One of the interesting things about this offseason is the number of analyst articles and hot shots built around an old watch about the Maple Leafs – they need help on defense. It sounds odd because defensive play from defensemen wasn’t the issue in these playoffs or even in the qualifying series against Columbus last year.
The Leafs added Ben Hutton as depth insurance last deadline, and TJ Brodie last offseason. They also patiently led Rasmus Sandin to prepare for the NHL. Defense is better.
Kyle Dubas found himself in a situation by this deadline, probably not surprisingly, where his bargain acquisitions from the last offseason had not given enough forwards to fill a top nine, and still have insurance to cover. the wounds. That need outweighed any consideration for a meaningful change on the blue line – not that there were a lot of options there – and the Leafs had almost no ceiling space to function. He went big on a striker which is hard to criticize as a concept even if you don’t like the striker he chose.
But none of this should assure anyone that the Leafs’ defense corps is a finished product. A lot of people have noticed that the North Division has a very poor defense overall, and trying to decide which team is better is actually difficult as they are in the narrow range of bad, not very good, or barely passable. No one north of the border was going to be discussed in the Norris Trophy conversations, and that may have led Leafs fans, seeing the Leafs’ best defensive body in decades playing in an environment of mediocrity, to ignore how. theirs compares to the rest of the league.
It is not very good. But, it’s not bad either.
And, okay, not all teams will have Cale Makar or Adam Fox. Not all teams have put their eggs in the defense basket, and the Leafs have several elite, excellent to very good forwards. (Yes, you’re mad at them right now, but they’re still great players.) What Dubas did last year and this season is shift the balance of ceiling space. occupied outside the upper echelon of attackers towards defense and goalkeeper. He traded Nazem Kadri, in part to afford the top four forwards, but also to free up space in defense. It took two tries, but the deal ended up being Kadri and Brodie as the major pick. He then traded Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen so he could afford a plethora of choices regarding the deep term cost and Jack Campbell’s raise, and make enough extra room for Brodie.
The current contact structure for 2021-2022 is as follows:
- Jake Muzzin : 5,625 millions de dollars
- Morgan Rielly : 5 millions
- TJ Brodie : 5 millions
- Justin Holl : 2 millions
- Rasmus Sandin: 894 167
- Timothée Liljegren: 863 333
- Philippe the King: 810,000
- Mac Hollowell : 799 766
- Teemu Kivihalme: 725,000
Additionally, Travis Dermot and Joey Duszak are RFAs with arbitration rights. If Dermott chooses arbitration, he will receive at least the amount of his qualifying bid, which is $ 917,831.
For one thing, there’s a lot of talent out there in the top three at under $ 16 million, a number that can’t even buy you two of the best forwards on the team. On the other hand, the overall strength is not spectacular and the cliff comes quickly as we descend the depth chart.
We could argue for years about who’s better than who in the top three, but suffice it to say that the top three would look like an incredible foursome if you added an NHL top 10-15 defenseman. While Rasmus Sandin looks set to be a full-time NHL player, he won’t be that star NHL player, and going out and buying one is going to cost a lot of ceiling space.
The conversation has already started about trading Morgan Rielly now, before the start of the final year of his contract. But the difference between Rielly’s cap achieved now and what Hamilton will be ordering as UFA is substantial. Nothing is impossible if the team is prepared to take the steps to make it easier, even with a perpetually flat salary cap, but a Maple Leafs with all four forwards and a defense corps more expensive than they have already seemed to be a pipe dream.
The reason I’m focusing on the idea of trading Rielly is because the choice regarding his future is three options: re-signing him for a raise after next season, letting him walk as UFA, or the exchange now. No playoff team will move a player of this nature by the deadline. The decision, as with Andersen last summer, must therefore be made now.
Let’s take the dream seriously with a few assumptions:
Muzzin – Hamilton
Sandin – Brodie
Bogosian – Tous
Muzzin – Hamilton
Brodie – Holl
Sandin – Bogosian
Hamilton will cost you the kind of money ordered by Roman Josi or Alex Pietrangelo. So call it at least $ 8 million. Bogosian could back down on another cut-price deal of $ 1 million. Bogosian is really a concept here of a cheap, straightforward, third pair defender. It could be Hutton or anyone other than Marincin. Dermott is a Kraken in this scenario, but so could he. This made this group cost $ 22.5 million. The squad the Leafs led most of this season was $ 19.5 million or just over 20 if the extra skater was a defenseman.
It sounds a lot more plausible, and the appeal of this concept is that Hamilton on Rielly is a substantial upgrade, without losing the areas of the game in which Rielly excels. This isn’t Alex Pietrangelo’s conversation from last summer, as the idea is built around trading Rielly, which is more plausible now that Sandin is a year older.
Where do you get the three to four million space to pay for this upgrade? One place is Frederik Andersen. If the Leafs pull the proverbial bunny out of a hat and find a legitimate tandem partner or veteran backstop to team up with Jack Campbell on the cheap, then a good chunk of his $ 5 million can go to someone from other than the goalkeeper. But is it possible?
There has been at least one analysis of Dubas’ dilemma that the Leafs will spend $ 4 million on a second goalie, but that almost certainly won’t happen. They’ll have to get a good net deal no matter what else they do. Chris Driedger’s name is obvious, since the Florida Panthers now know they have a player in Spencer Knight and can let Driedger walk. But would he take a cheap offer? Pretty inexpensive? We’re faking it, so let’s say he takes a special Jack Campbell and signs for $ 1.65 million, that just bought Dougie, right!
And the Leafs will then be left with exactly the same headroom to devote to the rest of the forwards they need as this season. Which means another round of veterans on the way, KHL free agents on the way, and recovery projects underway (hopefully) to complete the list of forwards.
Is the Dougie team better than this year? Better question: is it better in a good way? Or does it just sound more fun?
Maybe the Leafs decide Hamilton is a good name for a musical and go for something that reassigns itself in a different way. The option without Hamilton is to do something like this:
Muzzin – GUY
mec – Brodie
Sandin – Bogosian
This option allows Sandin to be brought in slowly, while still enjoying powerful playing time. If the GUY on the first pair in this scenario is Justin Holl, you might as well throw in the towel now. This concept only works if the overall value of the top four is at least as good as it was this season, and better is better. Two new players are due to arrive that add to what Rielly and Holl bring. This is a lot harder to accomplish, because the best way to do it is to take Rielly and Holl’s $ 7 million cost cap and divide it into four and three or so, and there is never much. options for good but not too expensive defenders that are actually available.
Could Holl be the lowercase guy on the second pair? Perhaps. Or maybe he could share that role with Sandin. For this to work the GUY has to be another player in the Muzzin / Brodie range of overall value, this is where Rielly sits down when considering her total impact on the team. The character of this concept of defense is markedly different from what it was or would be with Hamilton. Defensemen who shoot a lot, play exciting offensive roles, and carry the puck well tend to cost over $ 5 million these days.
And it is the other part of this choice that Dubas must consider: what type of defenders does he want, and if he has any, what does he then decide to do on the advanced acquisitions.
Dougie’s dream is beautiful, but one thing stands in the way. Rasmus Sandin has one more year on his ELC, so that carefully managed defense cost goes out the window in the summer of 2022. It’s impossible to predict what another year will bring for Sandin. At his age, he could take the biggest leap of his career as he graduated from professional hockey next season. He could take longer to develop and end up with a cheap two-year contract on his ELC.
It’s easy to see why the Leafs are so infatuated with the extremely cheap and generally reliable Justin Holl, and why Dermott was such a big disappointment. Of course, if it hadn’t been, they’d be hard pressed to afford it now.
And that’s why the Leafs really can’t afford Zach Hyman. Running an overtime for him under a tight salary cap for a year or even two involves a matching set of choices involving defense that will leave the team worse off overall, if not now, then very soon. . At the same time, they can afford Hamilton if they wish. But do they want it?
Would you sign Hamilton for $ 8million knowing that meant the end of Morgan Rielly and years of the same cheap replacement players up front?
Hamilton’s dream is it achievable?
No it’s an impossible dream
Not without trading a forward
365 votes in total