Maple Leafs’ 2022 Free-Agent Targets: 3 Depth Forwards to Consider

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas won’t have a ton of money to spend this offseason as the team assembled their core many moons ago. With a hefty chunk of their roster locked in, the Leafs GM now heads to the free-agent market with a pocket full of pennies, looking for some cheap talent who can head into training camp and try and win a roster spot.

Internal competition will be the name of the game for the Maple Leafs as their top-six forwards are essentially set, meanwhile there are some jobs to be won among the team’s bottom six. While Dubas has stockpiled some prospects and a few talented veterans who will compete for lineup positioning, let’s examine three affordable bottom-six forwards who are set to hit the open market on July 13:

Andreas Athanasiou

With the Maple Leafs losing speedster Ilya Mikheyev to free agency, there’s a solid replacement who could be much cheaper in Andreas Anthansiou. As we saw with Michael Bunting last season, Toronto-natives who are at a crossroads in their careers don’t mind signing with their hometown team on the cheap. He is a solid option for the Maple Leafs and someone management should strongly consider.

Andreas Athanasiou LA Kings
Andreas Athanasiou, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

Last season with the Los Angeles Kings, Athanasiou recorded 11 goals and 17 points in 28 games. He battled some lower-body injuries throughout the season and this has certainly become a bit of a question mark as his career has taken shape.

The absolute speedster of a winger has shown in the past that he has the capabilities to score 30 goals in the league and in the right situation can flourish. Athanasiou would be a great option for the Leafs because of his ability to move up and down the lineup and would likely be a candidate for minutes on the team’s second power-play unit as well. If he’s interested in a two-year deal around $1.25 million annually, he could be a great option for his hometown Maple Leafs.

Calle Jarnkrok

The Calgary Flames acquired veteran forward Calle Jarnkrok mid-way through last season as they were in the market for a depth forward who could contribute in all facets of the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out like that for him, who didn’t score a goal for the Flames in 17 regular-season games, meanwhile recording four points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Calle Jarnkrok Seattle Kraken
Calle Jarnkrok was an expansion pick of the Seattle Kraken before being traded to the Calgary Flames
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Toronto should be interested in the veteran forward as he’s an experienced hard-working winger who is versatile enough to also fill in down the middle should an injury occur. With Ondrej Kase likely done in Toronto, he could be a perfect replacement for the team’s third-line right wing and could actually bring more to the table than Kase.

Related: 15 Minutes with Maple Leafs Legend Darryl Sittler

Jarnkrok is likely going to max out around 15 goals in a full season, however, he kills penalties, plays all over the ice and has 75 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience. There’s a ton of Swedish flavor on the Maple Leafs, so it’s likely a dressing room he can jump right into and feel comfortable in. Last season, the 30-year-old made $2 million against the cap, so let’s see if he’s interested in something around $1.25 million, and because of the experience under his belt, Dubas should consider a three-year offer to entice him to take less for some more job security.

Danton Heinen

Not many 18-goal scorers were released by their teams this summer, however, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to let Danton Heinen hit the open market after not submitting a qualifying offer earlier this week. He appeared in 76 games for the Pens last season, recording said 18 goals and 33 points.

Danton Heinen Pittsburgh Penguins
Danton Heinen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Another impressive stat was Heinen’s three goals in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Penguins releasing him was a bit of a head-scratcher, to say the least. The 27-year-old is coming off a contract where he made $1.1 million, an amount that could likely get pen to paper once again this summer.

With his speed and skill, Heinen could potentially get a look on the Maple Leafs’ second line and push the likes of Alexander Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall and Nick Robertson for minutes. He’s going to be hungry after the surprising release from the Penguins, and would likely have interest in joining a strong squad in Toronto. A team that happens to play his former team frequently and also rivals of the Boston Bruins, another team who gave up on the forward.

The Maple Leafs have minimal resources, sitting with only $6.3 million in cap space and Engvall, Rasmus Sandin and potentially Colin Blackwell left to re-sign, along with finding a backup netminder. If it’s around $1 million annually, look for these three free-agent forwards to make some sense for Toronto’s GM as this offseason is certainly off to an interesting start.

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