3 Maple Leafs Free Agents the Oilers Should Target

As we continue to look at different teams that could help the Edmonton Oilers fill some possible needs in free agency, the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that is strapped for cap space and will be making moves, is next up.

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We will start with the biggest and most obvious need the Oilers have and dive deeper into a couple of depth pieces that they could get at a very fair price.

Jack Campbell

It’s widely known that the Oilers are looking to upgrade their goaltending as they need a legitimate starter, and general manager Ken Holland argued that they don’t have one. It doesn’t seem likely that Mike Smith will return due to age/health, and Stuart Skinner must make the jump to the NHL full-time next season. With Skinner likely able to split starts at most, the organization shouldn’t and won’t take any more shortcuts to find their starting goalie, especially since they are in win-now mode.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This brings us to Jack Campbell. He is a free agent, and Darren Dreger said on TSN’s Overdrive that there hasn’t been any meaningful back and forth between Campbell and the Maple Leafs, so it should open the door for other teams to speak to him in a few weeks’ time. The team doesn’t have much cap space to work with and still has Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million on the books for two more seasons. Goaltending isn’t an area where any team should cheap out on since it’s such a huge part of their success.

Related: 3 Avalanche Free Agents the Oilers Should Target

The Oilers have moves in mind to free up space since they know goaltending was their downfall last season. With their dynamic group and expectations even higher after a conference final run, Holland can’t waste another year of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s contracts. He has to do what’s necessary to bring in a goaltender who can not just be good enough but win games.

Ilya Lyubushkin

The Oilers need an actual third-pairing defenceman, considering that’s all they can afford right now. I’m speaking of Tyson Barrie in this case. He played third-pairing minutes and only specialized on the power play where young Evan Bouchard can more than fill that hole. He is very likely on the move this offseason, and the Oilers would be wise to try to get a deal done before free agency so they know who they can target.

Ilya Lyubushkin Arizona Coyotes
Ilya Lyubushkin, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Barrie’s departure would open a spot up on the right side of the defence on the bottom pair. Enter Ilya Lyubushkin, who is a stay-at-home defenceman and an actual bottom-pairing player who can hit. Sure, it’s a luxury to have a top-four player playing lower in the lineup, but that’s only if the team has the cap space. The Oilers don’t and need to be smart in making moves. There is uncertainty regarding Brett Kulak’s future, and Kris Russell is likely on his way out in free agency, so there will be a void to fill on defence, even if Philip Broberg comes into the lineup.

Lyubushkin won’t cost much, as he has received four different one-year contracts in his career, with the highest AAV (average annual value) being $1.35 million. With the offensive contributions from other Oilers’ defencemen, the best idea is to add someone reliable and defensive. The Maple Leafs’ back-end is too crowded to keep him around, and it’s a low-risk move if things play out to create the space to bring him in.

Ondrej Kase

Ondrej Kase is a risky signing if he expects a larger sum of money than he has received in the past and is expected to play a larger role. On the Maple Leafs, his expectations weren’t through the roof as they signed him for $1.25 million for one season. He is a restricted free agent (RFA), but he very well may hit free agency if the Maple Leafs go with internal talent (who are less likely to get injured) or other unqualified RFAs.

The inability to stay healthy might allow the Oilers to sign a bottom-six player with middle-six potential to a steal of a deal as the Maple Leafs did last season. Kase finished the regular season with 14 goals and 27 points in 50 games while playing just 14 minutes a night. He was very effective in limited time on the power play, scoring four goals and eight points in 44 minutes on the Maple Leafs’ second unit. With the increased ice time the Oilers’ second power-play unit gets under head coach Jay Woodcroft, Kase could add even more to a surprisingly good unit.

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers may also make deals to move out a couple of bottom-six forwards in Zack Kassian and Warren Foegele, so there could be holes to fill. Edmonton had more than enough forwards vying for spots in the lineup last season, causing a number of them to be sent down to the AHL (American Hockey League). So, if they sign Kase, and he does miss more than a handful of games, it’s not a huge deal as the top-six runs the offence anyways. He will be able to make an impact when healthy as he has throughout his career.

It’s always fun to look at teams that are strapped for cap space and the players they will likely lose each offseason. The Maple Leafs are the perfect target as there are some significant pieces they would like to bring back and, therefore, players they will have to sacrifice.

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