The realities of a 50-contract limit come into play at times, and that’s certainly the case with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the moment. Today was the deadline for tendering qualifying offers to restricted free agents, in order to retain their rights, and the team did so in a way that saw them effectively walk away from half of their options.
- Connor Brown: This should be of no surprise to anyone. In any other season, a rookie potting 20 goals while spending much of his time on a shutdown line would’ve been huge news; in this case, he falls behind a generational class. With that said, we all knew that Breeze would stick around here.
- Zach Hyman: The same goes here. There may be some debate about where Hyman should slot in the lineup, but nobody debates his capabilities as an NHLer.
- Garret Sparks: While there have been questions surrounding his health, a worst case scenario of having an elite 1B on the Marlies next year is certainly a lot better than not having any goaltending. Best case scenario? He’s the backup answer next year. Hard to argue against his results; he’s been at least 0.915 in the minors in each of his last four seasons.
- Justin Holl: Maybe the lowest-profile name on this list, though hardcore Marlies observers will sing a much different tune. Holl has been arguably their steadiest right-handed defenceman of the past two years, and given that there’s still some depth lacking on that side, it makes sense to ensure that his rights are kept.
- Seth Griffith: Maybe a bit of a shocker thanks to the boatload of points he scored this year. I imagine this speaks to where he currently stands in asset value across the league; nobody is will to give up much for a small scorer who hasn’t proven anything at the top level, but as three waiver claims last year show, they’ll take him for free. Toronto would likely lose him again in October anyway, so giving him the chance to test the market and find a spot where he can attempt to make a camp seems to make a lot of sense. Alternatively, they might have an AHL deal in the works for him, but I imagine he’d consider Europe before that.
- Sergey Kalinin: Acquired in the Viktor Loov trade in the winter, Kalinin was brought in to fix some of the Marlies’ problems at centre and didn’t deliver much. He filled roster spot, but struggled to produce and didn’t appear to be getting the defensive results required to offset that. It doesn’t make sense to retain the rights of a 26-year-old who can’t score in the minors, so he’s out.
- Antoine Bibeau: This will likely be the most polarizing one. Bibeau looked solid in his two Leafs games this season, and the hype attached to him after a Memorial Cup run years ago has still yet to dissipate among the public. With that said, only one goaltender that played as many minutes as him in the AHL this year had a worse save percentage; Bibeau was just a 0.894 this year. With over 100 AHL games played and barely league average results to show for it, it doesn’t seem to make sense to offer him another NHL deal at the moment.
It remains to be seen who, if anyone, gets those three contract spots, or what the three who’s rights were retained will get in their next deals.