5
Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Would the Leafs be wise to shop the Arizona sell off?

It stands to reason that when we first started hearing about teams wanting to keep their spending in check that the Arizona Coyotes would be one of those teams.

That seems to be everything we’ve come to expect from the Coyotes over the past few years, even though they occasionally show signs of getting their situation figured out and back on track. And Chayka managing to cost the team two high draft picks for his private combine shenanigans, and also cost them this year’s first on a short sighted Taylor Hall rental, the Coyotes seem to once again find themselves in a cap crunch and in desperate need of cheap players, preferably cheap players with a high cap hit but low salary.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

So that’s pretty much a full blown sell off mode. And one that contains some interesting higher profile names like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phil Kessel, Darcy Kuemper. If we look a tier down there’s also Derek Stepan, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers, Antti Raanta, Alex Gologoski, Jordan Oesterele, Michael Grabner, and two restricted free agents in Vinnie Hinostraza, and Ilya Lyubushkin. Those are a lot of names to shopping, although I’d imagine a few of them will have to be back if the Coyotes plan on icing a team next season.

Now some of these players have been made cheaper for the 2020-21 season by already having some of their salary paid via signing bonus. Phil Kessel’s large bonus has been paid, so the Coyotes are better off riding things out with his lower salary and high cap hit for now.

Looking at the who is still owed the most money in the 2020-21 season out of Arizona’s 25 or older crowd, you’re left with this list…

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
PLAYER CAP HIT SALARY Signing Bonus Salary after Bonus
Oliver Ekman-Larsson $8,250,000 $8,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Alex Goligoski $5,475,000 $4,000,000 $0 $4,000,000
Michael Grabner $3,350,000 $3,775,000 $0 $3,775,000
Darcy Kuemper $4,500,000 $3,500,000 $0 $3,500,000
Jason Demers $4,500,000 $3,600,000 $1,000,000 $2,600,000
Derek Stepan $6,500,000 $5,000,000 $3,000,000 $2,000,000
Antti Raanta $4,250,000 $4,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Niklas Hjalmarsson $5,000,000 $4,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Jordan Oesterle $1,400,000 $1,600,000 $0 $1,600,000
Phil Kessel $8,000,000 $6,000,000 $5,000,000 $1,000,000

Now how does any of this effect the Leafs?

Well, even though he doesn’t play on the right side, the availability of Oliver Ekman-Larsson is something that a team that struggles on defense should care about. Additionally both Jason Demers and Niklas Hjalmarsson potentially being available is interesting, if you are capable of overlooking their injury history. Hjalmarsson (left shot that plays on the right side) in particular seems like an ideal partner for Rielly, and perhaps he can be acquired for futures.

Darcy Kuemper might be seen as a target if the Leafs move on from Andersen, but given the price tag on Kuemper seems to be a 1st, which the Coyotes will covet heavily this year, that isn’t a price Toronto should be comfortable paying for him. In fact, the Leafs might be better off selling their goaltender to Arizona, as Andersen’s $1M of owed salary is cheaper than either Kuemper or Raanta.

Jordan Oesterle is a good bottom pairing option, as is pending RFA Ilya Lyubushkin. Neither would cost the Leafs a ton, but provide some insurance for the Leafs if they aren’t ready to anoint Sandin and Liljegren full time NHLers.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

As for players that might have some appeal to the Coyotes, if they are looking for players who are low on money that needs to be paid and might carry a higher cap hit, this is the group that fits their bill…

PLAYER AGE CAP HIT SALARY Signing Bonus Salary after Bonus
Justin Holl 28 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Frederik Andersen 30 $5,000,000 $5,000,000 $4,000,000 $1,000,000
Pierre Engvall 24 $1,250,000 $1,250,000 $0 $1,250,000
William Nylander 24 $6,962,366 $6,000,000 $3,500,000 $2,500,000
Andreas Johnsson 25 $3,400,000 $3,600,000 $1,000,000 $2,600,000
Alexander Kerfoot 25 $3,500,000 $3,600,000 $1,000,000 $2,600,000

I’m including Nylander on this list in the event that Ekman-Larsson is a target for the Leafs. Other than that players like Engvall, Johnsson, and Kerfoot are affordable players that can play in the Coyotes middle six, and Andersen is definitely a worthwhile goaltender replacement if the Coyotes intend to be sellers.

Beyond the players above, restricted free agents like Dermott and Mikheyev would also have some value to the Coyotes, and a near NHL ready prospect like Korshkov would be an ideal fit for Arizona as well.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The names I keep coming back to…

Niklas Hjalmarsson’s name is a hard one to shake. He’s a bit older, and his injury history is a concern, but the fact that he seems to be at least a solid short term partner for Morgan Rielly keeps me intrigued. There is a chance that Super Nintendo Chalmers is completely washed at this point in his career, and in the limited time he played last season his numbers weren’t great, but he potentially remains a solid affordable option for the Leafs to pursue. The $5M cap hit is a sticking point as well and the idea of the Coyotes retaining salary in this situation seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened and capologists exist to figure it out.

In addition there is a lot of potential in Lyubushkin. Ilya adds a missing physical element to the Leafs blueline at what probably isn’t going to be too high a price. If the Coyotes are wanting to manage their costs, flipping Holl for Lyubushkin might be a reasonable approach.

As for Kuemper. The price just seems too high. If the Leafs are going with a 30 year old goaltender with a cap hit in the $4.5M-$5M range, it probably makes more sense to stick with the guy they know and hold on to Andersen for another season.

With the Coyotes yet to name a permanent GM, the full philosophy isn’t known yet. We just know the marching orders giving to their interim guy Steve Sullivan are to cut costs. The Coyotes aren’t going to be the only team looking to do this, and if the Leafs find themselves in a buyers market for contracts this could be a promising offseason.