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Maple Leafs Weighing NHL Expansion Draft Options on Hyman, Andersen

The Toronto Maple Leafs might have some difficult decisions to make when it comes to two players and the NHL Expansion Draft.

When Kevin McGran was asked during a recent Toronto Star mailbag segment what the Leafs NHL Expansion Draft situation looked like, specifically in regards to Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen, McGran called it a great question and hinted it’s a dilemma that is likely taking a lot of GM Kyle Dubas’ head space.

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Essentially, the Maple Leafs will need to decide if they’re going to let both Hyman and Andersen finish out their seasons as pending unrestricted free agents and try to sign them after the NHL Expansion Draft, or not risk losing either and sign them first. In one case, signing them first changes the players the Maple Leafs will protect. Signing them after opens the door to other teams talking what will be two very popular players.

McGran suggested Hyman could expect $4.5 million (U.S.) a year on a five-year deal. He adds that Andersen could probably get between $6 million and $8 million on a three-year deal. Neither of these contracts fit easily into the Leafs current salary cap situation, as it adds anywhere from $3.5-$5.5 million to their current roster.

The Argument to Sign Andersen

McGran called the Leafs decision to sign Andersen early an easy one, based on which netminder you like better: Jack Campbell or Andersen.

If Dubas leans Andersen’s way, because Toronto can leave both Campbell and Michael Hutchinson exposed, should the Maple Leafs lose either one, it’s not the end of the world. Thus he says, “In Andersen’s case, it’s simple: Sign and protect him… Or roll the dice and let Andersen get to free agency, where you risk losing him, and protect Campbell.”

If you like Campbell better, there’s a risk you could lose him.

The decision for the Maple Leafs could come once both players have played a few more games. Right now, the Leafs don’t know if Campbell can be a starter. They also aren’t completely sure they want to invest long-term and so heavily into Andersen. A little more time and about 10 more games from each could answer those questions.

Frederik Andersen Maple Leafs
Concern over play of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Hyman’s Case is More Complicated

When it comes to Hyman, things aren’t so black and white.

What the Leafs do with Hyman will affect the approach the team takes heading into the draft. As it stands, teams have a choice in their protection lists: (a) protect seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie; or (b) protect eight skaters and a goalie.

Without Hyman signed, the Leafs would protect eight skaters: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl. That would leave Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall and Travis Dermott exposed. None of these players are massive losses.

But, if they sign Hyman, it changes things. The team would likely go with the 7-3-1 option and protect Hyman, Kerfoot and Engvall. They would probably be unable to protect Holl.

Hyman and Andersen Will Be Attractive Commodities

The best hope is that Hyman and Andersen head to free agency, and re-sign in Toronto but electing to go that route is not risk free. Depending on how the Leafs do this season and how much attention one or both of these players get from other teams, the choice to stick around in Toronto might not be an easy one.

Zach Hyman Maple Leafs
Zach Hyman Maple Leafs

There is a clear lack of goaltending options in free agency and a number of teams who will be looking. Even if Andersen isn’t the best option in a stronger free agency class, he’ll get attention in this one and despite a tight COVID-NHL marketplace, goaltenders did well this past offseason.

Hyman is going to be incredibly sought after if he becomes available. On a team that includes some real star power, Hyman often stands out. He can play in multiple roles and there will be a handful of teams willing to pay him double what he’s making now. It’s not clear if the Leafs will be able to match.

Next: Boston Bruins Will Be All Over Jack Eichel Trade, Says Inside Source

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