Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs came out on top of the NHL draft despite no first-round pick

Despite Mitch Marner still not being signed, Zaitsev still not being traded, and the Leafs still drafting small players, Dubas came out of the draft smelling like roses for two reasons.

Taking drafted players out of the equation, the Maple Leafs were one of the few teams who made significant moves, headlining the NHL entry draft. While both Leaf storylines were different, the salary cap was in the center of both stories.

Goodbye, Marleau

The Toronto Maple Leafs defacto father of the team, Patrick Marleau, is (for now) a Carolina Hurricane. This deal was nothing more than a salary dump to a team who will have space to spare but pulled a significant piece away from the Maple Leafs to do it.

In 2020, for the second consecutive year, the Maple Leafs will be drafting without a first-round pick. Yes, the package that was able to convince the Hurricanes included a conditional first round pick in 2020. The condition is that if the pick is a top-10 selection Carolina receive the 2021 pick instead. A 7th round pick was also kicked in for a 6th-round pick return.

For those criticizing Kyle Dubas for this, give your head a shake. Once Nikita Zaitsev is moved on, Dubas will finally be free of the two most onerous contracts that Lou Lamoriello signed while in Toronto. Only then will the young mastermind get a chance to form his team to his vision.

The price was steep but when you’re asking for a team to take on $6.25 million in dead cap after the player requests to be bought out, you’re going to have to give up something significant. The move needed to be made for Marner’s contract debacle, and giving up that first round pick hurts but, what can you do, right?

The Two Sacrificial Lambs Now Close to Signing

Heading into the draft it was looking like one of Kasperi Kapanen and/or Andreas Johnsson would be traded for either a defenseman or to grease a team into taking on Patrick Marleau’s contract. Fast forward to now and both players have deals in place to stay with the Maple Leafs for at least three years.

Kapanen was the name drawing the most attention in trade talks, as the Phil Kessel trade returnee was seen as the odd man out with Johnsson’s breakout “rookie season”. With him all but tied up, the Leafs are in a better situation, especially after moving out the Marleau deal.

Up next is Johnsson:

Another deal, almost identical on value and a year longer than Kapanen’s. With both players signing for a, at most, combined value of $6.9 million, the moving out of the Marleau contract is extremely important.

Forget about Mitch Marner still not signing, forget about the Leafs prioritizing small players yet again in the draft, and forget about Nikita Zaitsev not being traded, the Leafs conducted business at the draft and came out on the positive side of things. Sure, it sucked losing another first round pick, but Dubas bit the bullet and used the money almost immediately to sign two of his most dynamic wingers to cap-friendly deals.

 

 

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