Like it or not, everything relates back to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re like the NHL’s Kevin Bacon if, you know, Kevin Bacon had actually made a watchable movie or two in the past five-to-ten years.
Kevin Bacon’s declining film career aside, we’re in for a treat today, my friends. After an excruciatingly boring first round of the NHL Entry Draft last night – with a whopping zero physical bodies swapping area codes despite supposedly unprecedented “chatter” – day two has brought the heat in a big way before the second round could even begin. And given Toronto’s entrenched status at the centre of the hockey universe, each of these moves will leave an impact on the Leafs in some way.
Curious as to how? Follow along with this live thread as I break down each significant trade as it happens.
12:11 PM – TOR Trades Patrick Marleau + 2020 1st Round Pick (Conditional) + 2020 7th Round Pick to CAR for 2020 6th Round Pick
Hoo baby! Now, THIS is how you kick off a draft.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) June 22, 2019
Does this trade impact the Leafs? You bet your bottom dollar it does. You know, by actually including the Leafs.
Save for navigating the choppy waters of Mitch Marner’s new contract, finding any feasible way to purge the cap of Patrick Marleau’s $6.25 million figure stood as perhaps the most pressing piece business for Kyle Dubas this summer and, in pulling the trigger with Carolina earlier this afternoon, that’s exactly what he accomplished.
On the surface, this deal shapes up as a clear win. Finding a taker for a 40-year-old Marleau whose value dwindles by the second while avoiding the need to retain a single cent of salary was a pie-in-the-sky outcome as recently as 24 hours ago. With Marleau now off the books, the Leafs sit with precisely $14,040,301 in space, per PuckPedia (assuming that the yet-to-be-announced ceiling is $82 million) at the time of the deal, laying the groundwork to allow them to stuff Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and perhaps even Jake Gardiner, along with some outside additions, under the cap. Terrific, right?
Alas, everything comes at a cost.
Any Marleau trade, no matter its construction, would require a sweetener. It was inevitable, a reality to which fans had resigned themselves a long time ago. For as loveable as Marleau is, his undoubtedly chipper disposition doesn’t change the fact that the fella is a borderline senior citizen with bottom-six production who happens to be paid like a mid-20s first-liner. Teams aren’t going to just take that on without squeezing you for every last drop. And boy, did the Hurricanes ever squeeze.
While Don Waddell certainly tossed Dubas the life preserver he needed at the height of the Leafs’ Perfect Storm, it ultimately came at the price of Toronto’s first-round pick in 2020. The pick is lottery protected, thankfully – lest we witness an Ottawa-like blunder from 2017 – but odds are that the Maple Leafs will be sitting out the first day of the draft for the second consecutive time next year.
That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, regardless of the cap savings
The Leafs’ contention window is open widest right this moment, likely landing that 2020 first somewhere in the late-20’s. But there are two sides to every coin, and this one comes in the form of future cap ramifications. Prospects are cheap. The CBA designs them that way. And given how tight their cap situation will be moving forward, the Leafs sure could use a few of those cheap bodies to complement their stars as their current core ages into a new tax bracket.
Going two straight years without a first-round selection makes that a whole lot more difficult, especially when considering that the Hurricanes did not send an immediately available asset back.
If anything, Dubas’s willingness to ship out his first-round tickets speaks volumes to how favourably he views the Leafs’ current prospect pool. If that’s where he foresees the true value lying, then all the power to him.
12:41 PM – NSH Trades P.K. Subban to NJD for Steve Santini + Jeremy Davies + 2019 2nd Round Pick (34th Overall) + 2020 2nd Round Pick
Really? We’re just going to let an armed robbery like this happen right in front of us in broad daylight and do nothing about it? I’m disappointed in all of you.
PK Subban will he heading to NJ for Santini, prospect Davies and two second round picks. No salary retained by NSH.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 22, 2019
P.K. Subban costs a cool $9 million per year. That’s a lot of money if you hadn’t noticed; enough to sufficiently scare off any supposed contender heading into next season. That being said, however, Subban is a terrifically talented hockey player nonetheless. The 30-year-old blueliner may not have put forth the eye-popping numbers expected of him last year, but Subban still managed to produce at roughly a 41-point-pace throughout 63 injury-riddled games, even posting his highest even strength CF/60 total since 2016-17 at 53.4%, per HockeyReference.
Subban’s main selling points are still there. He’s a dynamic right-shooting possession driver in a market currently bereft of them, who moves the puck with a level of ease that is practically unseen from any other NHL defenceman and, when healthy, has demonstrated a Norris calibre ceiling.
Players like that should NOT be available on the open market in the first place, let alone in exchange for a hodgepodge of depth pieces and a pair of second-round picks.
Does this affect the Leafs? Of course, it does!
Toronto reportedly tested the waters on a Subban deal prior to the first round’s kickoff yesterday afternoon, with Pierre LeBrun reporting now in the aftermath of today that Nashville’s insistence on Subban’s full cap figure being assumed ultimately made it impossible. Which is a darn shame, really.
For one, Subban is EXACTLY what the Maple Leafs need at the moment. His presence on their ride side would have completely altered the fabric of their lineup, giving Morgan Rielly (assuming Babcock actually plays the two together, which is not a given) the best partner he’s ever had by a country mile while, in the process, allowing Jake Muzzin to be deployed optimally as the second pairing’s LHD. Mulling over whether or not to put Rielly or Subban at the point on PP1 is the type of conversation had only over PlayStation Live.
Alas, Subban is a New Jersey Devil now, acquired for a feather-light package of assets and therefore putting a bow on a weekend in which we saw Ray Shero welcome Jack Hughes into the fold, as well.
The Devils are Spongebob and Patrick, and the Leafs are Squidward watching longingly from his window.
12:55 PM – TOR Closing in on Contract Extension for Kasperi Kapanen
This may come as a shock to many of you, but Mitch Marner is not, in fact, the only player on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Heck, he’s not even their lone pending RFA, despite what precisely one (1) scroll down your Twitter timeline might tell you.
I know. Crazy, right?
Kasperi Kapanen matters too, after all. And while the 22-year-old may not rack up the Marner-esque point totals conducive of a venomous and public contract stalemate, Kapanen’s two-way abilities and legitimately elite footspeed are undoubtedly valuable to a Leafs roster that is expected to look markedly different come training camp.
Unless Kapanen can be parlayed into the RHD saviour Toronto has longed for since I was in middle school, keeping him around for the foreseeable future is an important box on Dubas’s offseason to-do list to check.
According to Bob McKenzie, Dubas is primed to do just that. And we even know the (general) specifics.
TOR, more or less, has an agreement in place with Kasperi Kapanen on an extension. Not expected to be formalized until TOR cap (Marner) situation clarified. It will be a 3 year deal with an AAV in the $3.2M to $3.4M range.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 22, 2019
Cap hits are always relative. It’s important to remember that when trying to make sense of our current era in which teams look to shave every possible cent off their books.
Shelling out $3.4 million for a talented (albeit limited) winger whose offensive ceiling will land somewhere in the 40-to-50-point ballpark may seem a smidge steep, on the surface. Personally, I had initially projected Kapanen to ink a bridge deal this summer – namely of the two-year variety – and come in under the $3 million AAV barrier. But then you get an outside perspective. You take a gander around the league, watching with jaws agape as Philadelphia hands a $7 million annual sum across seven years to a 27-year-old whose prior scoring pace – compiled over his five NHL seasons, no less – lined up almost precisely with that of Kapanen’s after his first.
It’s then, and only then, that you feel a whole lot better about this expected pay raise.
All that stands in the way of this deal moving along is, like most things, Mitch Marner. But if McKenzie is to be believed, and I’m struggling to think of a time when he wasn’t, Leafs Nation is set to stay Kappy for the next three years.
1:44 PM – VAN Trades a 2020 1st Round Pick (Conditional) + 2019 3rd Round Pick + Marek Mazanec to TBL for J.T. Miller
Consequences do not apply to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Like, at all.
The Lightning entered the offseason in as dubious a position as anyone. With little when it came to cap space and lots when it came to pending RFAs – the most important of which being superstar Brayden Point – it seemed as if some full metal alchemy would be required from Julien Brisebois in order to make all of his pieces fit.
Or, Brisebois could just sit back as everything works out anyway. That makes sense, too.
The first of the Lightning’s duo of breaks regrettably came earlier this week, when news that Ryan Callahan had been diagnosed with a supposedly career-ending back injury began to filter out, therein allowing Tampa to avoid any potential buyout penalty on their veteran winger and instead stash his $5.8 million cap hit on LTIR.
Of course, you never want to view a player’s health through the lens of the salary cap. There is a real person at the centre of all this, whose real life has now been changed in a very real way. In a vacuum, however, the thought of instantly clearing nearly $6 million in space is more or less the cap equivalent of a godsend.
Now, Vancouver has decided to aid in this remarkable highwire act, as well.
We have acquired a conditional first-round pick in 2020, a third-round selection in this year’s #NHLDraft (No. 71), and goaltender Marek Mazanec from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for J.T. Miller.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 22, 2019
J.T. Miller is a perfectly serviceable player – one whose offensive upside lands in the territory of 50-to-60-points when surrounded with talented linemates and who happens demonstrate some decent possession driving instincts, as well. That being said, allocating $5.25 million to what is ultimately a mid-tier winger in the middle of a cap crunch was a luxury the Lightning could not afford.
And yet, not only did the Canucks feel comfortable with taking on every last penny of Miller’s deal, they also opted to sweeten the pot by throwing in a conditional 2020 first round pick (!), a 2019 third rounder that turned into Hugo Alnefelt, and goaltender Marek Mazanec for good measure.
Even in crisis, the rich get richer, and life goes on.
Callahan and Miller’s departures alleviate a combined total of approximately $11.05 million off of the Lightning’s cap structure and, when all is said and done, gift them a total of $11,126,669 in wiggle room to allocate down their roster.
Oh, and they get an extra first rounder in 12 months.
Wizardry, man. Pure wizardry.
1:38 PM – NJD Trades John Quenneville to CHI for John Hayden
Does anybody really care about this?
Chicago trades John Hayden to New Jersey for John Quenneville.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 22, 2019
No? Didn’t think so. Let’s move on.
3:28 PM – TOR Reportedly Closing in on Contract Extension with Andreas Johnsson
You know what they say; like Kapanen, like Johnsson.
Mere hours after the Maple Leafs reportedly closed in on a deal to keep Kasperi Kapanen in blue and white for the next three years, word of an extension for Andreas Johnsson – within the same term and dollar range, no less – began to hit the Twittersphere.
Leafs closing in on 4 year extension with Andreas Johnsson. Likely between $3.25 mil and $3.5 AAV.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 22, 2019
The two Scandinavian-born wingers will always be tied to one another for a host of reasons; shared tenure on the Marlies, similar skillsets as effective middle-to-high-six wingers, and even hitting RFA status at the exact same time.
Now, it appears as if both will also re-up with the Maple Leafs in a roughly identical fashion, too.
Decyphering Johnsson’s value in comparison to Kapanen’s is a tricky endeavour. On the one hand, Johnsson seems to possess a higher offensive ceiling, scoring at a higher per-game clip than Kapanen last season while on Auston Matthews’ left side. On the other, however, Kapanen is a full two years younger than the 24-year-old Johnsson, and therefore has more developmental runway upon which to grow.
Nevertheless, both players are valuable contributors to the Maple Leafs in their current form – more or less justifying their respective raises. Getting Johnsson locked up is a particularly welcome boon for Kyle Dubas. The former 2012 seventh-round pick exploded down the latter stretch of the 2018-19 regular season, looking right at home on Toronto’s top line while, in addition, even earning a few Calder Trophy votes for his troubles, as well. Johnsson and Matthews clearly developed some enticing chemistry with each other in their extended partnership. That is an important caveat, as deploying a strategy geared towards surrounding your $11.5 million franchise pillar with a bevvy of cost-effective offensive reinforcements tends to be imperative to long-lasting success in the modern NHL.
Just look at what Edmonton is dealing with right now. How lethal would Connor McDavid be alongside a player of Johnsson’s calibre? Alas, Oilers fans can only dream.
Perhaps even more impressive than the actual dollar figures is how Dubas managed to open space for them in the first place. In trading Patrick Marleau to Carolina earlier this afternoon – and with precisely zero in retained salary, to boot – Dubas effectively weaponized his newfound savings before swiftly dividing them between two of his team’s most promising young wingers.
That is some seriously shrewd decision making there, my friends. And by using the rewards from solving one problem to effectively solve two others, this reported Johnsson extension does wonders in whittling down the list of issues Dubas must tackle this summer.
Welcome back, Mango.