In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look ahead a year to share what commentators are suggesting about the team’s possible Expansion Draft losses. I’ll also share what goalie Frederik Andersen has said about a return to play, and look at Zach Hyman’s Masterton Award-nominated season.
Item One: Who Might the Maple Leafs Lose in the Expansion Draft?
Here’s a chance to look ahead. A Seattle franchise was granted entry into the NHL and will begin to play during the 2021-22 season. This will change the makeup of the Western Conference, Seattle will be in the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central.
In June 2021, the Expansion Draft will be held using the same rules the Vegas Golden Knights had in 2017. Obviously, they worked well because during the Golden Knights’ first season the team made a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and haven’t looked back.
The Seattle franchise will choose one player from each team, excluding the Golden Knights, for a total of 30 players, split into 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.
Earlier this week, The Athletic’s James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel reviewed the Maple Leafs roster to see which players might be made available in the expansion draft. They noted: “When it comes to the Maple Leafs, they are basically guaranteed to go the 7-3-1 route and protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, given how many talented forwards they have,” (“Who could the Maple Leafs lose to Seattle in the 2021 expansion draft?,” James Mirtle & Jonas Siegel, The Athletic, 06/29/2020).
Although it’s difficult to know who the team might trade or sign in the next year, looking at the roster as it stands, Mirtle and Siegel believe the two best players who will be unprotected are Justin Holl and Pierre Engvall. That list might also include Kyle Clifford, Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks, Denis Malgin, Kenny Agostino, Jason Spezza, and Frederik Gauthier.
Although we don’t know what Seattle’s philosophy might be, it would be sad to see either Holl or Engvall leave.
Item Two: Goalie Frederik Andersen Wants to Play, but Isn’t Convinced It’s Safe
As Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston tweeted yesterday, if the CBA and health concerns can be worked out, Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen wants to play during the summer.
Andersen noted: “I want to play. I don’t want to just sit and waste the summer and the season.”
However, Andersen’s waiting to hear what happens during the ongoing NHL/NHLPA talks about a CBA extension, as well as health and safety protocols in the hub cities.
In a phone conversation with reporters yesterday, Andersen noted, “I don’t think I have just one [concern]. There’s a few things that need to be figured out, and players have to vote on it, and I think we still have a little bit of a ways to go. The whole thing in general has got to make sense. Just with future CBA stuff, and obviously safety is very important. I’m confident that we’ll have something to vote on. I want to play; I don’t want to just sit and waste the summer or a season.”
He also noted that, once the hub cities had been chosen and were made secure, he wasn’t concerned about safety because he believed it would be a “closed environment.” He added, “I don’t think it really makes a big difference if it is a bubble and it’s done the right way; it really shouldn’t matter.”
Finally, he doesn’t believe teams playing in their own cities would be advantaged because the same health and safety measures would be in place for everyone and would negate home-ice advantage.
Item Three: Zach Hyman’s Masterton Nominee Season
Although it started late, the Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman had a great season. Injured but still playing during the first round of last season’s playoffs, when the team lost to the Boston Bruins, Hyman had offseason surgery for a torn ACL.
He returned to the ice on Nov. 13, 2019, seven months later. From that first game’s 17:30 minutes of ice time, he just kept going. He not only played well, but he played lots. When the season was suspended on Mar. 12, 2020, he had logged the highest average ice time of his career at 19:06.
He also began to score with even more regularity than in previous seasons. In 2018-19, he recorded his first 20-goal season – scoring 21. This season, he also scored 21 goals, but he only needed 51 games to do so (adding 16 assists for 37 points). It would have been his most productive season ever, even after a late start.
Hyman plays with passion and drive. He also does the less desirable jobs, like fighting for pucks with dogged enthusiasm. He doesn’t play a pretty game, but it’s highly effective, and he doesn’t give an inch. His drive and determination make his teammates better. He simply doesn’t quit.
That never-quit attitude resulted in his nomination for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the “qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Masterton, for whom the trophy was named, was the only player in NHL history to die as a direct result of injuries suffered in a game.
Hyman’s a deserving candidate. Not only did he have a successful comeback from a difficult injury, but he’s also shown he can elevate his game and make his Maple Leafs a better team by his selfless contributions.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I recently heard a rumour that there is a chance players who were not on a team’s reserve list might be eligible to play during the postseason. Typically, that would not be the case, but these are hardly typical times.
I doubt the rumour is true, but it hasn’t been put to bed yet. If it is, Maple Leafs fans might get a taste of both Alexander Barabanov and Mikko Lehtonen in the postseason. I am anxious to see what these two European imports might bring to the team. That said, I’m also interested to see how far this team might travel toward the Stanley Cup with the roster it has.
As Maple Leafs goalie Andersen noted, there remain questions to answer.