The NHL entry draft is upon us and with it a slew of information from NHL insiders and beat reporters as Kyle Dubas has opened up on his team’s status. From players staying to those potentially moving, there is all but guaranteed to be trades and action from the Leafs on the draft floor as tensions rise.
No cap increase = forced moves?
With the salary cap rumored to be increased up to $82 million+, the Maple Leafs were amongst teams excited about the extra cash to spread around their roster. This dream came to a screeching halt as the post-season ended and all signs point to it staying closer to the current $79.5 level.
For the Leafs this means a few things:
- Nikita Zaitsev is on his way out
- Connor Brown is expendable
- Consequences of keeping Marleau
- Nazem Kadri is redundant
- Goodbye Gardiner
- Mitch Marner offer sheet threat
Zaitsev – TSN’s Darren Dreger has reported a lot of interest in Zaitsev after he requested a trade out of Toronto. It could end up being a mutually beneficial deal as Zaitsev gets his fresh start and the Leafs get out from under his contract. All signs point to a draft floor deal.
Brown – A player we all love but with a price tag too rich for his production levels in Toronto. Edmonton could be interested and the Leafs, as per Elliot Friedman, could be looking for as little as a second-round pick in return to clear cap space.
Marleau – Kyle Dubas has broken his silence on Marleau. With the Kings using their buyout on Phaneuf and the Ducks on Perry, it seems unlikely that Marleau will leave Toronto. Dubas confirmed this as the Toronto Star reports, as life with Marleau next season becomes a reality.
Kadri – Dubas spoke on Nazem Kadri’s future too, stating he would like to keep the center but will listen to offers on him. It makes sense as the Leafs strength is up the middle of the ice, however, can they trust him? The Leafs want a center in return (cheaper).
Gardiner – The Karlsson $11m deal set the bar for defensemen, and despite Gardiner being far from him on skill level, he’ll likely get $7+ million a year. This effectively prices him out of the Leafs range, which in my opinion, is a good thing. So long.
Marner – The biggest news comes on the Marner front. Dubas, who has previously stated he will match any offer sheet on Mitch Marner, has now stated that it isn’t a guarantee he matches now. Maybe it’s jockeying as Dubas tries to leverage playing in Toronto to Marner and his agent, but after the Marner camp reportedly turned down $11m for 8-years, it could be Dubas coming to terms with losing the player.
What to expect when you’re expecting (chaos)?
Movement. Lots of movement. Kyle Dubas’ precarious cap position means he and Brandon Pridham will need to be creative and assertive to clear cap space. The lack of a first round pick might keep the Leafs off of the draft board on Friday night, but don’t expect them to remain quiet.
As far as predictions, I would say Zaitsev and Brown are off to Edmonton, Kapanen+ to Carolina for a right shot defenseman, Sparks may leave on a PTBNL deal, Kadri moves out on a deal for a depth center and a bottom-4 defenseman, and Dubas may not balk at Mitch Marner’s game of chicken.
While none of this is certain, one thing is; the Maple Leafs are going to be movers and shakers at the NHL draft. I am all in on Dubas taking this team, making some changes, and forcing their way to the next step.