Martin could be option for Vegas, but hopes to stick with Leafs

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With the expansion draft just weeks away, more and more questions are being asked of players about the possibility of relocating to Vegas.

One of those players? Maple Leafs tough guy Matt Martin.

“I haven’t thought too much about it,” Martin said over the weekend, per the Toronto Sun. “You go where life takes you. I think it’s going to be a good place to play hockey, whether I end up there or not.

“I hope I stay in Toronto. I love it there.”

Martin, 28, just wrapped the first of a four-year, $10 million deal with a $2.5 million cap hit. His role in Toronto, and the value of it, has often been a topic of debate. Martin backers point to his durability (played in all 82 games this year) and willingness to protect the kids (13 fights last season, tied for fourth-most in the league).

The anti-Martin camp see a guy that plays less than nine minutes a night, posts sub par possession metrics and finished the year with just nine points.

As it stands, Martin’s lumped into a group of Leafs forwards essentially vying for a few protected spots. Sportsnet has a good rundown of the situation.

The Leafs could take the risk of exposing Martin, hoping the aforementioned $2.5M cap hit would scare Vegas off. But the Golden Knights could be of the same mind as Toronto head coach Mike Babcock, who valued Martin’s ability to give the club’s young skaters extra breathing room on the ice.

“It’s huge,” Babcock told ESPN earlier this year, when asked about Martin’s impact. “I mean, we don’t get slapped around ever.

“Last year, we got abused. … Not only is he a good player, he’s a great man. He treats those kids with kindness, with a firm hand of accountability at the same time. He’s a good pro, he lives right, he acts right, treats his teammates right. So he’s got a huge fan in me, I can tell you that.”

It’s probably worth noting that Vegas GM George McPhee is familiar with Martin. McPhee was a special advisor to Isles GM Garth Snow during Martin’s final year with New York.