Maple Leafs Trades & Rumors: Kadri, Barrie, Kerfoot, Zaitsev & Hainsey

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was good to his word. Although there were a number of surprises, Dubas’ stated plan of creating salary cap space to sign Mitch Marner and signing veterans who might want a chance to seek Stanley Cup fame or a chance to prove themselves worked.

By the end of the day, Dubas had pulled off a number of deals and kept the Maple Leafs salary cap structure intact. That’s what the situation allowed, and that’s what he did.

Kyle Dubas Toronto Maple Leafs Draft
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The main “left-to-do” is signing restricted free agent (RFA) Marner. That’s been Dubas’ primary goal since April. Because he hasn’t yet, Marner can receive offer sheets from other teams. However, the Maple Leafs are confident they have enough salary cap room to complete any Marner deal that might come.

As Dubas admitted, “I know I set this as a priority and looked at today as sort of the day we wanted it done by and we obviously don’t have that yet. But we’ll keep working away, trying to find a way to come to a good conclusion with [player agent] Darren [Ferris] and Mitch and roll from there.”

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kapanen, Johnsson, Nylander, Joseph & More

Item One: Kadri Traded to Avalanche

Finally, after much speculation and Maple Leafs fans’ conflicted conversations, the team traded stalwart center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen, and Toronto’s 2020 third-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward Alex Kerfoot, and a 2020 sixth-round draft pick. The Avalanche also agreed to retain 50 percent of Barrie’s annual average salary cap of $5.5 million.

Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs, NHL
Nazem Kadri, now of the Colorado Avalanche (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Both dumping Kadri’s contract – as cap-friendly as it was – and having the Avalanche throw in $2.75 million helps pave the way for a Marner contract – should it get to that. 

Interestingly, the trade came shortly after Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos had “leaked” a rumor that the Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames had a deal worked out a deal but that Kadri had nixed it. Hockey commentators are guessing the trade would have been for a Calgary defenseman. Now, that rumor is a moot point.

The speculation of a Kadri trade being a hot commodity for a contending team proved accurate. His $4.5-million cap hit was attractive. Kadri was no doubt the best third-line center in the NHL. However, one can speculate that he won’t stay in a bottom six role for long. He can score, he’s a great puck-mover, and he’s strong on the power play.

Related: Maple Leafs Trade Kadri to Avalanche for Barrie, Kerfoot

The 27-year-old, right-shot defenseman Barrie scored 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) in 78 games for the Avalanche last season. During the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, he had eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 12 playoff games. He’s been a solid defenseman for five seasons. In 484 NHL regular season games, he’s scored 307 points (75 goals, 232 assists), while collecting 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 21 playoff games.

The 24-year-old Kerfoot scored 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 78 games for the Avalanche last season and had three assists in 12 playoff games. In 157 career NHL games, Kerfoot has scored 85 points (34 goals, 51 assists) with two goals and three assists in 18 playoff games.

Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot
Former Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

What’s also interesting to me is that Kerfoot played for Harvard for four seasons and was co-captain his last year. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player. It’s nice to have an intelligent player on the ice. If he sticks with the team, might he one day become a Maple Leafs captain?

Item Two: Maple Leafs Sign Spezza

It didn’t take long for the Maple Leafs to replace Kadri. Long-time NHL great Jason Spezza, now 36 years old, signed a no-risk, bargain-basement contract for $700,000. He adds skill and experience as a bottom-six forward. He also might have enough energy left to make the third line an offensive weapon just like Kadri had.

Jason Spezza, David Rittich
Former Dallas Stars’ Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

It probably didn’t hurt that Spezza was from nearby Mississauga, Ontario. As a player, Spezza is strong on face-offs and can run a power play unit on his own. Although the Maple Leafs had a strong power play last season, any improvement in that area could make the team an even more efficient scoring machine.

There’s no denying Dubas made a steal of a deal signing Spezza on such a value contract. Now that Tyler Ennis and Kadri are gone, he’ll pick up some of the team’s offensive slack. 

Related: Maple Leafs Sign Spezza

Item Three: Maple Leafs Trade Zaitsev, Brown, and Carcone to Senators

Obviously, a deal had already been worked out because, early on day one of the NHL free agency, the Ottawa Senators officially announced a major trade with the Maple Leafs. Toronto sent Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and prospect Michael Carcone to Ottawa for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, prospect Aaron Luchuk, and a third-round draft pick (from the Columbus Blue Jackets) in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Ceci is a 25-year-old, right-shot defenseman who, basically, was an even swap for Zaitsev. He has experience and might be more culturally suited than Zaitsev was in Toronto. He’s reportedly agreed to a one-year deal and will become an unrestricted free agent after this coming season, which might give him an incentive to play for a new contract.

Cody Ceci
Former Senator Cody Ceci (photo: Amy Irvin)

Harpur is a 24-year-old, left-shot defenseman from nearby Hamilton, Ontario. He’s not known for being strong in any area, but he has size at six-foot-six and 220 pounds. I’m thinking coach Mike Babcock might find him as a project to work on. He’ll likely play on a bottom pairing and is worth a risk. The 22-year-old Luchuk is a center who has scored well in the OHL.

Item Four: Ennis and Hainsey Sign with Senators

Two of my favorite Maple Leafs players are no longer with the team. Both Tyler Ennis and Ron Hainsey signed with the Senators.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Tyler Ennis: More Valuable Than Nylander?

The 38-year-old Hainsey scored five goals and 18 assists in 81 regular season games with the Maple Leafs this past season. As well, over the years he’s been an effective mentor for the team’s young defensemen. Hainsey’s contract is for one year at $3.5 million.

Ennis played 51 games for the Leafs last season, filling in effectively wherever he was asked. He scored 12 goals and six assists. Last season basically rejuvenated his career after being bought out by the Minnesota Wild before the 2018-19 season. His Senators contract is for one season at $800,000.

Ron Hainsey Maple Leafs
Ron Hainsey, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At the End of the Day

At the end of day one of NHL free agency, four former Maple Leafs now play for the Senators (Hainsey, Ennis, Brown, and Zaitsev). I’m not surprised given Dubas’ likely connection with former Maple Leafs coach DJ Smith, who is now the Senators’ head coach.

Dubas did two things well: he improved the defense and he created more salary cap space for a Marner signing. That’s not a bad start. We’ll see what’s next.