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Alberga’s Take: The Leafs need to find their own Evan Rodrigues & Niko Mikkola this summer

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Photo credit:Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
29 days ago
The Florida Panthers may be two wins away from notching their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, but weirdly enough, they’ve done so without getting much production from their big boys.
Through two contests, the Panthers, who currently lead their best-of-7 series with the Oilers two games to none, have scored seven goals. Furthermore, only one of those tallies has come from someone who hit the 15-goal plateau in the regular season. In essence, it’s been Florida’s depth pieces that have been torching the Oilers early on. Evan Rodrigues, who’s bounced up and down Paul Maurice’s lineup all year long, has led the charge with three goals.
Speaking of which, Rodrigues, who spent a few short days as a Maple Leaf in the summer of 2020, signed an under-the-radar four-year value deal on the second day of free agency last July. Additionally, Niko Mikkola, who’s also been a beast in recent outings, inked a three-year pact the day before Rodrigues. The Panthers struck gold multiple times. And honestly, that’s probably why Bill Zito was up for the GM of the Year Award yet again in 2023-24. The guy knows what he’s doing.
The task is easier said than done, but the Leafs need to find a way to find more bargain buys —just like Simon Benoit. Ultimately, especially when the salary cap is not your friend, these are the type of players that can end up putting you over the top in the long run. Just ask the Florida Panthers.
Year after year, it’s been the same old story for the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They can’t score. Unfortunately, because they’ve elected to pay four players nearly half the allotted salary cap over the past five years, they’ve had minimal funds available to address major league depth issues across the roster.
The time is now.
Mercifully, according to Puck Pedia, the Leafs currently have roughly $19.7 million to play with as free agency approaches. With that in mind, even though they will finally have a bit of financial flexibility, it’s important to hit on a few value buys.
Over to you, Brad Treliving.

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