The trade deadline came and went with the Golden Knights making some of the biggest news. No, they didn’t actually announce the acquisition of any players, draft picks, or expansion agreements, but they did become a “fully operational member” of the NHL.
Thus, George McPhee was effectively in the game before the clock struck midnight on the deadline. The NHL’s gibberish rules for what the Golden Knights can now do state that even if McPhee did pull off a deal, it could not be made official until every player involved has completed their 2016-17 season, which won’t happen until April at the earliest.
However, that didn’t stop the guys over at Hockey Central from speculating that deals were indeed agreed upon. Former Columbus BJ’s general manager Doug MacLean basically guaranteed the Golden Knights agreed to at least a few deals, and even went as so far as to mention one player by name. Eric Fehr.
Eric Fehr, the former Capital (hint, hint), Jet, Penguin, and now Maple Leaf just so happened to play his junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings (hint, hint, hint, hint!). His contract expires at the end of the Golden Knights first season and is a reasonable $2 million for the right winger. He’s been around the league, is considered a good locker room guy, and talent wise he’s certainly going to be good enough to be on Vegas’ initial 23 man roster. The point is, the Golden Knights staff has a connection to him, he has a friendly contract, is the type of player they are looking for, and is good enough at hockey.
Now, take a look at the Maple Leafs expansion situation. Their most coveted players are all exempt due to age, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Nikita Zaitsev. There are nine players currently on the roster with expiring contracts, all but two of which for the sake of this exercise can be thrown out. That leaves them with 16 skaters that meet the requirement eligible to be protected. Bear in mind, they must expose two forwards and one defenseman that are both under contract and have played 40 games this year or 70 in the last two. The Maple Leafs currently only have seven forwards who fit both qualifications, and that’s including Fehr.
Thus, they must either sign two more so they meet the exposure requirement (the only two options are Brooks Laich and newly acquired Brian Boyle) or utilize the 8/1 protection model. The second seems much more likely.
Defensively they have five players who meet the 40/70 rule. Assuming they use the 8/1 model, they can protect four of these five, leaving one exposed. Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Alexey Marchenko, Martin Marincin, and Connor Carrick.
Back to forwards, of which they now have only four spots open. The eligible players are Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Connor Brown, and Eric Fehr. You can pretty much guarantee Kadri and van Riemsdyk are two of them, so throw them out. We are left with a pool of one defenseman, and five forwards GM’s Lou Lamoriello and George McPhee have to discuss.
So who is Lamoriello trying to save from losing to Vegas? Feel free to take your guess, but the obvious answer to me is that he wants to save all five defensemen. Reilly and Gardiner have been their horses (with exempt Zaitsev) and losing the 22-year-old Carrick seems foolish. That leaves Marchenko and Marincin, two perfect options, based on age, talent, and most importantly, contract, for Vegas. Both are 25-years-old, paid around $1.5 million and become restricted free agents in 2018.
Vegas selects Eric Fehr in the Expansion Draft.
Toronto gets to keep all five defensemen, don’t need to sign any more players to meet the expansion requirements, and give up a player they had on the roster for three months.
Well isn’t that the million dollar question. The answer lies in the worth of two 25-year-old defenseman, Alexey Marchenko and Martin Marincin. Marchenko was drafted in the 7th round, Marincin in the 2nd.
Let’s split the difference and say Vegas is compensated with a conditional 4th to select Fehr.
It’s all just a guessing game, but one thing we can be pretty sure of, Eric Fehr was brought to Toronto at the trade deadline for a reason, and it’s almost certainly so he can be exposed and taken by George McPhee in June. Book it.
Maple Leafs Reddit had a little fun with this mentioning that Kerby Rychel, Brendan Leipsic, and Josh Leivo were not mentioned. They are all young players who have yet to have any major impact at the NHL level. When you consider Toronto’s unwillingness to lose any of these three, it may push the pick up to about a 3rd. Fair (or Fehr) points from our friends north of the border, but including them only increases the value McPhee can get for selecting Fehr.