As the Toronto Maple Leafs try to navigate this offseason and dance around with the idea of adding Alex Pietrangelo or another big fish that could improve their blue line situation, doing so won’t come without sacrifice. There’s no realistic way for GM Kyle Dubas to open up the cap space he needs without moving other pieces.
In a recent article by Jonas Siegel and James Mirtle of The Athletic, the two scribes examined some of the more interesting questions facing the Maple Leafs over the next few weeks. Among them were whether or not to go after Pietrangelo at all, who might be the goalie between the pipes next season, and if the team should move their first-round pick in the NHL Draft happening in a few days time. In the middle of those debates, the article takes a look at who, from the current roster, might be “untouchable”. In other words, to do what the Maple Leafs need to do, who will Dubas not sacrifice?
Those players fall into a few categories:
The “Can’t Move” Untouchables
Autson Matthews sits atop the list for obvious reasons. If the Maple Leafs move him, Leafs Nation might boycott. He’s clearly their best scorer, likely their best overall player and he’s young and only getting better every season. He’s becoming a leader and it makes no sense for Toronto to consider shipping him out. That’s a fireable offense and Dubas wouldn’t last long if he tried.
John Tavares is likely also untouchable because of his contract. His hefty price tag and no-move clause means he’s not going anywhere, even if the Leafs are looking back at that deal and wondering if signing that contract was the start of most of their salary cap concerns.
Jake Muzzin has a no-move clause as well, but it only lasts this season. Still, it’s important to note because the question about whether or not to add Pietrangelo is only good for this offseason.
The “Don’t Want to Move” Untouchables
Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner fall into this category. As Jason Seigel writes:
It would take some kind of trade to deal any one of those guys, obviously: Rielly is the Leafs best defenceman and signed to an under-market contract for another two seasons ($5 million cap hit); Nylander is 24, just had his best season and is signed at a nice rate ($6.9 million cap hit) for another four seasons; Marner is pricey ($10.89 million cap hit), but could also win a scoring title someday, maybe even next season.source – ‘Mirtle and Siegel: Answering the five biggest Maple Leafs offseason questions’ Jason Seigel and James Mirtle – The Athletic – 09/22/2020
Still, in the right situation and for the right return, any of these players would be available.
Some might argue Rielly should fall into the untouchable category with no questions asked but his status with the team isn’t a given because of his current contract. His deal is winding down and one can only imagine how difficult it could be to get him to sign at a reasonable number — which is imperative for the Leafs given the cap situation. In an ideal world, Rielly is the type of player the Leafs want to add more of. Subtracting him from the roster feels counterproductive.
Yet, ignoring the reality of how future negotiations could go means potentially ignoring what’s best for the club long-term.
The “Shouldn’t Move” Untouchables
In the list of players the Maple Leafs likely shouldn’t move, Jack Campbell, Rasmus Sandin and Nick Roberston made the list. Campbell is there because he’s going to be the goalie left standing after the Leafs inevitably move Frederik Andersen and Sandin and Roberston make up the Leafs two best prospects.
As it were, Campbell likely isn’t untouchable but Mirtle notes that the Leafs have been down the road of really cheap goaltender before and Dubas isn’t eager to go there again.
At the end of the day, adding a player like Pietrangelo is certainly possible if the moves are made to accommodate his salary. The question becomes if giving up what you might need to in order to facilitate a deal is worth it?
It’s a given that players like Andersen, Alex Kerfoot, Andreas Johnsson, and Zach Hyman might be on the trade block if the Leafs and Pietrangelo have googly eyes for each other. But, knowing Rielly could be the cost, Dubas really needs to stop and consider the trade off.