Will the Toronto Maple Leafs trade the best single trade chip the team has – Kasperi Kapanen? If hockey insiders are right in their speculations, he’s gone – gone – gone. It’s just a matter of when and for whom.
But will he really be traded? In this post, I will outline four potential trade rumors hockey insiders are spinning; and, in each one, of course, Kapanen is highlighted as the key Toronto trade chip. Will he stay or will he go? That seems to be the biggest question the Maple Leafs are rumored to face.
Rumor One: Calgary Flames and Maple Leafs Are Talking About Travis Hamonic
There’s a current rumor, reported by Sportsnet’s Luke Fox that the Calgary Flames and the Maple Leafs are talking a trade that involves Travis Hamonic. If that’s so, it wouldn’t be the first time Hamonic was linked to the Maple Leafs.
There was a report that the Maple Leafs had settled on a deal last offseason that would have traded Nazem Kadri for Hamonic. But, because Kadri desperately hoped to stay in Toronto, he refused to waive his no-trade clause. Kadri eventually relented and was moved to the Colorado Avalanche in a deal that brought Tyson Barrie to the Maple Leafs. Although Kadri has done well with the Avalanche, Barrie struggled at first and only since Sheldon Keefe became coach did his play improve.
Fox noted, “Toronto has been eyeing Hamonic since he was an Islander and lost a bidding war to Calgary.” He then added that general manager Kyle Dubas and Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving are friendly and, because Treliving is eager to make a move and Dubas might need to make one, something seems to be afoot.
In fact, when Treliving re-signed right-handed defenseman Rasmus Anderssen to a six-year contract extension, that meant one of his top-four 29-year-old unrestricted free agents (either Hamonic or T.J. Brodie) wouldn’t be returning for 2020-21. Although Calgary is every bit in a playoff push, they might trade a strong defenseman like Hamonic because they’re desperate for a top-six winger.
And, here Fox has the answer: “At some point, the Leafs must at least consider trading one of their middle-class forwards (Andreas Johnsson, Alex Kerfoot, or Kapanen) to free up dollars for the back end.”
It might be the right time for the Flames and the Maple Leafs to consider such a trade. Interestingly, Sportsnet’s Eric Francis suggests a similar trade, but he believes T.J. Brodie is the focus instead of Hamonic.
Rumor Two: Kyle Dubas Has Two Conflicting Jobs
As I noted in my earlier post this week about reshaping the Maple Leafs defense for next season (2020-21), I believe Dubas is walking a tightrope. Does he go all in this season, or does he (for all intents and purposes) begin to make changes to the lineup that would create the best team he could for next season? Obviously, hockey insiders agree with my analysis.
Specifically, on TSN’s Leafs Lunch broadcast, Pierre LeBrun was interviewed by Andi Petrillo and Craig Button and the trio discussed the possibility that Dubas might be walking a line between going all-in this season and building a better team next season.
In fact, that’s the question: Should the Maple Leafs be completely concerned for this season or work more towards next season when the team is older, has better pieces, and is more able to engage the vision Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe have for the team?
LeBrun believed Dubas was working on both seasons at once. Noting that Dubas wouldn’t trade for the Flames T.J. Brodie, who will be a free agent at season’s end, he believed Dubas was looking for a “Muzzin 2.0” deal. Might that be 32-year-old Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings, who has one season left on a contract at $4 million? If he found a player with term like Martinez, it would eliminate Dubas’ need to find another defenseman in the offseason.
Although the popular wisdom is that Brodie is a better player than Martinez, LeBrun noted, “At least you get two playoff runs out him [Martinez]. In other words, a hockey deal is not a rental deal.”
In addition, rumors are afoot that the Maple Leafs might not actually be giving up this season, but instead might be trying to build over two seasons rather than simply putting all their eggs in the basket of this season.
Rumor Three: Conditions Under Which Kasperi Kapanen Would Be Traded
Elliotte Friedman, in his 31 Thoughts column this week, suggested “There’s been a lot of talk about Kasperi Kapanen, but the sense around the NHL is the only way Toronto moves him now is in a big deal. Something that makes them significantly better.” But, what exactly does Friedman mean as a “big deal?”
Here’s what we know.
- A plethora of rumors exist that the Maple Leafs must do something at the trade deadline if they hope to go far in this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
- The team is stacked at forward but needs help at the backup goalie position and on defense.
- Kapanen is a valuable trade chip because other teams believe he has a great contract (cap hit of $3.2 million per season that extends for two more seasons).
- The thing about valuable trade chips is that you can only move them one time, so you better make it the right deal.
- Defensemen are likely available at this season’s trade deadline who would help the Maple Leafs, at least in the short term. These include Martinez and Brodie (as noted above), but also include players such as Jeff Petry, Sami Vatanen, or Marco Scandella.
- However, rumors suggest Dubas isn’t interested in players without term left on their contracts, which eliminates Vatanen, Brodie, or Scandella.
The question remains, would the Maple Leafs desire any of these players? Specifically, would they trade Kapanen for any of them? Or, might Dubas be interested in a more-complex multiple player/multiple team deal? As I’ve watched Dubas conspire over the two seasons I have covered the Maple Leafs, I wouldn’t be surprised if something bigger might be up his sleeve.
Whatever it will be interesting to see how Dubas and the Maple Leafs play it at season’s end.
Rumor Four: Are the Maple Leafs Interested in the Wild’s Matt Dumba?
The most interesting trade scenario I’ve heard is that the team might be interested in Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. The reason I’m interested is that I think Dumba is a defenseman I’d like to see the Maple Leafs pursue.
[As an aside, Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers is the other defenseman I’d like to see with the team, and he has two seasons after this of term on his contract at $4.5 million. That’s Cody Ceci-type money, and “Ghost” is exactly the same age as Ceci at 26-years-old.]
The Wild are rumored to be willing to trade Dumba in the right deal, which The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta suggests might be to the Maple Leafs. Dumba would certainly fit the team’s need and, of course, Kapanen would be part of that deal.
But Pagnotta believes Kapanen wouldn’t be enough and suggests the package might also include Cody Ceci, whom the Wild could trade to another team. That’s one of the best trade scenarios I’ve heard recently for the Maple Leafs. That said, Dumba won’t come cheaply – either by trade or by contract. Although he has longer-term (through 2022-23), his cap hit is $6 million per season. That would take some clever book-keeping for next season but would likely be attractive for Dubas over the long haul as the $6 million cap hit becomes easier to bear.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
As I noted in this post, many rumors are floating around for the Maple Leafs. However, for me, perhaps more interesting than the rumors is the philosophy the team will employ as it makes trade decisions. Will these trades be used to bolster the team for this season’s playoffs, or will decisions be made to create an even better team for next season?
That decision will be a key one going forward.