Maple Leafs’ Commentary: What Trading Mrazek Means Now

We watched the 2022 NHL Entry Draft with anticipation that Kyle Dubas was going to do something with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 25th pick. We weren’t disappointed. 

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When it came to Dubas’ turn he announced that the Maple Leafs had traded the 25th pick to the Chicago Blackhawks along with Petr Mrazek (and his $3.8 million salary-cap hit) for the Blackhawks’ 38th pick. 

Not an Ideal Situation, But an Escape of Sorts

While not an ideal situation, the way we look at it, unlike a lot of GMs who might refuse to admit they made a mistake, with this move Dubas acknowledged he had erred. Furthermore, he corrected it the best way he could. 

Typical of the usual overreaction in Leafland, a number of fans are screaming for Dubas’ head – as they always seem to do. This time, they’re stating that once again that he had to give up a first-round pick to make up for a bad decision. 

Kyle Dubas Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, looking more closely at the deal, it wasn’t just a first-round pick to get rid of Mrazek, it was a 25th pick in what was considered to be a weak draft in return for the 38th pick, a drop of 13 selections.

Little Difference Between the 25th Pick and the 38th Pick

The 2022 draft class was not considered a strong one. Picks beyond the top ten were considered to be more just pick ‘em and hope. The odds of the 38th pick in this draft making the NHL are probably not much different than the odds of the 25th pick becoming a full-time NHL player. 

It would not have surprised us if Dubas had turned around and dealt the 38th pick for a couple of lower picks, something he has done in the past. Instead, Dubas claimed 18-year-old Fraser Minton with the team’s 38th pick. Later Dubas traded his 79th pick to Las Vegas for picks #95 and #135. 

The most important point of the deal is that the Maple Leafs were able to free up Mrazek’s full $3.8 million salary-cap hit. They did not have to retain any salary or buy him out. Buying him out would have cost the team part of Mrazek’s salary-cap hit for the next two seasons, and would also have extended that salary-cap hit for two seasons beyond that.

The Maple Leafs’ Current Salary-Cap Situation

Divesting themselves of Mrazek’s $3.8 million salary-cap hit now gives the Maple Leafs $10,244.384 of cap space with 17 players signed. They have ten forwards for a total cap hit of $48,968,116; six defensemen with a cap hit of $22,325,000; one goalie (Erik Kellgren) with a cap hit of $750,000, and Timothy Liljegren’s bonus recapture of $212,500. That’s a total salary-cap hit of $72,255,616.

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They can add another $2,362,599 of cap space by sending Nick Abruzzese and Erik Kallgren to the Toronto Marlies and placing Kyle Clifford on waivers. That would give them a total of $12,606,983 of cap space with 14 players on the NHL roster. 

When interviewed following the deal, Dubas indicated the Maple Leafs might not be done moving out salary or creating more salary-cap flexibility when he stated.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

“I think the decision was that we wanted to have the most flexibility possible going into next week. Also — just in gathering the information here throughout the week — it’s not only as we go into next week [with free agency], but with the different trades that are available in the trade market. We just wanted to make ourselves as flexible as possible, create the cap space for ourselves, and proceed.”

It will be interesting to see what more moves Dubas might have in mind.

The Maple Leafs Current Goaltending Situation

Mrazek’s departure leaves the Maple Leafs with two goalies who could step into the NHL next season – the aforementioned Kallgren and Joseph Woll. Both saw limited NHL action this past season and deported themselves well. Realistically though, they would be best suited for the Marlies at this stage of their development and not for a full-time NHL job. Goaltending remains the Maple Leafs’ number one priority this offseason.

When asked if he might use the additional cap space to make another run at Jack Campbell, the first thing Dubas replied was “every option is available to us now, whether that is Jack, or the others later next week, or via trade.”

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He also added, “Our situation would be enticing for any goaltender.”

Specific to Campbell Dubas stated, “We will stay in touch with him, meet with him when I get back from Toronto, and roll from there.”

What Dubas said did not come across to us as an all-out push to get Campbell signed. It also doesn’t mean they won’t attempt to sign him. We still think they will wait to see what Campbell gets offered as a UFA before having any serious talks with him.

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll could play more this season with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When asked about other options in goal, Dubas answered, “We have a lot of opportunity there. It should be an interesting option for any goaltender that is looking.”

“Like every team, we would love to have the definitive number one, but our goal would be to have the best tandem we possibly can.”

The Maple Leafs Goalie Situation Remains Up in the Air

Those answers were a bit ambiguous and didn’t really give us any indication as to how they plan on proceeding. Dubas did not commit to either going after a true number one, or a tandem that could battle for the number one job. 

The goaltender options seem to be quickly dwindling however as Marc-Andre Fleury, Ville Husso, and Alexander Georgiev have all been taken off the table in the past few days. 

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Could the Maple Leafs take a run at Darcy Kuemper? Would they be willing to take a chance on Matt Murray?  We will have to see.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]