Garret Sparks’ deal is a short-term solution to the Marleau contract problem

Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham are at it again with the extension of Garret Sparks. The Leafs so-so backup goalie has been inked for another year on a cap friendly deal to levy the hit of Patrick Marleau

Boiled down to as simple of a reason as I could find, the Maple Leafs are leveraging a low-risk position, the backup goalie, to accommodate Patrick Marleau’s $6 million contract for it’s final year in 2019/2020.

Rather than dip into free agency for a low-value position like a maximum 20-game backup goalie, Dubas is riding out Sparks. Sparks is a completely adequate backup for Frederick Andersen and at $750k is a bargain.

The gamble is that Andersen won’t get injured. If that should happen, Toronto will be forced into a Sparks/Kaskisuo tandem that just about no one would be confident in.

The benefit of Sparks over a free agent is that he is homegrown. He knows the coaches, he knows the systems, he knows the building, he knows the team. He’s another stable player who helps solidify a team that will likely see quite a bit of turnover before the start of next season.

As well, Sparks signing this extension now allows for yet another piece of the puzzle to fall into place for Dubas before he tries to resign Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen.

The upside of a one year deal is that band-aid style resolution it gives the team; a low risk, apply as you need it smart bit of business. Should Joseph Woll and Ian Scott make the jump to the AHL or ECHL for next season then the contingency plan is essentially in effect, and Sparks’ one-year deals stop.

It’s shrewd business from Dubas and Pridham who are trying to shoehorn the top end talent into this deep, young team. Even Sparks’ harshest critics surely wouldn’t have a problem with this deal if it helped sign one of Marner, Johnsson, or Kapanen, right?

2 thoughts on “Garret Sparks’ deal is a short-term solution to the Marleau contract problem”

  1. This is a trite and shallow attempt to conflate the relationship between 2 things that have nothing to do with each other. How exactly does a $750k contract offset or allow wiggle room for a $6 million contract? If you’re saying that a decent back-up goalie would cost $2.75 million, making Marleau feel like more of a $4 million cap-hit, I could almost stomach the argument, though I’d still say it was a huge reach. Sparks signing was simply taking advantage of a strong bargaining position by Dubas given Sparks’ mediocre season to date.

    Other than trading Marleau away before the new season, and maybe even eating as much as $2 million on such a deal, there is no other way to keep the likes of Marner, Johnsson, AND Kapanen. Another acceptable attempt at a solution would be to buy Marleau out, leaving a $2 million dollar cap hit of dead money for the next two seasons. Though, I’d much rather see a Zaitsev contract buyout, costing $1.5 million of a dead cap hit over the next 8 seasons, where you assume the salary cap ceiling will continue to rise over that time. Wasting $1.5 million of cap space would be a tough swallow, but a worthwhile trade off if you believe you can buy a much better defenseman with the extra $3 million in cap room.

    1. When you have a player who is slotted on the third line who makes 6m off of your cap then any time you can save a penny it makes good sense. Marleau adds a lot off the ice to this young team, so the argument was never that Marleau couldnt play anymore, but rather the Leafs saved what could have been 1-2 million on a position that is of low-importance on the team.

      I also think we’ll see 1 year deals for Johnsson and/or Kapanen this off season, buying time until the Marleau contract is off the books and like you had said possibly Zaitsev (trade not buyout), too. Also, any need to call something trite and shallow when you continue on to say the exact same argument that was said in the article?

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