Introduction to Maple Leafs Free Agency: Pressure is on to Take a Step Forward

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Make no mistake: the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a player on October 9, when the curtain opens on a fall free agency.

An executive with a vision, Kyle Dubas made his first triumphant free agency success when, as rookie GM, he outbid a string of 2018 grand prize contenders John Tavares.

You can debate whether this $ 88 million photoshoot set up or delayed the hit list, but what you can’t argue is Dubas’ targeted assault when it comes to sign those on which he has set his sights.

Heck, the Leafs surged into free agency in 2020 months ago, when they secured the coveted KHL imports from Mikko Lehtonen and Alexander Barabanov.

Dubas then wasted little time dusting off his seat at the table for the NHL Fall Market. By ceding Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh for a cap and futures in the offseason icebreaker trade, the executive has announced its intention to participate in the tender.

“We wanted this [cap] flexibility so that we can be flexible within the market for free agents or for trades, ”Dubas said.

Trades absorb assets. Free agents? They only absorb money.

And as a financial powerhouse in a league with a franchise segment that prefers to stay on budget, Toronto has never shied away from throwing money at a problem.

Salary ceiling space: $ 6.1 million
Listing Size: 18/23
Salary incurred for the attackers: $ 51.71 million
Salary incurred for defense: $ 15.83 million
Salary incurred for goalkeepers: $ 6.65 million

Team needs

No longer just making the cut, the Maple Leafs must build a roster that doesn’t just qualify for a fifth straight postseason, but ends up as a seed ready to take on an opponent or two or three and make a tangible step forward. .

Most agree that such an improvement starts at the back, and whatever method Dubas has to grapple with an inexperienced, unbalanced blue line bidding farewell to his two most experienced right-hangers, Tyson Barrie and Cody This . The good news is that many right-handed defenders will be available in both the UFA and Commerce markets at different price points.

Item # 2 on the GM’s to-do list is expected to be reconfiguring a bottom-six group of attackers ranked by injuries and inconsistencies and lacking in identity throughout 2019-20. When Columbus ousted the Toronto bubble in the qualifying round, Nick Foligno’s third row made his way with the Maple Leafs squad. A good place to start would be to sign a pure center player to slip into the 3 hole, preferably one that kills penalties and contributes to a secondary score.

Does Dubas think that the newly acquired Evan Rodrigues (RFA) is up to the task? Can he be signed for anything less than his qualifying offer of $ 2 million? Will Alexander Kerfoot be trusted to bounce back from a rocky first tour in blue and white? Or does Dubas set off in search of a proven veteran with Kyle Clifford and possibly Jason Spezza leaving town?

Third, the Leafs must be more difficult to face in their own zone. A look at the clubs that have been deepened in this summer’s playoffs should reinforce that, and Dubas could do worse than follow Julien BriseBois’ plan here.

Some Leafs grain increase by 60 is expected to occur organically. The Core is at its peak and should be good and tired of getting beaten in elimination matches. But some must be imported.

That means more diligent penalty killers, fiercer boxouts, and willing shot blockers. Really, the heavy lifting – locking up elite talent – is already done.

It fills in the fringes with the right kind of complementary pieces that could be the difference between another early release and a legitimate shot at glory.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to lots of people in the hockey world, then they tell listeners what they heard and what they think.

Potential FMU targets

1. Alex Pietrangelo, RD: A 50-point, all-star, right-shooting defenseman who skates over 24 versatile minutes per night, killing penalties, driving attacks and stuffing cycles? Yes please. There’s no question that Toronto-born Pietrangelo is the best UFA available for the Leafs’ needs. The question will be who leaves the roster to make way for his (approximate) $ 8.5 million contract and whether the Leafs can win a Stanley Cup before the 30-year-old’s game ceases to match his heels. payroll.

2. Radko Gudas, RD: If Pietrangelo stays with St. Louis or signs with any of his other contenders (Vegas is enthusiastic), Dubas will have a crop of second-tier right-handed defenders to throw tires on. A player like Gudas, who is unlikely to sign again at Washington, has the clever underlying numbers to pass Dubas’ analytical tests, the sandpaper to appease the critics we need more courage and the prowess of killing the weaker half of Toronto’s specialist teams.

3. Joe Thornton, C: The Maple Leafs may not have realized how much they needed Nazem Kadri before he left. Kerfoot struggled to switch from wing to 3C, so we’re intrigued by the possibility of Dubas selling a waning star like Ontario-born Thornton – or, perhaps, Mikko Koivu or Spezza (again) – in coming to Toronto, injecting some leadership, winning faceoffs, creating side scores and accepting a little less money for another kick in the dream.



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