The Toronto Maple Leafs are doing quite well this season. They have several players playing above expectations. However, there is a common reason for NHL players exceeding expections. That is that they are in a contract year. The Leafs players this year are no different.
This years salary cap is $64.3 million. Even with the amount expected to go up around six million by next year, the Leafs might not be able to retain all of their impending free agents. Who they re-sign will be up to Dave Nonis and that will directly impact the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here’s a look at the Leafs impending free agents.
Cody Franson, Defenseman
The Leafs already had trouble re-signing Franson this past off-season, only getting him to sign a contract in the middle of training camp. As he as arguably improved on his game from last year, he will probably get the raise he wanted last season.
James Reimer, Goaltender
This one is iffy. While the Maple Leafs have had tremendous success with both Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, the time may come that both goaltenders want a bonafide No. 1 role. With Reimer becoming a restricted free agent this off-season, it could be time that the Leafs let go of Reimer.
Jake Gardiner, Defenseman
Gardiner presents another question for the Maple Leafs. With Morgan Rielly soon to be the Leafs premier offensive defenseman, Gardiner could become expendable. Seeing is that his name has already been bandied about in trade speculation, don’t be surprised to see him traded either before the deadline or in the off-season.
Peter Holland, Center
The recently-acquired Holland was traded for because he has long-term potential. That would mean it’s obvious he’s in the Leafs long-term plans. He’ll get re-signed for a small price.
Carter Ashton, Left Wing
Ashton has provided a steady presence in the Leafs bottom six subbing in for injured Leafs. While his game has slowed somewhat, he should be another low-cost signing.
Dion Phaneuf, Defense
One of the more polarizing Leaf players, there is no denying the skill that Phaneuf brings to the Leafs blue line. If the Leafs were to let him go, it is highly unlikely that he could be replaced. He’ll be re-signed long-term.
Dave Bolland, Center
Bolland was brought in to give the Leafs what they didn’t have enough of in last year’s playoffs, shutdown ability from the forward corps. It was unfortunate that he only had one year left on his contract. However, with Bolland’s injury woes following him to Toronto, they might be able to get away with not giving him too much of a raise.
Mason Raymond, Left Wing
The Leafs were able to get Raymond on a bargain-basement deal after a tryout in training camp. He has proven to be one of the NHL’s best bargains this year as he proven to be one of the Leafs best players. However, that great play may cause him to leave Toronto as the Leafs may not be able to afford him.
Nikolai Kulemin, Left/Right Wing
With a bunch of Leaf prospects proving themselves ready for the NHL, Nikolai Kulemin’s time in a Leaf uniform might be running out. I would expect Kulemin to be traded either at the deadline or in the off-season.
Jay McClement, Center
Other than the Leafs’ goaltenders, McClement has been personally responsible for the Leafs becoming one of the better penalty-killing teams in the NHL. Seeing as that before he came to Toronto the Leaf’s PK was absolutely atrocious, McClement is a must-sign.
Jerred Smithson, Center
Smithson probably won’t be re-signed as he is simply an injury replacement and will more than likely spend the rest of the season with the Marlies. It’s possible that he could stay with the Marlies past this season, but I doubt the Leafs will re-sign him.
Trevor Smith, Center
Smith is making it really hard for the Leafs to send him down as he would have to clear waivers to be sent down. Should be a cheap re-sign.
Mark Fraser, Defense
Fraser has had two injuries this season that have caused him to miss time. With the Leafs defensive depth really good right now, Fraser should be let go.
Paul Ranger, Defense
Unless he improves his play vastly, I would say Ranger is in the same boat as Ranger and will be replaced by the 2014-15 season.