Maple Leafs Management Made a Mistake Not Exposing Holl

Over this offseason, Kyle Dubas traded B-tier prospect Filip Hallander and a seventh-round pick in 2023 for Penguins forward Jared McCann. I, along with the Leafs fanbase, was excited about this trade. I thought Dubas got a solid top-six forward for a low price. As soon as the trade was reported, everybody immediately looked at what the Leafs would do in the expansion draft. For me, I thought the Leafs would make some side deal to protect McCann. However, Dubas decided to protect Kerfoot over McCann. After looking at film and data, this was a mistake.

What The Leafs Should Have Done in The Expansion Draft

If I were Kyle Dubas, I would have gone with protecting seven forwards and three defensemen. You need to protect the core four, and then you can protect Kerfoot, McCann. Then it doesn’t matter who gets the other spots. The three defensemen I would have protected are Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and TJ Brodie. By doing this, you can protect your core–almost all your forward depth and your three best defensemen. Bogosian was a free agent, so you did not have to worry about him, and the team could have gone without keeping Travis Dermott with Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren coming up.

That also leaves Justin Holl unprotected. In my opinion, Holl is not a very good defenseman. He hurts the potential pairings on the blue line because he has to play with Muzzin to be an above or just-average defenseman. If the Seattle Kraken took Dermott or Holl, it wouldn’t have been a massive deal for the team as they have rookies ready to take a spot in the lineup. You have now lost what could have been a great top-six player in McCann and kept an average defenseman only if he plays with Muzzin.

Another route Dubas could have taken if he wanted to keep Holl is exposing Kerfoot. Kerfoot is rather average, and he appeared to be a non-factor too many times last season. He played 58 games, scoring eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points. He was terrible at driving the play the previous year, only posting an expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60) of 2.2 and didn’t put the puck in the back of the net enough, only posting a 2.12 GF/60. He also wasn’t special defensively either, with an expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) of 2.18.

With that production and a cap hit of $3.5 million, Kerfoot probably isn’t worth keeping around. The Leafs would have benefited if the Kraken took Kerfoot. Now he is the team’s third-line centre, but McCann played the position in Pittsburgh. He would’ve also slid into that role and saved the Leafs some money as he is making $2.94 million. It’s a fantastic contract relative to his production.

The Impact McCann Could Have Had With The Leafs

The Leafs are desperate for winger depth after the loss of Zach Hyman, who signed in Edmonton for $5.5 million over seven years. The Leafs made the right decision letting him walk. However, you could have moved McCann from centre to the wing to fill the gap. Last season McCann played 43 games scoring 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points. If he moves to the wing, you have your first or second-line winger depending on how head coach Sheldon Keefe wanted to create the lines. A line of Marner, McCann, and Matthews would be incredibly dangerous with tons of offensive firepower.

Management and coaching are now asking one of Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting, and Ondrej Kase to provide first-line minutes and be effective. Those players aren’t bad, but banking on one of these guys to be good enough for the first line could be a problem. McCann is very responsible defensively with an xGA/60 of 2.05 last season, so you don’t even need to worry about him being a liability in the defensive zone. You could have used McCann in a third-line centre role, so he provides you with a lot of flexibility and a solid contract for what he gives.

McCann was what the Leafs needed in their lineup, bringing flexibility and an option to fill a much-needed spot on the wing. Dubas is a great general manager, and I have liked many of his moves in his tenure as a Leafs GM. However, I think this move will join the Nazem Kadri for Tyson Barrie trade as two of the worst moves he’s made so far. Look for McCann to be a very effective and maybe the best player on the NHL’s newest franchise–the Seattle Kraken–this one will hurt the Leafs.

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