The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded goaltender Petr Mrazek along with the 25th-overall pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the 38th overall pick.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, this trade is simple. They get to move up the draft board while bringing back a goaltender who still has starter potential (or at the worst 1B potential) in Mrazek. While he is coming off a bad 2021-22, this was due to injuries and stoppages of play derailing his season.
As a team clearly starting a rebuild, Mrazek fills a few needed holes for the Blackhawks. First, they had no goaltender under contract for the 2022-23 season heading into free agency, so now they have a solid goaltending option. Also, he is carrying a $3.8 million cap hit, which isn’t much of a concern for the team right now as they have been selling off contracts.
Maple Leafs Clear Needed Cap Space By Moving Down at the Draft
As a team firmly pushed up against the cap ceiling the Maple Leafs needed to do anything they could to make some space. Heading into the 2021-22 offseason, it seemed clear that they were going to trade Mrazek, as he simply didn’t mesh with the franchise throughout the regular season. This would be fine from a 1B option, but Toronto was paying him $3.8 million, which was simply too much for a backup goaltender.
While trading their first-round pick isn’t ideal, the Maple Leafs are ultimately only moving back 13 places in order to clear $3.8 million from their books. That’s a fair deal, especially considering what it often costs to clear any amount of cap space in the flat-cap world.
However, it is worth noting that this means the Maple Leafs are lacking a real starting goaltender at the moment. This will need to be addressed by the franchise soon, as they should be competing for the Stanley Cup in 2023. Without secure goaltending, that won’t happen, which means they must have a plan in place already.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Live Tracker
So, expect the Maple Leafs to make some noise when free agency kicks off on July 13th. They have a little bit of cap space to spend now, and this could be used to lock down their next starting goaltender, whether that be Darcy Kuemper or an unexpected option.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.