Toronto Maple Leafs Offseason Is a Challenge
The Toronto Maple Leafs took the reigning Stanley Cup champions to Game 7, and played well enough to win. The fans can lament the fact that they didn’t move on, but management is clearly betting on this core to eventually break through.
However, they failed to clear the hurdle in the final year of cheap deals for several players; namely Jack Campbell, Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin.
While some of those names aren’t going to prove huge difference-makers in terms of the team doing any better this coming season; it’s also still a big issue to have to turn over so much of the team’s depth to keep under the salary cap.
Factoring in the new contract that comes into effect for Morgan Rielly, to say the Toronto Maple Leafs are a little top-heavy is an overstatement. Kyle Dubas will really need to work his magic to find cheap depth.
To be fair, he has managed to do that every single year he has been in charge.
Last summer the Leafs placed bets on several free agents (Mrazek, Bunting, Ritchie, Kampf, and Kase) to go along with previous cheap bets on Spezza, Simmonds, Engvall, and Mikheyev.
while most of those worked out, Kyle Dubas made two deals that in hindsight were significant overpays. The first was to Nick Ritchie, the second was to Petr Mrazek, however, that’s the deal with cheap players – if they were predictable, they’d already have contracts.
The Leafs have consistently found solid NHL depth at bargain basement prices by making bets on as many cheap players as they can, knowing that inevitably they’ll find an Engval, a Bunting or a Kampf.
The Nick Ritchie signing was remedied in the lead up to the trade deadline, bringing across rental defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin in return, costing only a future single second or third round pick. This turned out to be a solid trade for the Leafs and Lyubushkin fit in so well he ended up on the top pairing for much the time.
The Petr Mrazek contract meanwhile is a thorn in the Toronto Maple Leafs side. With two more seasons at $3.8 million and with a 10-team no-trade clause, it’s a challenging contract to shake free of.
Though there was plenty of promise last summer that he could become a partner in a strong goaltending tandem, several injuries have turned the contract into a bit of an albatross. Though Mrazek could come back and revive his career, his contract only works with a dirt-cheap #1 like Jack Campbell, which the Leafs will no longer have.
Dubas needs to shake free of the Mrazek contract, preferably without buying it out, preferably without retaining salary and ideally without giving up a high draft pick. Mission impossible in all reality.