Toronto Maple Leafs: Contract Expectations of Pending Free Agents

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 4: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas during interview with Bruce Arthur (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 4: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas during interview with Bruce Arthur (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 29: Travis Dermott #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs . (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Toronto Maple Leafs Pending RFAs

The complete list of Maple Leafs RFAs is as follows:

  • Travis Dermott
  • Ilya Mikheyev
  • Frederik Gauthier
  • Denis Malgin
  • Jeremy Bracco
  • Pontus Aberg
  • Max Verroneau
  • Teemu Kivihalme

Travis Dermott is the only “true” RFA of the NHL players on this list.

Ilya Mikheyev, Denis Malgin, and Frederik Gauthier are also Restricted Free Agents, but they each have the option to file for arbitration, which will make the decision to re-sign these players either extremely easy or extremely hard.

Malgin and Gauthier will likely re-sign at or close to, league minimum. Malgin performed well in a limited sample, and Gauthier, despite being on pace to have his best NHL season to date, doesn’t exactly warrant a big pay bump given his place on the team.

Ilya Mikheyev, on the other hand, may prove to be a little more difficult.

It is undeniable that the team plays better with him in the lineup. On his worst day, he’s still a top-9 forward who produces offensively and is great at supporting the defense.

His agent, Dan Milstein, has tweeted phrases such as “Show Me The Money” in response to tweets about how well Mikheyev has performed.

If he can be retained for under $2 million, it’s a fantastic contract that potentially makes Andreas Johnsson expendable. If his team pushes for arbitration, however, and they push for something significantly higher, then the Toronto Maple Leafs may have no choice but to walk away from the Russian winger.

Which leaves us with Travis Dermott, who will be fresh off an entry-level contract.

This  is one negotiation that Dubas absolutely can and should win easily. Dermott has the potential to be a top-4 defenseman, the flashes of greatness have been shown at times in his young NHL career, and has extremely strong stats in a third line role.

Another factor to consider is that he is a Toronto boy born and bred, this is his dream job. It’s unlikely that he’ll be so willing to risk that future for a slight pay bump, but only time will tell.

I can see a one-year, “bet on yourself” bridge deal like Andreas Johnsson took, but don’t discount the possibility of a long-term deal, at around $3 million AAV. If he develops out to his potential within the next season or two, it’s a Nazem Kadri-esque bargain for a key player. If it doesn’t work out, it’s an easy contract to offload.

Toronto Marlies Pending RFAs

Max Verroneau and Teemu Kivihalme both have arbitration rights.

Both are young, interesting players with some NHL upside. However there is a small condition as part of the trade that brought Verroneau to Toronto from Ottawa: if he plays 10 games or more in the NHL, the Leafs give up a 6th round pick to the Senators, so that should be considered when evaluating his future.

Pontus Aberg is another interesting case. He has arbitration rights, but rumors have him linked to a KHL contract. It could be a bargaining tool to try and secure an NHL position, but I don’t see where he would fit in this current lineup.

Which leaves us with the curious case of Jeremy Bracco. He doesn’t have arbitration rights, and also seemingly disappeared from the Toronto Marlies lineup in early February due to a personal issue rather than injury.

Around Christmas, there were reports that he had asked for a trade, which never materialized. Perhaps it’s something Dubas re-visits now with the signings of Alexander Barabanov and the emergence of Nick Robertson.