming on July 21 creates an interesting space where reliable information might become muzzled. In fact, I’ll comment about why NHL teams – and I’m thinking the Maple Leafs – would not want to dispel any crazy talk that’s popping up, even if the team knows it’s unreliable.
Item One: Same Frederik Andersen Rumor, Different Landing Spot
Recently Frederik Andersen was in the news because he’ll likely be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on July 28. The rumor was that Maple Leafs’ management reached out to Andersen’s agent Claude Lemieux recently to see if Andersen might be interested in returning to the team. Lemieux confirmed his client would be willing to talk about re-signing. (from “Cale Makar an offer sheet target; Seth Jones trade interest from Avs, Flyers, Blackhawks, Pierre LeBrun, The Athletic, 30/06/21).
Pierre LeBrun, who first released that information in his article in The Athletic, then followed up on TSN Insider Trading.
“I don’t know about a discount, but yes, there’s a chance that Frederik Andersen stays with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a bit surprising given that a lot of people around the situation felt that Andersen was probably for sure headed towards free agency, which could still happen. Claude Lemieux, Andersen’s agent, told me that he spoke with Leafs management on Monday and the question they got from the Leafs is: Is Andersen interested in potentially signing with Toronto and staying put? The answer from Lemieux to the Maple Leafs was ‘yes’. It’s one thing to have a mutual desire to get a deal done and it’s another for it to fit with the Maples Leafs’ cap situation. Sharing the net with Jack Campbell is something that Andersen would be ready to do.”
Funny how that works. My point is that it’s an odd time for NHL hockey fans to know what might be accurate and what’s likely not accurate. I’ll try to explain more about that in Item Two.
Item Two: The Interesting Space Created before the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft
When an NHL fan reads the rules of the July 21 Expansion Draft coming, it’s easy enough to understand that a team can protect a certain number of players. For example, the rule says that NHL teams can (a) protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or (b) eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie. That’s straightforward and understandable.
However, there’s another aspect to the expansion draft that’s more complicated, and that involves NHL teams re-signing their own free agents (or not yet re-signing them). NHL general managers know the 2021-22 salary cap ceiling will remain flat at $81.5 million; yet, to date, few teams have signed their own pending UFAs. Usually, they’d hope to avoid the chance of a bidding war.
However, with the expansion draft looming and the free agent market opening on July 28, few NHL teams have re-signed their own pending UFAs. Then, factor in that the Kraken get a jump on the market with a 48-hour UFA negotiation window July 18-20. Why the hesitancy to ink these contracts? The answer is simple: every UFA re-signed now exposes another roster player to the Kraken at the draft.
Additionally, there’s no doubt that the space created by the Seattle Kraken expansion draft is keeping a lid on leaks emerging from the different organizations. But that space also might also generate a plethora of false information floating around. The recent confusing information about Andersen’s staying or leaving is a minor example.
It’s illegal for NHL teams to sign and not report contracts. With the expansion draft is looming. That would be misconduct. But who’s to say a team and a player might not have an unspoken “wink-of-an-agreement” that both sides know can’t be signed until after the expansion draft?
Related: NWHL 2021 Draft Recap
Each NHL team can legally protect a certain number of players from being drafted by the Kraken. But it’s also true that teams need not protect UFAs who are – ostensibly – on the open market. But if a UFA clearly wants to stay put and his “former” team knows it, why sign that player prior to the draft and risk exposing another roster player?
Take Zach Hyman for example, rumors are hot and heavy that the team and Hyman are far apart in their negotiations. In fact, that could be accurate. However, that also pushes the narrative toward a sort of logical conclusion that Hyman will test free agency. In fact, that’s exactly what Elliotte Friedman reported recently.
Specifically, Friedman reported that Hyman and the Maple Leafs were far apart in their contract negotiations with free agency approaching. Friedman on FAN 960’s The Big Show he reported, “Sounds like he’s testing the market.” He added, “I heard they were significantly far apart.”
The remainder of the report noted the redundant speculation that Hyman would likely be able to sign for $5 million somewhere else on the open market. That prompted even more redundant considerations about a “hometown discount” or a “change in the contract numbers.” The landing spot was that Hyman would test free agency later this month.
There’s no issue with Friedman for reporting this information. I think he’s a straight-up hockey pundit who tells the truth. I’m sure that’s exactly what he heard. That said, I also believe there’s no reason for the Maple Leafs to dispute any information that their negotiations with Hyman remain “far apart.”
Even if it were false, why say? If the team had the nuance of an agreement with Hyman, why take a chance that anyone can accuse you of collusion or misconduct? Free agency or not, if you knew he were going to stay, why not wait a few days?
I’m not saying that Hyman and the Maple Leafs have any kind of an agreement. It probably behooves both sides to wait to see what happens. My point is that the expansion draft has created a time when what fans might read or hear should be considered within the context of the space in which it’s heard.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Specifically, given what I’ve written in this post, I think it’s unlikely the Maple Leafs will make more roster moves soon. Signing Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds seems safe enough because they’re unlikely to be drafted by the Kraken.
Even if there are secrets – and, I’m not saying there are, these will likely stay in house until after the draft. The expansion draft is interesting because it opens the chance that team team might lose players. It’s always a risk; however, it also offers opportunities for a team to protect its UFAs without actually doing so formally.
I’m really looking forward to see who Seattle chooses and what pre-draft deals will be revealed during that time.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf