The Toronto Maple Leafs open their preseason schedule in St. John’s Newfoundland against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, marking the debut of a number of new Leafs and highlighting some key roster battles.
Wingers Egor Korshkov, Pierre Engvall, Trevor Moore, Mason Marchment and Jeremy Bracco are all in the mix for spots on the Leafs roster, but due to the tight squeeze on the club’s salary cap, they will likely carry little or no reserve players and shuttle players back and forth as needed from the American Hockey League. Veteran center Jason Spezza will go head-to-head with last season’s fourth line center Frederik Gauthier, and another potential competitor in Adam Brooks.
While most of the attention will be focused on the debut of defensemen Tyson Barrie (who is being paired with Jake Muzzin), the battle for the bottom pairing will feature former St. Louis Blue Jordan Schmaltz, Martin Marincin, free agent acquisition Kevin Gravel and Justin Holl.
Kasperi Kapanen will shift to the left side and fill in for the injured Zach Hyman on the line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner, Spezza will center Engvall and Moore, Brooks will center Marlies linemates Marchment and Bracco and Gauthier will play between Dmytro Timashov and Korshkov.
There was a great deal of relief that the Maple Leafs locked up their core group for the next few years, but the fact that Toronto has invested over $40 Million in four players, will have little or no cap space this season and has three unrestricted free agent defensemen next summer puts GM Kyle Dubas’ handling of the cap and contract negotiations in question.
If the Leafs have success this season, then Dubas will not have criticism heaped upon him for giving Auston Matthews the second-highest cap hit in the NHL ($11.634 Million) on a five-year deal or for paying Mitch Marner more than Patrick Kane or Nikita Kucherov.
In contrast, the Boston Bruins continue to either have the good fortune or do not seem having a problem getting their key players signed to more cost-effective contracts. To go along with the top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all being signed for less than $7 Million per season, GM Don Sweeney pulled off a double-whammy this week in getting defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed to bridge deals.
McAvoy is clearly the Bruins top defenseman and yet the 22-year-old did not get a six-year-deal like Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov, but instead signed a three-year deal for less than $5 Million per season. Carlo will never put up big offensive numbers, but could have made big money on a long-term extension, but chose instead to sign a two-year deal for $2.85 Million per season.
By getting these deals done for lower AAV’s, the Bruins can keep the group that reached the Stanley Cup Final intact and can wait until the contracts of David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and David Backes expire before they have to pay McAvoy amongst the highest paid defensemen
The Matthew and Marner deals do not offer the Leafs that luxury, and they will likely be unable to re-sign Tyson Barrie and possibly Jake Muzzin after this season unless they clear salary by making trades.
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