The Toronto Maple Leafs should ship out John Tavares and retain half of his salary, trade William Nylander and acquire Sergei Bobrovsky. These are just some of the ideas pitched by a Boston Globe reporter. Kevin Paul Dupont has been covering the sports scene in Boston for more than four decades. He is currently the senior staff writer and columnist at the Globe. This respected veteran scribe wrote an article and took to Twitter to offer some friendly advice to the Maple Leafs. A fresh set of eyes on the Maple Leafs’ misfortunes made for an enlightening read.
Core Four Has to End
The $40 million-plus that is wrapped up in four players has been well documented. Half of the budget is gone with a lot of positions to fill. That’s the first area of concern for Dupont. In his view, the easiest solution would be moving William Nylander. He wrote: “With Nylander off the books, they might be able to use his money to nab a franchise goalie in the free-agent market (projected to include Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, and Devan Dubnyk. Or they could find a partner to swap a No. 1 goalie for Nylander, but franchise goaltenders typically have no-movement clauses attached. Not an impossible trade to make, but a very tight fit to find maybe one trading partner.” (What will the Maple Leafs do after yet another disappointing end to a season? The Boston Globe 05/09/21). Two days later, Dupont added another goalie to the mix. On Twitter, he wrote, “See if FLA will surrender Bobrovsky at 50 cents on the dollar.”
His Twitter account was busy on June 7. He also suggested trading Leafs’ captain John Tavares and retain half of his salary, which would be $5.5 million for four more years. Dupont says to make the trade for draft picks with conditions attached based on the success of the acquiring team. He also believes Nylander could be moved for three first-round draft picks. With these two players off the books, Toronto would have $12.5 million more to go shopping in the offseason.
These ideas drew stark criticism. Dupont had to tweet a reminder of the Maple Leafs’ situation – once again eliminated in the first round. Dupont then tweeted “then, sorry… there will be pain. Good pain. Restorative pain.”
Food For Thought
His main points in the article and on Twitter were to get Toronto a number one goalie and an elite top-pairing defenseman. So let’s objectively take a look at his suggestions.
Trade Tavares for Conditional Picks and Retain Half of his Contract
This took a while to sink in. I’m not saying I agree, but there may be something here. I’ll admit, I thought Tavares would provide the last piece to get Toronto to another level. That hasn’t happened. He has acknowledged he had to change his game to help the team. His contract has been criticized even before the ink dried, which will not change as he gets older. Still, he is nearly a point a game player during his time in Toronto.
Perhaps, Dupont is on to something, move Tavares while there may be a market for him. That $11 million a year contract isn’t going to be easy to shop now, let alone in the future. I’m not sure Toronto could stomach retaining half of his contract, but maybe $3 million. Also, Tavares would have to waive his no-movement clause.
Trade Nylander for Three First Round Picks
Trading Nylander gets a lot of ink. But Willie Styles was the best of the core four during the playoffs, and he is the cheapest of the four forwards at $6.9 million. That said, he remains the easiest one to move, and Kyle Dubas could address thin areas with some extra cash. If a team was going to offer up three first-round picks, I’d take it. Toronto has some forwards coming up. Nick Robertson’s speed and shot would be a welcome addition to the line-up.
Trade for Bobrovsky
Dupont suggests Florida should trade away the once-coveted free agent goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner signed a seven-year, $70 million deal with the Panthers in 2019. But the Russian has struggled in the sunshine state. With the emergence of Chris Driedger and now rookie Spencer Knight, Florida would likely want to get that contract moved. I’m don’t think the Panthers would retain $5 million a year for the next five years.
This is the biggest area of concern for Dupont when he looks at the roster. However, Jack Campbell’s numbers last season and in the playoffs were considerably better than Bobrovsky has posted. Campbell has played well and has earned the starting job. However, 2021-22 is the last year of his $1.65 deal. Frederik Anderson’s contract is up, as is David Rittich’s deal. Toronto has some goalies in the system, but none of them appear ready for the NHL yet. Dupont thinks Florida and Toronto could work together to swap Nylander for Bobrovsky. If it was straight up, Toronto would be adding another $3 million to the books. This leads back to getting Tavares off the payroll, or at least some of his contract.
Dubas and Brenden Shanahan have made it clear the Leafs will continue with the core-four plan. That’s why Dupont’s article and tweets provided healthy food for thought. It’s difficult to read, but what’s more difficult is writing about the Leafs’ offseason while watching other teams continue their Stanley Cup playoff run.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.