It is expected that the Toronto Maple Leafs will go through a number of changes this summer with players looking for new contracts and the growing uncertainty about their ability to fit everyone under the salary cap. Factors such as what amount the NHL will increase the cap to and how much it will cost to get Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson extended are uncertainties that could alter the direction that GM Kyle Dubas takes.
With that in mind, it is a good time to take the pulse of Leafs Nation and answer some questions from Twitter:
Do you think they will be able to get rid of Marleau's contract? What about trading Nylander for defensive help like Pesche? ( I apologize if I spelled their names incorrectly) My priority is keeping Marner over Nylander and maybe keeping Kap and Johansson.
A - I’ll answer the first question since Marleau’s status is of much debate and the utmost importance for the Leafs salary cap situation next season. Much of the decision of whether a trade is a possibility is up to Marleau himself since he has a full no-movement clause and can’t be waived or sent to the minors.
Based on his comments at locker cleanout, the 39-year-old wants to come back and finish out the final year of his three-year, $18.75 Million contract and it is unlikely that Dubas will attempt to push Marleau out the door with his close relationship to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. If the Leafs make it clear that they only see Marleau as a part-time player and he is amenable to being dealt or if he chooses to retire, it would not be as difficult a proposition as you would think.
Marleau’s contract counts against the cap whether he retires or plays because he signed it after the age of 35. After July 1, when Marleau gets a $3 Million signing bonus, he is only due $1.25 Million in base salary for 2019-20 but has a $6.25 Million cap hit. For budget teams like Arizona and others, the actual money paid out is more important than the cap hit because they are more concerned about getting to the cap floor.
NOTE- Elliotte Friedman reports that Marleau's bonus is paid in two installments; in July and December, which might hinder the Leafs from moving his contract.
Hi Michael, so do you see the assistant coaches being replaced or is it a go for both still? The PP/PK was horrid
— Martin Marincin aka Norris Skills (@JeremyS87072771) May 12, 2019
A - It sounds like there will be some changes to Babcock’s staff after four years with DJ Smith and Jim Hiller as his assistants. Smith may be in the mix for the head coaching vacancies in Edmonton, Ottawa and Buffalo and Elliotte Friedman reported on the “31 Thoughts” podcast that Hiller will likely not be back.
As to where Babcock goes for new assistants, your guess is as good as mine, but one name that popped up after the end of the regular season is former Kingston Frontenacs head coach Paul McFarland.
McFarland, 33, was part of Bob Boughner’s coaching staff with Florida for two seasons and was let go by the Panthers along with Boughner last month, but was given credit for Florida’s success on the power play (2nd in the NHL at 26.8%).
Do you see Dubas making a big move/moves or just depth free agent signings plus Marlie call ups to fill out the roster?
A - I think that this offseason is the time for a decisive move and not tinkering tweak. Dubas is someone who appreciates Raptors GM Masai Ujiri management style and he went big last offseason with the DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard deal. How that translates to the Leafs is unknown, but it could mean moving Nazem Kadri or William Nylander if Toronto can get a top flight defenseman in return.
Who, in the free agent market, is available to add some size and toughness to support all our skilled guys?
A - Michael Ferland was reportedly a trade target of the Leafs prior to the trade deadline, but the Hurricanes decided to keep the power forward for their playoff run. It’s tough to imagine that the Leafs will be in the market for an impact free agent, based on their salary cap restrictions. Former Flyer and Scarborough native Wayne Simmonds has always been rumored to be on the Leafs radar and scored only one goal after being dealt to Nashville at the deadline, but the 30-year-old would have to take a short-term deal for Toronto to be interested and he likely will still draw enough interest to get multi-year offers from a number of teams.
The size and toughness are likely to come internally, with the likes of Mason Marchment, Pierre Engvall, Egor Korshkov and Ilya Mikheyev pushing for NHL jobs.
Who do you think the Leafs should target on defence through A) Trade and B) Free Agency?
A - The Leafs will not get into free agency for defensive help, unless it is a low-cost veteran or re-signing Ron Hainsey for one year. Unless they clear a significant salary, Jake Gardiner will not be back and in spite of their appreciation of Gardiner at the end of the season, it is rumored that they have not had any significant contract talks with him.
Trade is the likely avenue for any defensive upgrade. Ideally, Dubas would like to acquire a blueliner with significant term left on his deal to provide cost certainty, but if there is a short-term fix available and the cost is reasonable, Toronto could go that direction as well.
Since there is a lot to negativity surrounding the team currently,do you believe since it should be a no brainer that Auston Matthews is the next captain would it be announced before July 1 ? before marner contract? or in September?
A - The Leafs are over two years away from having to worry about who they will have to protect or leave exposed for the Seattle expansion draft in June 2021, but Toronto will have some difficult decisions of which seven forwards, three defensemen and goaltender they will protect.
Youngsters like Ramsus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Joseph Woll and Egor Korshkov are exempt.
John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews are three definites, but with Nazem Kadri, William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson being the likely other four, that leaves Zach Hyman, Connor Brown and some young Marlies forwards (Trevor Moore, Jeremy Bracco, Mason Marchment, Pierre Engvall) exposed.
On defense, assuming that the Leafs re-sign Jake Muzzin before next summer, the three defensemen protected would likely be Morgan Rielly, Muzzin and Travis Dermott, leaving Calle Rosen and Nikita Zaitsev unprotected.
Frederik Andersen is an unrestricted free agent in July 2021, and if he is extended, he will be protected.
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