There seems to be a consensus among Toronto Maple Leafs’ sports writers that the unrestricted free agents they believe general manager Kyle Dubas should sign from the current roster include Jason Spezza, Zach Hyman (but at the right price), Alex Galchenyuk, and Zach Bogosian.
Will Spezza, Hyman, Galchenyuk, and Bogosian Want to Return?
When we look at that list, we know for sure that Spezza wants to be back and has already said so. He’s not throwing down any gauntlet either. He already stated last season that he’d retire if anyone picked him off waivers and he’ll likely sign for the NHL league minimum. No worries there.
Zach Hyman is more of an unknown, but I have to believe – unless I’m missing something – that he’ll re-sign in Toronto simply because Toronto incapsulates his world. That world includes both playing with the Maple Leafs, his family, and his other deep Toronto-based roots. I believe Dubas feels the same way, sees Hyman as part of the core, and will treat him as such during their salary negotiations.
Related: Zach Hyman Won’t Be Leaving the Maple Leafs or Toronto
One has to believe that – at least my logic tells me – Galchenyuk will make a decision about his next NHL contract by gravitating to the feeling of belonging. I think he’ll sign for a short-term, prove-himself deal. He knows he’s wanted on this roster, and that has to be important for him.
Not even a year ago Galchenyuk was a player facing the real possibility of a career fizzle because he was literally on that sad scrap heap of NHL players whose potential somehow never panned out. Plus, he’s almost guaranteed playing on the top six with the Maple Leafs. Even for a short time, there’s a good chance his time with the Blue and White would be a good time. I think unless he’s wooed and convinced by another organization, he’ll be an inexpensive keep.
Bogosian might be a different kettle of fish. After unceremoniously being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres during the 2019-20 season, he emerged with the Tampa Bay Lightning and immediately became part of a team that won the Stanley Cup. This season, he again proved himself to be a solid third-pairing defenseman valuable to his team not only for his steady play but for his mentorship of younger defensemen. I think he’d be a helpful partner with young Swedish defenseman Rasmus Sandin.
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But does he want to stay? One of THW thoughtful readers and great Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith wonders if Bogosian is happy with the way he’s being used in Toronto. In a post two days ago, I noted that I had heard little from Bogosian since the team’s too quick elimination. Smith shared with me that he’d heard on the radio that Bogosian might not be happy with his usage.
So, as I have learned he does, Smith decided to do some research. His numbers show that Bogosian averaged 17:40 with the Lightning during last season’s playoffs and that he also was elevated to play with the great defenseman Victor Hedman during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run.
That wasn’t what happened with the Maple Leafs this season. Instead, Bogosian averaged 2:40 less of time on the ice and never played above the third pair. Even after Jake Muzzin went down with an injury, rather than seeing more ice, Bogosian saw less. He only played 11:46 per game.
Smith speculates that Bogosian signed for $1 million with the Maple Leafs as a way to showcase himself and believed a bigger payday might follow. No disagreement from me on that point. One can see from that perspective how Bogosian might think he wasn’t given the chance he needed with the Maple Leafs to do that.
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The bottom line is that Smith guesses Bogosian might look elsewhere for next season. That makes sense.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Obviously, the one UFA I didn’t mention in this post was Frederik Andersen. His status with the team is worth a post all by itself. However, from the postseason interviews I’ve heard, Andersen talks as if he’s already gone by suggesting that he’ll look back fondly on the seasons he’s spent in Toronto.
Dubas rightfully has thanked Andersen for his five solid seasons with the team and has said he’ll talk with his former starting goalie about the possibility of remaining. He should, just in case there’s a chance.
Related: All Signs Point to Andersen Not Being a Maple Leaf Next Season
In a world with an escalating salary cap, such things might be possible. But that isn’t the case right now. I fully expect Andersen will sign with another team after the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the Kraken. Similar to Marc Andre-Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights, there might be worse landing spots for the Danish goalie.