The flying Alexander Kerfoot fish has turned out to be a red herring.
Tossing chum into hockey's murky rumour waters, a Twitter user leaked this video Tuesday of ESPN pre-taping the Seattle Kraken’s announcement of the Toronto Maple Leafs player they would be selecting in Wednesday’s expansion draft:
not shown: 5+ other takes the NHL filmed in preparation for tomorrow’s big event. #keepguessing
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 20, 2021
The note on the dead fish flying through Pike Place Market read, “Alexander Kerfoot,” and this FishyLeaks scandal got a segment of Leafs Nation excited by the notion of keeping the recently acquired Jared McCann.
Some penciled the sharp-shooting winger alongside John Tavares and William Nylander in the opening night roster. Others imagined McCann as the antidote to a slumping power play. Or began dreaming of ways Leafs GM Kyle Dubas could spend the extra $560,000 in cap space he’d save by clearing Kerfoot off the books.
McCann has lovely analytics and is a Soo Greyhounds alum. No chance Dubas traded for him just to lose him, right?
Well. Hope no one ordered a No. 19 sweater.
The Seattle Kraken selected McCann — not Kerfoot — in the expansion draft, as first reported by Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli.
Seattle GM Ron Francis had been targeting the versatile McCann when he was with the Penguins, which prompted Pittsburgh GM Ron Hextall to deal the 25-year-old to Toronto right before Saturday’s trade freeze in exchange for 21-year-old prospect Filip Hållander (originally a Penguins draft pick) and a seventh-round selection in the 2023 NHL Draft.
With the dust settling, Dubas lost a decent but unproven prospect and a distant seventh in order to keep his roster intact.
Fans will debate whether the executive did smart thing by not protecting both Kerfoot and McCaan and instead exposing fourth defenceman Justin Holl.
Holl, 29, is on the books through 2022-23 at an affordable $2-million cap hit. He is the only NHL-level right-shot defenceman Toronto has under contract.
The lesson here is, never trust a dead fish.
The take here is that Dubas believes it will be easier to fill the hole left by McCann (we hardly knew ye) in a UFA market loaded with middle-six left wingers than it would be to find a second-pairing RD to sub in for Holl.
That the GM favoured defence over offence. PK over PP. The players he knows over the one he liked from afar.
No doubt, receipts will be kept.
And if McCann — who converted on an abnormally high 15.1 per cent of his shots in 2020-21 — soars in Seattle the way, say, a Jonathan Marchessault or William Karlsson did in Vegas, Dubas will hear from the critics.
“Really, we are just trying to make the club as strong as possible knowing we have to dance around the margins with the salary-cap situation,” Dubas said at his end-of-season availability.
“We have challenges ahead that we need to face at full speed in order to be at our best. I certainly try not to take a stubborn approach to it. The goal will be to build as good of a team as possible next year, knowing we are fortunate to have a talented core group.”
By retaining Kerfoot and Holl, the Maple Leafs stickhandled around the expansion and kept two important penalty-killers in the fold.
We’ll withhold judgement on the loss of McCann until we see how the GM rounds out his forward group.
Dubas is scheduled to speak to reporters Thursday at noon, after the Kraken’s full roster is announced.