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A productive first day of free agency shouldn’t mark the end of the Leafs moves

Well, the Leafs were certainly active in free agency. Kyle Dubas managed to bring in fan favourite, Wayne Simmonds sharply at noon and followed up with a defensive upgrade later in the day by adding T.J. Brodie to the Leafs blueline. Two solid players that certainly provide an upgrade from Tyson Barrie and Kyle Clifford. Calling them mere replacements wouldn’t be fair, but neither would saying the Leafs are done because of these transactions.

To be fair, I don’t think Kyle Dubas would say that either. He’s very aware of the realities of his team. And aware of the salary cap. Carrying the bare minimum 20 man roster the Leafs would find themselves approximately $500k over the top of the cap ceiling and that’s before signing Ilya Mikheyev and Travis Dermott. The Leafs will likely need to shed around $4M to make room for these players, and a bit more to address the current overage and desire for a reserve player. This probably puts all of Johnsson, Kerfoot, Holl, Dermott, Mikheyev, and Andersen at risk for finding new homes in the coming weeks.

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What we can take from that is that the Leafs core will likely remain intact. Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander seem safe for now, and if I may be so bold, Rielly and Muzzin can probably feel pretty safe at the moment too. There is room to do what they need to do, but it’s hard to tell what they can do and what the trade market looks like until some key free agent dominoes begin to fall.

An arbitration case might be a mixed bag for the Leafs. It should help keep Mikheyev’s contract low, but put him at unrestricted free agency. Dermott seems like someone the Leafs are also excited to keep around, with Dubas also mentioning how Dermott will likely be playing on the right side next season, he clearly has a plan for him. It still seems that the Kerfoot, Johnsson, Andersen trade speculation that was most dominant before the start of the season is likely the direction the Leafs will choose to go. At least on 2 of the 3, and in the event that an Andersen departure is part of the plan, the Leafs will likely need to find his replacement via trade as the most appealing free agent available now is probably Aaron Dell.

While it might not fit with what the majority of us want, the best thing for the Leafs is probably to take a patient approach to the next few days. Let teams exhaust their cap space on the remaining top tier free agents, and allow the other teams to move on to their Plan B players, and guys like Kerfoot and Johnsson are best suited to the Plan B market.

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Patience over the next few days will also change the reality for a number of the remaining free agents and those discounts may help further shape the Leafs roster too.

So in all likelihood this isn’t a team that’s done. With 135 free agents that played a game in the NHL last season still available, Toronto will have options and increasingly affordable ones. The Leafs have 12 remaining standard players contracts available to use, and historically use over 45 of them and often closer to 50. If not this week, we’ll at least have some depth signings to look forward to soon.

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The Leafs aren’t done.