That’s why the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager said Wednesday night it was “far too early” to start comparing his 2021-22 roster to his 2020-21 squad which has been through a very irregular regular season.
“We still have a fair amount of ceiling space. We are still waiting for the second wave of the futures market to settle down. I probably think it’s a better question for me to answer in a few days or closer to the camp, just depending on my expectations, ”Dubas said, minutes after strengthening his fold and collecting a maybe six and hopes. .
“We have a great opportunity here for a striker who might not get what he wants on the first go-around, look at our squad and what has been brought forward in free agency, and can now look at that and say, “Damn, this is a pretty good opportunity for me, especially as a winger, to play with our forward squad as it’s currently built.
Mostly a left winger.
Especially someone who can bring some of what Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers used to bring to Toronto’s top six, at a fraction of the cost.
Best case? The Leafs already have this guy.
Maybe a soon-to-be 20-year-old Nick Robertson will turn out to be an instant phenomenon or a con artist, Michael Bunting, who tries to put in some effort, breaks out at the right time.
But that’s one hell of a call for a five-foot-nine kid whose first professional season has been derailed due to injury and a pandemic. Or a late-flowering 25-year-old who skated a grand total of 26 NHL games, of which little significance.
So many UFA Toronto’s ideal substitutes and targets – Jaden Schwartz, Nick Foligno, Mikael Granlund – on Wednesday signed lucrative deals too rich for an athlete to pass up and too long for Dubas to match. (We suspect Brandon Saad and Kyle Palmieri, the top standing wingers, to do the same.)
So the executive sits down with about $ 3.5 million in ceiling space and plays the wait game, knowing that unemployed talent will get nervous.
In the 2020 offseason, proven UFA ‘second wave’ wingers Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund signed one-year contracts for far less than their projected value. Florida landed Anthony Duclair for $ 1.7 million. Montreal got playoff difference maker Corey Perry for $ 750,000.
“The right player will think this is the right opportunity for them. We would also like to start the year with a little bit of ceiling space and let it build up so that we can stay flexible throughout the season, ”Dubas said.
“We’ll stay flexible, take risks with guys who need a second chance – or who we think we’re about to explode – and try to get them to come here and get the most out of them while playing.” alongside our group. “
Let’s name some names.
Tomas Tatar: Of all the UFA wingers still on the board, none produced more points per game in 2021 than the 30-year-old Tatar (0.6), who was the Montreal Canadiens’ leading scorer in 2019-2020. A proven offensive weapon and power play threat with positive underlying metrics (58.9 CF%), Tatar already has six 20-goal campaigns on his CV. So why was he in good health scratched by two teams in two Stanley Cup Finals?
Nick Ritchie : A large body (six feet two, 234 pounds). A first round pick. A local boy. And a project that is now looking to join its third franchise at the age of 25. The inconsistent Ritchie was not qualified as an RFA by rival Boston Bruins, but could still be an asset for many middle sixes. He brings a robust element with which the Leafs are not at the same level.
Marcus Johansson: A 20-goal, 50-point trump card for Washington before concussions and a host of sweater changes derailed his career, the 30-year-old Swede fits the mold of a project Dubas would be willing to undertake on the cheap.
Alex Galchenyuk : Dubas said the door was open for a return from Galchenyuk, and the determined winger certainly showed flashes alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. He’s exploring his options, and even the team that drafted him (Montreal) would have some interest in a reunion. His last contract was for a year at $ 1.05 million. Would he take that back?
Danton Heinen: Capable but unspectacular two-way winger, Heinen, 26, peaked in 2017-18 when he tallied 47 points with the Bruins. He did not receive his $ 2.775 million qualifying offer from the Ducks and will have to take a pay cut to prove himself. Must be motivated.
These are the type of sneaky good finds Dubas will consider. Some are successful (Galchenyuk, Tyler Ennis). Some don’t (Jimmy Vesey). And if the CEO doesn’t see value, he’ll just let his cap margin grow and use it at another all-in trade deadline.
“Maybe we weren’t in the big game hunting section here, but that’s fine with us,” Dubas said.
“Whether it’s using our remaining cap space to sign a free agent in the next few days or through trades, we’ll continue to look at all possible avenues to improve the roster. Nothing is impossible for us. “