Kerby Rychel isn’t actually expansion exempt, but that’s fine

Updated: January 10, 2018 at 4:53 pm by Jeff Veillette

Photo Credit: Aaron Doster/USA TODAY SPORTS

Back on June 25th, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for California-born but Ontario-raised Kerby Rychel, acquiring him from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Scott Harrington, a player who had been with the organization for less than a year, plays in a position of abundance, and hadn’t played since January thanks to an upper body injury.

It was seen as a steal for the Leafs, not just because they were picking up a younger, more talented prospect who wanted a change of scenery. The silver bullet was that he also Waiver and Expansion Draft exempt thanks to his first AHL season being a “slide year” created by a long-term OHL career. As it turns out, though, speculation about his expansion status was mistaken.

Here’s General Fanager’s explanation of the situation, tucked into their expansion tool, built upon an information foundation formed by New York Islanders writer Arthur Staple while he was looking for clarification on Ryan Pulock:

A professional season may still count for a player in a season where his contract slides. This is because the slide rule calculates age based on the player’s age on September 15. So a player who turns 20 between September 16 and December 31 could have his contract slide because he does not play 10+ NHL games. However, if that player plays 1+ professional game in that season, for expansion purposes his age is considered to be 20 and the season counts as a professional season. As a result of this distinction, the following players previously believed to be expansion exempt will need to be protected or otherwise will be eligible to be drafted by Las Vegas. 

Like Pulock, Rychel falls under this additional clarification. The rule also applies to William Carrier of the Buffalo Sabres, Emile Poirer and Hunter Shinkaruk of the Calgary Flames, Ryan Hartman of the Chicago Blackhawks, Anthony Mantha of the Detroit Red Wings, and Jonathan-Ismael Diaby of the Nashville Predators.

On one hand, this makes the trade a little bit less lopsided, because we can’t point fingers and call the acquisition one of the all-time great examples of ‘Loophole Lou’, or if you’d rather assume the new school took care of the move, ‘Pridham’s Law’. But it doesn’t change the fact that this was an extremely hilarious, one-sided deal. The Leafs still traded a recently injured 23-year old player stuck way at the bottom of the depth chart for a player that’s two years younger, has higher upside and gets to home as his needed ‘change of scenery’.

Besides, with Rychel’s circumstances considered, the Leafs shouldn’t be too stressed out about whether he’s exempt or not. Now 21-years-old and entering the beginning of his ‘redemption’ year, his play will dictate whether he’s even a sensible target for George McPhee to begin with. If Rychel bursts onto the scene at the end of camp and becomes a legitimate prospect again with new inspiration and a new system, I highly doubt the Leafs are going to lose sleep in protecting him over, say, Josh Leivo, who at this point might be two months away from waivers.

If he doesn’t play up to sniff, though, it’s highly unlikely that Rychel will be considered the best fit up for grabs. Toronto’s biggest threat to get claimed will likely either be a veteran forward (looking at you, Tyler Bozak), or one of their stats darling but not brand name defencemen (Frank Corrado, Connor Carrick, or Martin Marincin). Come next summer, if Rychel is still just sputtering as a 22, soon to be 23-year-old, I can’t see him being worth a claim.

All things considered, this rule alteration is nothing more than a little bit of a reminder to not be so smug about the outcome of the trade, but not much else. Rychel’s play, for better or worse, will either make someone else or himself expendable. Having extra peace of mind is nice, but I don’t think the Leafs lose a ton of it with this additional knowledge. After all, they would’ve known about this rule already, and still made the deal.

Of course, Templeton Rychel is still totally exempt.