IT’S BUYOUT DAY! The fun thing about the Kyle Dubas era is that we don’t seem to be discussing what Leafs players need to be bought out anymore. Part of that might be because all the deals are structured to be buyout proof, but we won’t concern ourselves with that for another couple of years when the Leafs fan base violently turns against John Tavares.
For now we can consider which potential buyout candidates might make sense for the Leafs to pursue as free agents (assuming a small fortune hasn’t been paid for Alex Pietrangelo.) James Mirtle of The Athletic has put together a list of 22 potential buyouts, and if you have a subscription you can read the full list there. Below are a few names from that list that might make sense for the Leafs.
Assuming the Leafs plan on moving on from Freddie Andersen, the Leafs could find a pretty solid replacement option in one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time. While King Henrik might not be playing at his hall of fame level, he’s still a great netminder and leader and someone worth considering. It’s hard to imagine his price will be less than what the Leafs were paying Andersen and ability wise it’s a wash, but moving Andersen and bringing in Lundqvist would allow the Leafs the chance to pick up an asset in the goalie shuffle.
Sticking with the Rangers here’s a defensive option. Or a right wing option. Smith is a left shot, but has played right side plenty. Physical play and versatility are the selling points on a player who wouldn’t be too bad an option on a cheap contract and the fact that Smith could be the 13th forward/7th D on road trips marginally useful for a team that is going to cap itself into carrying a small roster.
Sticking with Smiths and players that play a little tougher, Zach Smith could be an affordable replacement option if the Leafs move on from Alex Kerfoot. Toronto would be accepting a downgrade in skill, but upgrading in toughness, and in the possibility that Smith might catch lightning in a bottle and have a season like the one that led to the contract that is possibly being bought out.
If Dubnyk is bought out and can be had on a cheap deal next season, he could be an affordable downgrade from Andersen, and the Leafs can hope that last year was but a blip. Unfortunately there have been a lot of blips in Dubnyk’s career that point to him being a bit of a risk.
He’s a right shooting defenseman that was buried in the AHL most of last season after being dumped by New Jersey on Nashville in the Subban deal. On teams that are as deep as Nashville defensively he probably would have been in the NHL, but his contract was probably keeping him for getting a chance. If the Leafs want to do a cheap deal to see what he still has, it could pay off for them.
Also, I think he’s a magician.
Okposo had some great numbers when he was riding shotgun to John Tavares, but has been decidedly less successful since. The good news is the Leafs have a John Tavares that could help kick start Okposo, who could also add some size to the top six group if you so choose to force him into a role that seems to have passed him by.
Health and injury issues are going to factor heavily into any decision here and frankly Okposo might not even be eligible for a buyout because of them. He remains an interesting name to consider if he’s on the cheap side.
Somehow the Leafs would get him at the two worst points in his career. The point when he was dealt prematurely by a GM who failed to see the value in a defensively sound defenseman who didn’t hit, and when he was beginning to slow down and no longer the guy you’d want on the ice against strong offensive competition.
Anyways, Stralman probably shouldn’t be bought out even if his contract is a little high, but on the chance he is, Stralman could be a very level headed partner for Morgan Rielly to play with and/or a strong mentor for Rasmus Sandin.
Trying to make a case for any buyout player is an uphill battle given the nature that they were recently paid to go away, but as far as Plans B or C or D, some of these players might not be bad options for the Leafs. And with any free agent not named Alex Pietrangelo the name of the game in free agency is going to be patience. Teams are going to be reluctant to match the demands of some of these players, and few beyond the Leafs are going to be offering up the potential of signing bonus payments. The Leafs biggest issue will be creating the cap space so they can be players on Pietrangelo or any of the above mentioned players and how that happens still remains to be seen.