Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Protected List & Why Jared McCann?

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share news of a trade that brought Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Maple Leafs and comment upon why it was made.

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

Item One: Maple Leafs Release Seattle Kraken Protection List

There was only one surprise for me when the Maple Leafs’ Seattle Kraken expansion draft protected list was released on Sunday morning. The surprise was that Holl was on the protected list, although in the long run that probably doesn’t matter. The list included forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander. It also included defencemen Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin, and Holl. Last, goalie Jack Campbell was protected. (from “Kerfoot, McCann, Dermott among Maple Leafs unprotected for Seattle expansion draft,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 18/08/21).

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
In a bit of a surprise move Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs, was on the protected list
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That leaves the following players exposed that the Kraken can pick from: forwards Alex Kerfoot, Jared McCann, Pierre Engvall, Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds, Adam Brooks, Joey Anderson, and Nic Petan. The list also included defenseman Travis Dermott and goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

The following Maple Leafs’ players were exempt from the draft: forwards Ilya Mikheyev and Nick Robertson, defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, and recently-signed goalie Joseph Woll.

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The rumors are that, when the Maple Leafs brought in McCann on Saturday from the Pittsburgh Penguins, it indicated that McCann would be a replacement for Kerfoot. Part of that rumor was that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas had made a deal with Kraken general manager Ron Francis to ensure that the Kraken would choose Kerfoot. It also would seem likely that the Kraken will not choose McCann.

Item Two: More About the Maple Leafs Trade for Versatile Forward Jared McCann

The Maple Leafs traded Filip Hallander and a seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for 25-year-old versatile center/winger McCann. McCann looks like a solid pickup and was productive on the scoresheet for the Penguins during the 2020-21 season, when he scored 14 goals and 18 assists (for 32 points) in 43 games. (from “NHL NOTES: Maple Leafs get McCann, hire Carbery,” Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 17/7/21).

Jared McCann Pittsburgh Penguins
Jared McCann, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The interesting thing about getting McCann is that bringing him to the team covers three bases for the Maple Leafs. First, he’s a good young player and the Maple Leafs probably feel fortunate to have him on the roster – regardless of whatever else happens.

Second, because it looks as if Kerfoot is likely to be chosen by Seattle during the expansion draft (which helps the Maple Leafs because of his higher salary-cap hit), McCann becomes a replacement for Kerfoot. He’s versatile in the same way, playing both center and winger. He’s also cheaper, carrying a salary of $2.94 million instead of Kerfoot’s $3.5 million.

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Third, if top-six forward Zach Hyman actually leaves the team – and the rumor is that he’s planning to test the free-agent market – having McCann around means there’s some measure of replacement for the puck-digging Hyman.

McCann is a six-foot, former first-round pick (24th overall) of the Vancouver Canucks during the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He’s played in the NHL for six seasons, one season with the Canucks and three with the Florida Panthers, before he was moved to the Penguins in February 2019. As noted, McCann can play any forward position.

As interesting is the fact McCann spent three seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where current Maple Leafs general manager Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe once worked. The twosome have often brought in people they knew and liked from that early experience, whether they have been players or staff.

Sheldon Keefe; John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe talks to captain John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

As an aside, I hope Kerfoot is chosen by the Seattle. It isn’t because I don’t like him but because of Seattle’s proximity to his home in Vancouver. It would almost be like going home for Kerfoot.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

All these rumors aside, there’s no assurance Kerfoot will be chosen by the Kraken as the rumors suggest. If Seattle, for example, chooses a defenseman in Dermott, then it might become interesting. Does that mean the organization is almost forced to allow Hyman to leave for greener pastures? Does it mean that Kerfoot might be moved via a trade – even to the Kraken?

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Hyman, Holl, Kerfoot, Komarov & Trades?

There are still a lot of possibilities. And Maple Leafs’ fans won’t know for a week. One down, many more to go.

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