Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas has another tall task ahead of him this upcoming offseason as I’m sure this familiar feeling is getting old. Another offseason that’s way too long for the Leafs’ GM who has one season left on his current contract. While an extension could certainly be in the cards, it’s also likely upper management waits to see how next season pans out.
Speaking of, the Maple Leafs will try and improve their hockey club and at this point will mostly be doing so internally from within the organization. With limited salary cap space and an all-star goaltender who needs a new contract, Dubas may need to get creative to create some flexibility financially. Perhaps one or two of these players could be moved to do so:
This was a very easy target as goaltender Petr Mrazek had a rough first season in Toronto, actually, it was a disaster. The knock on the signing at the time was the fact Frederik Andersen was let go to sign a two-year $9 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, meanwhile, Mrazek ended up in Toronto on a three-year deal at a $3.8 million average annual value. Certainly not Dubas’ best work and admittedly so as he put the 30-year-old through waivers near the NHL Trade Deadline.
Moving Mrazek is a must for Toronto and with a weak free-agent pool this summer, Dubas may have himself some suitors on the trade market. The New Jersey Devils are looking for a tandem partner for Mackenzie Blackwood, meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks will also be in the market for some help in goal. Other teams to watch include the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers.
Freeing up $3.8 million would be a huge win for the Maple Leafs. It would allow them to give Jack Campbell the contract he deserves, as he was reportedly unsatisfied with the midseason offer made by Dubas. It’s a tough negotiation because of the fact that he hasn’t been a 1A starter very long and his old contract was super cheap at only $1.65 million per season.
Sports is a ‘what have you done for me lately?’ business and as Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos put it, the Maple Leafs have a championship-caliber netminder. Now all they need to do is fix a ‘mistake’ and ensure he gets a chance to stick around and battle with his teammates. I’d expect the “Soup” chants to continue in Toronto for years to come and the chances of that happening will go way up if Dubas can somehow get Mrazek off the books.
The Maple Leafs love his versatility so this one may be harder to swallow, but it feels like if the team can move Alexander Kerfoot and his $3.5 million annual salary, they will. For the first time in his career, the 27-year-old forward has trade protection as he’ll submit a list of 10 teams he’d like to avoid come July 1.
As far as his trade value is concerned, the Maple Leafs could go in a number of different directions in moving Kerfoot as his market value should be quite high. He can play anywhere in a team’s top-nine including down the middle and his skating and defensive awareness make him a great penalty killer as well.
With Michael Bunting, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews cemented on the top line, and John Tavares and William Nylander coming back on the team’s second line, Kerfoot could be the piece Dubas moves out to give the team a facelift in 2022-23. The insiders are everywhere when it comes to team direction as it’s tough to get a read on where Toronto will go from here. Some are saying it’s going to be a blockbuster summer while others are preaching minor tweaks. To me, moving Kerfoot makes sense as he had a couple of crucial mistakes during the first round and he was not making up for it on the score sheet.
David Kampf will occupy the third-line center role once again next season so if Kerfoot is coming back it will be solely on the wing. Injuries play a factor in lineup cards throughout the regular season of course, but it’s this versatility that could really help Dubas maximize the return here. Perhaps we see the Maple Leafs make a move at the NHL Entry Draft, allowing the team to get financially settled before free agency opens on July 13.
A move that would shed $5.62 million off the payroll for the next two seasons, trading Jake Muzzin would certainly turn some heads in Toronto. Muzzin is a huge part of the team’s penalty kill and is certainly one of the Leafs’ more physical blueliners. However, with a full season of Mark Giordano expected in 2022-23, perhaps this is something to ponder for Dubas. My expectation would be ‘Gio’ signs for around $1 million, much less than the almost six Muzzin will see.
With Giordano expected to return, the Maple Leafs will include him with Morgan Rielly, T.J Brodie, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren and perhaps Justin Holl on next season’s blue line. My guess would be Ilya Lyubushkin isn’t re-signed and I could see the team seeing what trade value Holl holds. His $2 million would be a nice subtraction as well, however, Muzzin would get back a much more attractive package in return. What about moving him in a deal for a power forward to play alongside Tavares and Nylander on the second line? A move which could also give them enough resources to ensure both Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev return to play with Kampf on the team’s third line.
Dubas is in full win-now mode, that’s one thing we do know. One thing we don’t know is how exactly the Leafs GM plans on upgrading his roster for next season. One thing’s for sure, he’d love to have some more cap space to work with which is where these three Maple Leafs may come into play. Personally, I’d move Kerfoot, Mrazek and Holl, but I don’t get a vote in the matter.
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