Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas continues to work through the beginning of the offseason, and quite frankly, he’s off to a hot start. He was able to secure veteran defenseman Mark Giordano for two more seasons at a fantastic $800,000 average annual value. The former Norris Trophy winner is a Toronto, ON native and was happy to accept less money to stay close to family and friends. The way Giordano’s extension played out has caught the attention of many across the hockey world. Hockey insider Elliotte Friedman confirmed via 32 Thoughts podcast said the Leafs were willing to pay $1 million per season. Meanwhile, Giordano called back and said he’ll take less instead and offered to sign for $800,000. If only it was always this easy.
Dubas will have his work cut out for him from here, as Toronto has a measly $7 million in salary cap space and several pending free agents, both unrestricted and restricted. Youngsters Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin are both due new deals and will eat into the resources. Meanwhile, there’s a couple of Maple Leafs that won’t be as easy to re-sign.
Maple Leafs Would Love to See Jack Campbell Return
Starting netminder Jack Campbell has earned himself a substantial increase on his $1.65 million annual salary. He started last season expecting a tandem setup with newcomer Petr Mrazek, and looking back, there wasn’t ever a time where Mrazek even contested for regular starts. Campbell was the Maple Leafs’ best goalie in 2021-22, and it wasn’t even close. He showed up and performed admirably in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when it matters most, so much so that even Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos pointed out the fact he feels the Leafs are close and definitely have the goalie you need to win the Cup.
One thing working in Dubas’ favor is the fact Campbell absolutely loves his teammates and seems to be enjoying his time being a Maple Leaf. He’s been saying all the right things since the season ended, but that’s what to always expect from the charismatic goaltender. You won’t find a nicer person and anyone who cares about winning hockey games more. “Soup” has become a polarizing figure in the city, and personally, I’m expecting to see pen to paper for Campbell to stay in Toronto.
As to what to expect for his next deal, don’t expect to see the pending free agent offer up a severely discounted rate. A small one? Perhaps, as that’s just how much “Soup” loves his teammates, but a ‘home-town discount’ like Giordano accepted is not in the cards here for the much younger netminder.
Heading into July 13, when free agency begins, Campbell will be 30 years old with 135 career games under his belt, recording a career 2.56 goals against average (GAA) and .915 save percentage (SV.%). Solid numbers for someone who was a late bloomer coming into his own 2020-21. Money talks, and that’s going to be the focal point here. I expect Campbell goes from $1.65 million per season to $5 million annually. His numbers stack up to some other goalies across the league who recently signed extensions:
Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings
Signing Date: Sep. 22, 2021
Annual Average Value: $5 million
Length of Extension: Three seasons
Career Games Played: 54
Career (GAA): 2.86
Career (Sv.%): .907
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
Signing Date: Jul. 28, 2021
Annual Average Value: $5 million
Length of Extension: Four seasons
Career Games Played: 117
Career (GAA): 2.17
Career (Sv.%): .913
Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets
Signing Date: Sep. 21, 2021
Annual Average Value: $5.4 million
Length of Extension: Five seasons
Career Games Played: 61
Career (GAA): 2.88
Career (Sv.%): .913
Campbell’s agent will take it from here as the fun-loving Michigan native seems like someone who would have a tough time running a hard bargain with Dubas at the negotiating tables. The good news for “Soup” here is that the numbers are working in his favor, and he can expect to receive a hefty pay raise in the coming weeks.
As for Dubas, it’s a good thing teams don’t have to be salary cap compliant in the summer months, as this allows the Maple Leafs GM to take care of whatever business he can first and worry about cleaning up the books at a later date. Securing a starting netminder for potentially the next three to four seasons is a prime place to start.
Maple Leafs Likely Only Bringing Back One of Two Forwards
A hard salary cap ensures changes throughout the league, and Toronto will be no different. Each new season brings turnover and different roles for some, and in 2021-22, we saw the emergence of both Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall. Both wingers played up and down the lineup, fulfilling different roles for head coach Sheldon Keefe, and it worked. Both Mikheyev and Engvall set career highs in goals, assists, points, plus/minus, and average ice time per game.
The biggest difference, and it’s a substantial variable, is the fact that Mikheyev is unrestricted and has no team control come July 13. Engvall, on the other hand, has slightly less leverage to work with being restricted, and considering the loyalty between Dubas and the former seventh-round draft pick, the expectation is this extension gets completed and will likely be for three or four seasons at $1.75-2 million. The former won’t be that easy, however.
The relationship between the Maple Leafs and Mikheyev has been rocky at times, so bad the Leafs forward once asked to be traded. Dubas stood his ground and smartly so, as the Russian winger showed up his full bag of tricks this season. He has elite speed and seems to have finally figured out some finishing moves. Mikheyev has the skill set to score 20 goals consistently in the NHL, and there’s going to be a team this offseason that pays him with that in mind. It just may not be the Maple Leafs. He’s in line for a raise from his $1.65 million cap hit in 2021-22, and the team’s cap crunch and lack of goaltending depth are going to contribute to his departure. I’ll be very surprised if an agreement is reached between the two sides.
Dubas has shown in the past he’s willing to pay for talent and deal with the consequences later, and this summer will be no different for the Maple Leafs GM. Heading into an offseason with minimal cap space and no starting caliber goalie signed for next season is a tall order of business. Now we wait and see what types of tricks he has up his sleeves because the city of Toronto won’t be such a selling feature this time around.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween