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Bargain bin hunting – some cheaper alternatives for Brad Treliving and the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Bennett Jull
13 days ago
Each year multiple teams will duke it out to sign the most coveted free agents in different positions. This year there will be many different suitors for Jake Guentzel, Sam Reinhart, and Elias Lindholm should they not sign with their respective teams. Similarly, on defence, Brandon Montour, Brett Pesce, and Brady Skjei will command a pretty penny.
There will be players who sign big tickets in the next couple of days that severely underperform. There are some that eventually will be bought out, or traded away for cap space. Alternatively, there are players who sign cheaper deals that out-kick their coverage and overperform. In a salary cap league where every penny counts, getting these signings right is crucial. Today I’m showcasing some skaters that could prove to be great value signings.
Forwards
Dominik Kubalik. The 28-year-old has spent the last two seasons in the Atlantic with Detroit and Ottawa. Last year with Ottawa was his worst year output-wise, notching 11 goals and four assists in 74 games. The year before with Detroit he had 20 goals and 45 points. That said, Kubalik scored 30 goals in just 68 games in his rookie year back in 2019-2020, so you know the potential is there. His next projected contract is around ~$1M. He’s 6-foot-2 and is coming off a down year. Buy low…
Yakov Trenin. Trenin is the most expensive player on this list. A younger UFA, the 27-year-old Russian-born forward is a force to be reckoned with, possessing strong defensive instincts and a major physical presence. Trenin has scored 12 goals in his last two seasons, and I think there’s more room there. He would be a solid bottom-six acquisition IF the cost is right. Anything above $2.5M is too much, and while I’m a major fan, the Leafs might not need a defence first bottom-six centre with David Kampf on the roster.
Steven Lorentz. From Kitchener Ontario, Lorentz is one of my favourite names on this list. He is going to cost league minimum, so there is no risk at all in trying to sign him. Lorentz didn’t have the most productive year with Florida, but still played in 16 playoff games on their run to the cup. He scored 10 goals the season before with San Jose, and at 6-foot-4 he brings great size. My favourite tidbit about Lorentz is his championship pedigree. Not only has he won the Stanley Cup, but he won the Calder Cup as well with the Charlotte Checkers. Bring him home!
Kevin Stenlund. A right-handed centreman with size. The Leafs have coveted someone with that skillset for a long time. At 6-foot-5, Stenlund suited up in 22 playoff games with Florida, and scored 11 goals in 81 regular season games. If his contract can be kept around $1.25M for a couple of years, I think the Leafs should heavily consider it.
Ryan Lomberg. There seems to be a trend here… Lomberg is the third Panther on my list, and for good reason! Hailing from Richmond Hill, Lomberg’s next contract will more than likely be under $1M. He is as physical as they come, and his energy is perfect for a 4th line. He scored 12 goals a year ago, and I’m betting he can bounce back and produce around that next season.
Honourable mentions: Brandon Duhaime, Nick Cousins, Sammy Blais, Matthias Janmark, AJ Greer
Defencemen
Jani Hakanpaa. Signing Hakanpaa will depend on who else the Leafs are able to sign. Hakanpaa is a staple defensive defenceman who kills penalties, blocks shots, and plays with an edge. As a bonus, he’s 6-foot-7 and right-handed His contract projects at ~$1.5M. If the Leafs aren’t able to land other strong defensive players on the right size (Tanev, Pesce, etc), he could be a good fit.
Josh Brown. Brown has a similar style of play to Hakanpaa. He too is right handed, and he stands at 6-foot-5. His contract will likely come in under $1M, and he would give the Leafs a right handed stay-at-home guy. Did I mention he’s from London, Ontario? Bring him home!
Vincent Desharnais. Another trend, this time on the back end. Desharnais is 6-foot-7, and shoots right handed. He is no stranger to playoff hockey having suited up in 28 games with the Oilers over their last two Cup runs. Desharnais plays a nasty game, and certainly makes it difficult for opponents. His contract projects to be a little over $1M, and he too would probably slot in on a 3rd D-pairing.
Oliver Kylington. Kylington made his return to the NHL in triumphant fashion. This is someone that Brad Treliving knows extremely well, as Kylington has spent his whole career with Calgary. Given that he missed some significant time, his contract is tough to predict. I assume it will be around $1M, which to me is a steal.
Honourable mentions: Caleb Jones, Ryan Shea
Let’s see who Treliving ends up with. Enjoy the holiday long weekend!

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