In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at a potential draft prospect and consider who else the Maple Leafs might trade if the organization’s goal is to clear salary-cap space. Finally, I’ll look at a new post about an old rumor that Alex Pietrangelo might be coming to the team.
Item One: Nick Robertson Is Here, Is Jack Quinn Next?
In less than a month (Oct. 6-7), the 58th NHL Entry Draft will be upon us. During the 2019 Draft, the Maple Leafs chose Nick Robertson in the second round (53rd overall). He proceeded to tear up the Ontario Hockey League in scoring and scored a postseason goal with the Maple Leafs.
During the 2019-20 abbreviated season, there was another 50-goal scorer in the OHL. His name is Jack Quinn. Although Quinn doesn’t share Robertson’s diminutive status, he isn’t huge either, listed at 5-foot-11. As the draft approaches, might this youngster be on general manager Kyle Dubas’ radar? He’s the type of player the Maple Leafs seem willing and able to pick up who might be ignored by other teams.
Quinn’s reputation is that he’s too one-dimensional as an elite goal scorer, and his draft ranking is ambiguous. Elite Prospects ranks him 16th, but Craig Button (6) and Bob McKenzie (10) rank him in the top-ten.
If he is on the board when the Maple Leafs are on the clock, will Dubas choose him? For all the organization’s salary-cap woes, the Maple Leafs have prospects with potential in the pipeline. Robertson, we know. There’s also 19-year-old Mikhail Abramov, who recently signed a three-year entry-level contract; 21-year-old Nick Abruzzese (who’s playing at Harvard University); 24-year-old Egor Korshkov (who’s playing in the KHL); and, 20-year-old Filip Hallinder (who’s playing in the SHL).
Given this strong group of young wingers, Quinn might simply not fit into Maple Leafs’ plans. Still, goal-scoring is a prerequisite to winning in the NHL and that’s exactly what this young prospect is able to do. If he remains available at the 15th pick, what might Dubas do?
Item Two: How Safe Are Maple Leafs Andreas Johnsson and Alex Kerfoot?
Things seemed to quiet down after Dubas moved Kasperi Kapanen. However, at the time, Dubas noted he probably wasn’t done revamping his roster. Certainly, this week’s kerfuffle about Frederik Andersen is a case in point.
However, it seems clear Dubas wants to take at least another run with his core-of-four. In other words, it’s not likely he’ll move any of the high-salaried forwards – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, or William Nylander.
Related: Worst Toronto Maple Leafs Trades
That leaves a couple of mid-money players remaining now that Kapanen’s gone. Those players are Andreas Johnsson and Alexander Kerfoot. The Pittsburgh Penguins considered Kapanen a valuable pickup and paid a price to get him. What about Johnsson and Kerfoot?
Given the ever-present need to shave salary-cap dollars, it’s likely that if the Maple Leafs can find a return that immediately helps them or an asset they can flip to get that help, Johnsson or Kerfoot would become expendable.
Johnsson’s salary-cap hit is $3.4 million and Kerfoot’s is $3.5 million – both for three years. Kerfoot has additional value because he’s a center and played well during the postseason on the penalty kill. Johnsson might be a more difficult chip to move because of his recent injury history.
Player movement might slow down for the Maple Leafs until the Stanley Cup is awarded, but the offseason promises to be busy.
Item Three: One More Time with Alex Pietrangelo to the Maple Leafs
After considering it from every angle, I have now moved the prospect of Pietrangelo coming to the Maple Leafs into the category of wishful thinking. I get why fans want him, and there’s some logic there, but I don’t believe it will happen. I became even more firm in that belief when the St. Louis Blues recently traded back-up goalie Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens. The optics of that move suggest the Blues are clearing cap space to re-sign the great defenseman.
I could be wrong. This morning, the Bleacher Report’s Lyle Richardson included among his “8 Bold Predictions for NHL Free Agency,” that number eight was that Pietrangelo would move to the Maple Leafs. Richardson qualified his position by noting, “If St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo hits the open market, this is his most likely destination.” To my mind, that’s a big “if.”
The Maple Leafs need a true first-pairing, right-side defenseman if they’re going to sustain a long playoff run with their high-octane offense led by Matthews, Marner, and Tavares. The 30-year-old Pietrangelo fits the bill. He’s one of the NHL’s elite defensemen, and for good reason. He would add skill, experience, and leadership to the defense.
Richardson pointed out that the Maple Leafs have invested $73.7 million into 16 players for 2020-21. Noting that Dubas began to shed salary by trading Kapanen to the Penguins in late August, more cost-cutting moves need to be made to land a “big fish” like Pietrangelo as a UFA. Richardson projected it could cost $9 million AAV and at least a five-year term to sign him.
I don’t think it will happen because I believe Pietrangelo is set in St. Louis. But, who knows?
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Rumors are flying about who might be in and out of the Maple Leafs roster. Recent rumors suggest Kyle Clifford will be leaving and that perhaps Wayne Simmonds is interested in joining the team on an “I’m willing to bet on myself” contract. There seems to be no shortage of options for Dubas to consider as he works to build his team.
That said, the biggest potential movement would be in net. What will happen to Andersen? That’s the most interesting story for me right now. Although trades are often thought of as emotionless engagements, I would bet there’s a lot of deep feelings engaged in this conversation.