Over the past two days, we’ve looked at what a new deal for Morgan Rielly might look like and when the best time to sign it might be. We’ve also taken a look at the signing of Mikko Lehtonen and how that might help the Maple Leafs as the defensive corps undergo big changes. What else might the team be looking to do?
Jonas Siegel of The Athletic named 12 players the team might elect to consider. Among them: Chris Tanev, Justin Schultz, Alex Pietrangelo, Dustin Byfuglien, Radko Gudas, Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, T.J. Brodie, Ron Hainsey, Roman Polak, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Travis Hamonic.
Some options are more realistic than others. Here is a couple the Maple Leafs might actually want to consider:
Pietrangelo is the pipedream of the group. He’s the least likely, even if he’s the best fit and exactly what the team could use. He would give the team a much-improved corps on the backend but acquiring him would come at a significant cost.
The Leafs are leaning right up against the cap which means moving a player (maybe two) would be necessary. The $9 million per season or so that Pietrangelo will want means clearing some serious cap space.
Something like one of Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2 million cap hit), Andreas Johnsson ($3.4 million) or Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million), plus something even bigger — say, Frederik Andersen and his $5 million cap hit or Morgan Rielly, also at $5 million. Or, otherwise, an even bigger contract like Mitch Marner ($10.893 million) would need to go.
The key here is the word “plus”. Siegel isn’t merely suggesting moving someone like Kapanen or Johnsson would be enough. The team might have to move Andersen or Marner too.
Likely Odds: Slim to None
Siegel likes Brodie as a back-up plan for the Leafs and wonders if the organization can buy low. Dubas has previously mentioned that some free agents won’t get what they expect to when the market opens after revenues have dropped and the cap flattens. Brodie may be surprised by a lack of action. If he thinks he’s going to get much more than the $4.65 million he made on his last deal, he could be disappointed.
There are also teams that wonder if the easy-moving, good-passing blueliner isn’t quite as good without someone like Mark Giordano flanking him. That could scare teams off. If the Maple Leafs can get a good deal, they may make the move.
Likely Odds: Decent to Good
There are questions in Tampa Bay about whether or not they can afford to keep Kevin Shattenkirk. He had a strong rebound season and his $1.75 million cap hit is the kind of deal the Maple Leafs are looking for to minimize the damage they’ll have inflicted in other areas.
The downside is that he’s a bit like Tyson Barrie who the Leafs are likely to let walk in free agency. There are challenges on the defensive side of things.
If the Maple Leafs lean this way, it would be wise to do this on a short-term deal.
Likely Odds: Good
Let’s assume Byufglien is even considering an NHL comeback. At the very least, he’ll be looking for a situation that might shield him a bit and let him get his feet wet in the NHL again.
Toronto is the mecha of hockey talk but he might be inclined to do a one-year deal for less money where the talk will be about what he’s bringing for the dollars earned versus what he isn’t bringing after the Maple Leafs heavily invested in him. That means, if the Maple Leafs can get him on a low-money contract for little time, it’s a gamble that could pay off.
Since he walked away from so much money in Winnipeg, perhaps this isn’t about money. That’s good news for the Maple Leafs who could offer performance bonuses on his deal over straight guaranteed money.
Likely Odds: Still slim, but interesting
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