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Leafs will have stiff competition for Pietrangelo in free agent market

September 23, 2020, 5:42 PM ET [498 Comments]
Mike Augello
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There are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to the pursuit of a prominent unrestricted free agent, which the Toronto Maple Leafs know all too well with their experiences with Steven Stamkos in 2016 and John Tavares two years later.

The Leafs were one of four teams that tried to woo Stamkos away from Tampa four years ago, which included bringing in Toronto mayor John Tory and Canadian Tire CEO Michael Medline into the meeting and potentially making the Markham, ON native the highest-paid player in the NHL at the time, but in the end, Stamkos re-signed with the Lightning for $68 million over eight years.

Two years later, Toronto battled with five clubs (Boston, Dallas, San Jose, Tampa Bay, and the NY Islanders) for Tavares and took a more low-key approach in their pursuit, which worked in bringing the Mississauga, ON native home. The seven-year, $77 million contract with a full no-movement and $70 Million in signing bonuses was not the best offer that Tavares received, as the Sharks would have paid him in excess of Connor McDavid’s league-high $12.5 million AAV.

Toronto once again will be in competition with a number of clubs for a big-ticket free agent in Alex Pietrangelo if the 30-year-old blueliner reaches free agency on October 9.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun indicated on Wednesday that besides the Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights being likely suitors, the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers may also check in on Pietrangelo. The Flames entire right side of their blueline (TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Michael Stone) are unrestricted free agents, team captain Mark Giordano has only two years left on his contract and GM Brad Treliving has more than $16 million in cap space. Florida has more than $20 million in cap room and may be trying to move out defenseman Mike Matheson to Pittsburgh for forward Patric Hornqvist.

The advantage for the Flames and Panthers is that they have the room to make Pietrangelo an offer in the range of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25 million AAV to Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi’s new eight-year deal at $9.059 million AAV, while the Leafs and Golden Knights would have to move out salary to sign a contract for that amount. LeBrun believes that both Vegas and Toronto would do that (no matter how difficult the prospect) if Pietrangelo chose to sign with them, but it is unknown what form those moves would take.

The Golden Knights might have to move out veterans Alec Martinez (one year at $4 million) and/or Paul Stastny (one year at $6.5 million), while the Leafs with just over $6 million in cap space would have to clear William Nylander $6.96 million salary, Frederik Andersen’s $5 million AAV, or multiple players like Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million) and Andreas Johnsson ($3.4 million) to sign the blueliner and still have room to re-sign Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev and make depth additions.

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