Can the Toronto Maple Leafs Even Afford Alex Pietrangelo?

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex Pietrangelo are a constant topic of conversation as the NHL approaches its free-agency period.

Can the Toronto Maple Leafs sign him?  Will he test free agency? Do the Leafs even want him? If they do, can they free up the cap space? And so on, and so forth.

The facts are that Pietrangelo is a right handed, Norris-worthy, defenseman who is one of the better ones in the NHL. He is also 30 years old and most likely to seek a contract that takes him into his late thirties. ( Info from Cap Friendly).

While Pietrangelo would certainly make the Leafs the best team in the NHL for the upcoming year, how much money do you really want to spend on a 30 year old free-agent? How does that impact the future, and the ability to re-sign other members of the core?

Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex Pietrangleo

Regardless of any risks, if you have the chance to add an elite player to your roster for free, you almost have to take it.  The fact is, its generally impossible to find these players, and while it might make sense to trade for a younger player in theory, teams aren’t exactly lining up to give them away.

Teams – ironically also the Blues – overpay all the time for defenseman who are only just OK.   Justin Faulk, Markus Scandella, and Jonas Brodin all recently signed big contracts, and not one of these guys really moves the needle.  I mean, sure, they’re OK, but Pietrangelo is elite.

The Leafs can hope that some combination of Liljegren, Sandin, Dermott and Lehtonen  eventually gives them a Cup Worthy blue-line, or they can just sign Pietrangelo and instantly have one.

The only question is, how can the Leafs fit him in without gutting their roster?  The Leafs could do it, but is it wise?

First, replace Justin Holl with Timothy Liljegren.  Save one million.  After the big-three on D, the Leafs simply dress Sandin, Liljegren and Lehtonen.  In this situation you’ve also got Travis Dermott as a pretty decent trade chip.

Next, you trade Freddie Andersen and start Jack Campbell.  That’s worth about $3 million right there.  With Andersen and Holl gone, the Leafs would have $13 million in cap space, and let’s say Pietrangelo takes $8 of that.

The Leafs could sign Miheyev, and still have $2 million  left over, but it gets taken by the cap hits for Lehtonen and Alex Barabanov.  They can then ice this lineup:

Mikheyev – Matthews – Nylander

Hyman – Tavares – Marner

Johnsson – Kerfoot – Robertson

Barabanov – Engvall – Brooks

Rielly- Pietrangelo

Muzzin – Lehtonen

Sandin – Liljegren 

Campbell

So basically you’re signing Pietrangelo at the cost of Andersen over Campbell, and some fringe players.  Maybe they have to move Hyman, or Johnsson as well, but when coupled with Andersen and Dermott, that would give them a lot of trade chips.

Personally, I think I’d prefer to be patient and explore trade options due to all the potentially tradable assets the Leafs have.  I don’t think they need to make a big splash, and while its certainly doable, after looking at all the roster surgery they’d have to do, I think they should pass, despite the rarity of the opportunity.

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It’s funny, given all the unjust criticism the Toronto Maple Leafs take about their cap situation, that they actually have this option, but I just think there are better ones for the Leafs to  trade for younger, cheaper players.  Ones who are potentially better than A.P in a couple years anyways.