If the Marner contract is the 1A storyline for the Leafs this summer, then moving out Zaitsev and Marleau has to be the 1B story. If those are the 1A & 1B stories, than trying to find a right shooting defenseman is probably the 1C story.
This morning on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Pierre LeBrun addressed 1B & 1C, which will directly impact the ability to complete 1A:
Depends on which team you talk to. Obvious LA is where Patrick Marleau would prefer to go in all of this and he’s driving the bus, right? He’s got the full no move so… and his wife is in California. I think as I reported Friday if the Kings are going to go down the route I still don’t have any evidence that for sure this will end up in a transaction but if it does happen I think the Leafs are going to have to take back someone with term. Marleau has one year left with a big number, but I think the Kings are willing to absorb that for getting a prospect from the Leafs and getting the Leafs to take something with term that is maybe a cheaper number but has term attached to it, but I think LA is more worried about their cap two to three years down the road when they hope to turn the corner. That’s the sort of conversations these two teams have had last week, I just don’t know if they can get over that hump and figure it out.
The Coyotes talked to Toronto as well and I think their conversation was probably more straight up in that we’ll take Marleau if you can give us what I termed on twitter yesterday as a premium asset. What you read into that I mean, is it a second round pick, grade a prospect, is a good young player, I don’t know, but that’s the type of conversation that my understanding is that the Coyotes have had with the Leafs.
So that all sounds pretty encouraging. There was always going to need to be some price associated with getting Marleau out the door, and if you look at players who have term beyond one year in Los Angeles who would be worthwhile for the Leafs to take on, it’s pretty much limited to Alec Martinez, who would be a nice upgrade to the Leafs top four defense for a couple of seasons. If the Kings would prefer to ship out a different player it would probably require some salary retention on someone like Kovalchuk, Phaneuf, Carter, or Brown to get it done. It shouldn’t be surprising that ridding the Leafs of Marleau will not be straight forward, and would still likely require the Leafs dump a prospect on the Kings as well.
The Coyotes deal does sound more appealing, but if the Kings are an option, Marleau might block the Coyotes option from happening. The 2020 2nd round pick, or a prospect like Bracco or Brooks seem incredibly reasonable to keep a group the Leafs like together. In the Coyotes situation you better believe this would be a July 1st thing as it would require the Leafs to pay Marleau’s signing bonus. In fact, pretty much any deal with Marleau would be a July 1st thing because even rich teams aren’t going to pay $3M they don’t need to.
On Zaitsev (with either Kapanen or Johnsson) going to Carolina
I used those guys in example something I think Carolina would like to do. I think the Hurricanes who have kept tabs with the Leafs since the offseason has begun, I think goes back to the idea the Hurricanes have had during the year with Toronto is that the Hurricanes would like to add a young top six forward. And I think they’re in a position where they feel they have to trade one of their three right handed D. Well who do you know who needs right handed D more than the Toronto Maple Leafs? So this not a Marleau conversation, this is a Zaitsev conversation. If you package Zaitsev, to Carolina with Johnsson or Kapanen, does that get you Pesce, Faulk or Dougie Hamilton? I would monitor that one because I think that’s something the Hurricanes might be willing to do at some point. Here’s the thing, Zaitsev has a $3M signing bonus due July 1st. In the perfect world where every dime counts in Carolina, probably waiting until after that would be a better time but the Leafs might not be in a position to wait. The Leafs might have to start acting on some of these situations before then since then because they want to get Mitch Marner signed. Everything always comes back to Mitch Marner as always.
Much like the Marleau deal this one sounds a little too good to be true. Ridding the Leafs of Zaitsev would be great on its own, but picking up an ideal right handed defenseman in the process would be huge. My guess is that Pesce’s name is included in this because it always has to be, but Zaitsev and either Kapanen or Johnsson seems like much more of a likely package for the Leafs taking Faulk instead of one of the other defensemen. Faulk is the oldest, and an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he also has a no trade clause which could block this deal if he doesn’t want it.
Dougie Hamilton, might be the expensive option but he should also be the preferred option and perhaps he is the realistic option. Nothing prevents the teams from completing this trade and the Leafs would get arguably the best of the three defensemen out of this deal. I’m not entirely sure why Carolina wants to make this deal when they could just explore free agency to find a 20 goal winger, but if youth is a factor, this may make some sense.
It’s funny that Pierre is attaching a sense of urgency to this because of Mitch Marner, because there is nothing from the Leafs having a deal in principle beforehand and signing it when the trades are completed and with the 10% cap overage allowed for the summer it’s really not an issue at all other than worries about leverage and next steps.
I’ll admit seeing something early has appeal to my impatience, and generally I’m becoming quite optimistic about this summer. The Leafs look to be in a position to keep their core intact and make some upgrades that will help them next season. If all it costs Toronto is a mid-tier prospect and a 20 goal winger, it’s a dream scenario.