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Gone in November: Four more months until NHL free agency (but we’ll talk about it now)

This might have been one of those things that goes without saying given that all the talk has been about contracts being extended until October 31st, but Bob McKenzie has highlighted something we all assumed…

Yep. It looks like NHL GMs will be making it November Rain for the 2020 crop of NHL unrestricted free agents. And for what it is worth, it will be very much a what we see is what we get group as no names will be added through amnesty buyouts…

Not that amnesty or compliance buyouts aren’t a huge loss. The Leafs don’t really have anyone they’d want to buyout and chasing after buyout players for anything other than a near league minimum contract probably wouldn’t be too ideal either.

As for the Leafs free agency situation, it’s presently as follows…

UFA RFA (Arb Eligible) RFA
Spezza Mikheyev Dermott
Clifford Malgin Bracco
Barrie Gauthier
Ceci Kivihalme
Clarkson Veronneau
Horton Aberg
Gravel
Kaskisuo
Wilson
Gaudet
Lorito
Salomaki

They also have approximately $3.3M in cap space to work with to bring in at minimum 2 forwards, and up to three reserve players. Spezza, Mikheyev, and Dermott are the likely candidates to return and getting them done for $3.3M seems pretty much next to impossible.

It’s also likely that the Leafs will let more of their restricted free agents walk this year, as Bracco already appears to be done with the organization, Malgin and Aberg have been rumoured to teams overseas, and Kivihalme and Gauthier are the only two question marks.

Additionally, TSN presently has both Tyson Barrie (10th) and Cody Ceci (24th) listed on their list of the top 50 unrestricted free agents. If there are teams out there willing to pay for Barrie and Ceci, it’s unlikely the Leafs will do anything to stand in their way.

As for targets, well, the pipe dream of going after Alex Pietrangelo probably needs to go away. The Leafs would have to clear a lot of space to make that a possibility, and that’s still banking on the Blues not trying to keep their best defenseman.

Taylor Hall would be a nice luxury, but again falls into the “ain’t going to happen” category, as the Leafs are already spending the GDP of a small nation on their wingers, with Mikheyev still needing to slot in somewhere.

Pretty much any name brand free agent is going to require the trading of Kerfoot, Kapanen, and Johnsson, and as it sits one of them will probably need to be moved just to bring back their own key RFAs, assuming the Leafs are putting more value on Mikheyev or Dermott.

In short, free agency might be a little boring this year, but the Leafs aren’t in a bad spot. They’ve got a good core to work with and while some adjustments to the supporting players might occur, there isn’t a huge need for the Leafs to upgrade. What we see in the NHL’s return to play might change that, but right now going into the 2021 season with a large portion of this group intact doesn’t seem like a bad idea.