The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Agenda

In my post yesterday, I speculated about different ways the Toronto Maple Leafs might free up needed salary cap space for next season. But there’s more on the team’s agenda than simply considering next season’s salary cap. There’s an on-going Stanley Cup run to engage this season, and there are a number of ongoing decisions team’s management must make as it heads towards the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

Related: The Maple Leafs Are Going to Need Cap Relief

Rumors are swirling. In this post, I will look at a number of the rumors and team news that are being discussed as part of the Maple Leafs’ agenda.

Agenda Item #1: Maple Leafs & Hurricanes Still Talking

This week, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes are talking trades. Although the Maple Leafs recently traded for Jake Muzzin, which I believe reshapes the entire blue line, LeBrun believes that someone on the Hurricanes’ roster has spiked general manager Kyle Dubas’ interest. As he suggests, one of his sources “saw Maple Leafs assistant general manager Laurence Gilman in the press box in Buffalo for Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.”

LeBrun seemed to think the Maple Leafs weren’t interested in anyone on the Buffalo Sabres’ roster. So, the question remains – what players on the Hurricanes are the Maple Leafs looking at? LeBrun’s speculation is that it might be one of the Hurricanes’ right-handed defensemen or perhaps Micheal Ferland, a power forward who’s been on the market.

Related: Solid Deal for Maple Leafs and for Matthews

In a recent post, I shared the rumor that Ferland was on the Vancouver Canucks’ radar as well. If this is accurate, it also gives credence to the rumor that the Detroit Red Wings’ feisty forward Luke Glendening is on the Maple Leafs’ radar.

Agenda Item #2: Maple Leafs Looking at Glendening

In his Feb. 9 post, THW’s Nathan Kanter did a thorough analysis of why he believed Glendening would not be a good pick up for the Maple Leafs. However, as Kanter also noted, Glendening is a Mike Babcock favorite. Kanter also shared the report that TSN’s Frank Seravalli believed the Maple Leafs were once again showing interest in the Detroit Red Wings’ scrappy center.

Luke Glendening - Red Wings
Luke Glendening, Detroit Red Wings – Dec. 18, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I say “once again” because Seravalli reminds us that the Maple Leafs also showed interest in Glendening last season, so it’s no surprise they might be interested in him again. In addition, Seravalli suggests that, if a deal were to be done, the Red Wings would need to retain some salary on his $1.8 million per season contract that runs the next two seasons.

But, Kanter questions: Is trading for Glendening a wise financial move when Frederik Gauthier (already under contract at $675,000) and RFA Par Lindholm (at $975,000 this season) are likely available and it’s essential that the Maple Leafs cut costs for next season?

Agenda Item #3: Are Maple Leafs Speaking With Gardiner’s Agent?

LeBrun reported the rumor that hockey agent Pat Brisson was at the Maple Leafs game against the Ottawa Senators and met with Dubas after the game. What’s interesting about this meeting is that Brisson represents defenseman Jake Gardiner and LeBrun assumed the pair was talking about Gardiner’s situation with the Maple Leafs.

It’s no surprise there’s conversation: Gardiner has been a focal point for fans’ booing. In previous posts, I have gone on record believing that Gardiner will sign somewhere else, partly in response to his treatment in Toronto and partly because he’s an American who might not feel that Toronto is home.

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dec. 12, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Most hockey pundits are assuming Gardiner will not be a part of next season’s roster; however, Dubas has made a point of saying he wants to keep all the pieces together. Say what you will about Dubas, he seems to be a person of his word as shown by his treatment of Josh Leivo when William Nylander returned to the team.

Gardiner has trade value, and he and his agent might believe there are “healthier” options out there to be explored. Certainly, there’s speculation that Gardiner’s signing with the Maple Leafs might also be hampered by fiscal constraints because of next season’s salary cap squeeze. Financial numbers alone might force Gardiner to leave Toronto to get a raise or sign an extended contract.

Agenda Item #4: Is Marner’s Agent Backpedaling?

Immediately after Matthews signed his five-year extension, Mitch Marner’s agent Darren Ferris responded, “So far they’ve been trying to lowball (Marner).” His point was valid and he made it loudly. None of the players Dubas has recently signed (Nylander or Matthews) gave the Maple Leafs a discount, so why should Marner?

Perhaps Ferris was looking at next season’s salary cap and wondering where his client fits in. Whatever the reason, his quick irritated reaction wasn’t a good sign for the Maple Leafs. Ferris is correct that Marner, who leads the Maple Leafs in scoring, is one of the team’s most valuable assets. Still, Ferris’ attitude is interesting.

Fortunately, when the quote hit Toronto’s news media, Ferris began to make nice. During an appearance on Sportsnet’s The Jeff Blair Show, Ferris reported that the two sides were “getting along fine” and that discussions were positive.

If so, why use the term “lowball?” Easy, Ferris noted: that’s just normal negotiation technique and what happens during the initial stages of talking through any contract. Hmmm.

Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews,
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Ferris hasn’t changed his stance that the Marner team won’t negotiate during the season, although how can his comments NOT be construed as a way of negotiating? Furthermore, as Bob McKenzie said, “Next up: Mitch Marner. It will be fascinating. No doubt in my mind that Marner’s camp will be looking to get close to what Matthews got. That is $11M+ AAV. No doubt in my mind that TOR will be looking to get Marner on a single digit AAV, in the 9’s. Big gap.”

Related: Maple Leafs’ Muzzin – What You Need to Know

Pierre LeBrun added, “Bottom line, all controversy aside, it comes down to one very basic question: can Marner get what Matthews got and if not, where does that leave both sides this summer? Marner wants to be a Leaf. So his camp pushes as far as it can and then signs. At least that’s what I think.”

Agenda Item #5: What’s Up for Other Maple Leafs RFA’s?

Now that the Maple Leafs have signed Matthews to a huge contract extension, questions move to what’s next on the club’s agenda. As reported above, because the team won’t be signing Marner to a new deal during the season, decisions remain about what the club will do as it heads towards the postseason.

Dubas certainly faces questions about Gardiner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnson, and perhaps others we don’t yet know about. These are important agenda items for Dubas and the Maple Leafs going forward.