Who Will and Won’t Be on the Toronto Maple Leafs Next Season

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 22: Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his team's win over the New York Rangers with mascot Carlton the Bear at the Scotiabank Arena on December 22, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 22: Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his team's win over the New York Rangers with mascot Carlton the Bear at the Scotiabank Arena on December 22, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have three Restricted Free Agents that need to be signed and two Unrestricted Free Agents that they should look at signing.

From the end of the season, and until July 1st, unless a deal is signed, there will be a lot of speculation about the RFA’s.

Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen are the RFA’s. Plus, there’s the two UFA’s in Jake Gardiner and Tyler Ennis. As much as I hope that they’ll be here next year, there’s a strong chance, two or maybe 3 won’t return.

It could be really good for the team, or really bad. A lot of questions need to be answered this offseason by Kyle Dubas, and a lot of them will possibly be answered by July 1st, but if not, it will be an interesting summer.

The UFA’s

Gardiner and Ennis are the ones who aren’t likely to return. Gardiner will be getting a pay raise as his AAV was $4 million last season, and it looks like he’ll get upwards of $6 million, or maybe even close to $7 million. With the season he had last year, surpassing 50 points, and the season he had this year, where he was remarkable until his back injury. I think it’s very tough to see if he’ll be in a Leafs jersey next season. Given the payday he is projected to want and the cap crunch the Leafs are in, it will be hard for Toronto to give him the money he’s looking for.

Ennis will be in the same boat. Last summer, he signed a League Minimum $650k contract, but with the way he played this season, he’s likely going to be getting a seven-figure salary. Ennis missed 31 games this season with a broken ankle, but when he was in the lineup, he was very effective. He’s a player that adds great depth, but I just don’t see his contract fitting in with the Leafs future next season.

The RFA’s

First off, let’s talk about Andreas Johnsson. He finished the season with 43 points in 73 games, and if he had played all 82 games, there’s a possibility he could’ve been a 50-point player. One player who compares in points to Johnsson, and is the same age is Anthony Mantha. He currently has a $3.3 million AAV, where he’s gotten 48 points these last 2 seasons.

I don’t think he will be getting that much, but I’m sure he’ll start there.

A good number for both sides could be around $2.6-$2.8 million per year given the team’s cap restraints and Johnsson’s point production. But, one thing to remember is that he has arbitration rights, so if he’s not happy with the number, they can go to arbitration. He’s not at the 50-point level yet, but with the way he played on Auston Matthews‘ wing, we could potentially see him with 50+ points next season.

Now, let’s talk about Kasperi Kapanen, another tough negotiation.

With the last season he had, playing on Matthews wing, to going to the third line, then back on Matthews wing, it’s been a whirlwind season for him. There’s not a huge sample size to look at, but there’s potential. If Mike Babcock returns next season and he puts William Nylander back with Matthews, that will likely put Kapanen on the third line.

Don’t get me wrong, the third line is great. To be on the wing of Nazem Kadri (if he returns next season) is incredible. A good centre and probably a good winger on the other side, and Kapanen can produce. But, not so fast. Kapanen’s averaged 16:37 of ice-time this season with most of it being with Matthews, but if he moves down to the third-line permanently, he could see less ice-time next season.

With the role still unknown for Kapanen, I could see him making the same, or just a bit more than Johnsson. The way Kapanen plays is totally different from Johnsson, but I feel like he’s more of an impact player. The way he uses his speed is one of his many upsides, but he’s got his shot as well. Even though he’s got to hit the net more, his ceiling is still pretty high, which will make for a tough contract negotiation.

The “Big Fish”

You may be asking, why is Johnsson the biggest? Well, he led the team in points this season and Marner will probably be asking for $11 million per year to start off the negotiations. Yes, I believe NHL players have the right to try and get the most money they can, they play in the NHL. But, I just don’t see Marner making up upwards of $11 million, and, even to me, $10 million is still a lot.

There’s a lot of speculation that if Marner holds out until July 1st, there’s the potential that he could get an offer sheet. However, according to others, he won’t even negotiate a contract before July 1st, which I think won’t happen.

Look at Leon Draisaitl, for example. He’s making $8.5 million per year and he finished with 105 points, 11 more than Marner. Yes, Edmonton may have gotten a steal, but now you have to look at that with Marner. Even though he likely will get more than Draisaitl, I don’t believe it will be a lot more. I think Marner will get $9.6 million per year, but that’s if he doesn’t get offer sheeted, or traded.

For me, to think about a Leafs team without Mitch Marner is crazy. And, even if they don’t get him signed by July 1st, I highly doubt he leaves. He’s a Toronto boy, he loves the city and he especially loves the fans, heck he even gets tons of endorsements, which you probably wouldn’t get anywhere else. To me, I just don’t ever see Marner in another jersey other than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For all five players, I wish they would stay with the team. Although signing all five is a possibility, I don’t think the Leafs will have enough money to pay them all. But it’s Kyle Dubas, and he got hired for one reason, and that’s the brains. He can do it all, but it’s going to take a lot of math that I’m sure is already done.

Next. Sheldon Keefe's Masterpiece. dark

Now, it’s time for the negotiations, he’s learned from his mistakes, and he’s ready for the next round this summer.

All contract values courtesy of CapFriendly.