The Toronto Maple Leafs have taken care of two extremely important pieces of business on Friday. The team officially announced the contract extensions for restricted free agents Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen.
In the case of Kapanen, the team has inked him to a three- year deal. In the case of Johnsson, he’ll now be with the Maple Leafs for the next four seasons.
Kasperi Kapanen’s Deal
A player who came on in the absence of William Nylander — as the latter was holding out for a better deal with the Maple Leafs — Kapanen turned heads. He shot out of the gate during the 2018-19 season and became a player the Maple Leafs realized they might not be able to do without.
That’s big praise considering he wasn’t really on the radar when the season began and wasn’t listed as one of the key pieces of the highly-touted and potent Maple Leafs offense that included Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Nylander himself.
The 22-year-old Kapanen scored career-highs in goals (20) and points (44) in 78 games this past season. Had Nylander not returned, it’s hard to know what Kapanen could have accomplished if given the responsibility of being a go-to guy.
He was drafted in the first round (22nd overall) in 2014 by the Pittsburgh Penguins and traded to Toronto on July 1, 2015, as part of the Phil Kessel trade. The Finnish winger has 54 points in 133 NHL games and his new three-year deal is worth $3.2 million per season.
Andreas Johnsson’s Deal
Johnsson, 24, scored 20 goals and posted 43 points for the Maple Leafs this past season. Another player who pleasantly surprised fans, he became a valuable asset the Maple Leafs didn’t want to lose but assumed they might have to sacrifice with their current salary cap troubles.
A late-round draft find (seventh-round) by Toronto, Johnsson took five seasons to crack the lineup until he did so with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017. He played nine games then signed a one-year $787,500 contract to stay in Toronto.
His job security in Toronto is much more stable now as this new four-year deal is worth $3.4 million per season.
Time to Take Care of Marner
With these two signed and part of the Maple Leafs future, the Leafs need to turn their attention to RFA forward Mitch Marner. A player who will come in at a much higher salary than Johnsson and Kapanen, Marner is perhaps the most-watched RFA in free agency.
Marner’s story has been one to watch but part of what was concerning (and still is) for the Maple Leafs was how they were going to manage all of their RFA contracts. With Johnsson and Kapanen now done, all of the focus can shift towards convincing Marner to stay put and not jump at the rumored $12-$13 million per season that might be on the table from some other teams.
If the Maple Leafs can somehow manage to get a deal done with Marner, and now have Matthews, Tavares, Nylander, Kapanen and Johnsson all under contract, they’ll have one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
Follow below on any my social media accounts.