Erik Karlsson sticker price shock, the future of the Leafs goal, and more: Weekend Leaflets
Photo credit:David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer18 days ago
It’s a new year and a new me. Part of that means changing up when I post Leaflets. Rather than having them starting your work week, they will now kick off you weekend. Instead of me ruining you Monday with my horrible takes, you’ll start your weekend with coffee spit take. You’re welcome.
The Erik Karlsson trade ask is ridiculous
I’m sure if hop in the way back machine we’ll remember a time when there was some entertaining of the idea of Erik Karlsson being someone the Leafs should acquire. Remember that point when missing Muzzin seemed like a big deal and the blueline was so overwhelmed by injuries that Victor Mete was playing with Mac Hollowell?
Anyway, at that time there seemed to be some interest in Karlsson if the ask was low enough and the Sharks would eat half his salary. Karlsson was playing pretty good at that time too, but was being actively shopped.
Now, I don’t doubt he’s still being actively shopped (why do the Sharks need him?), he’s still playing some of his best hockey, but the asking price on his is far steeper than anyone expected.
This week, the San Jose Sharks reportedly asked for three first-round picks in exchange for Karlsson, with the Sharks willing to retain 18 percent of his contract. That would knock Karlsson down to a roughly $9.4 million salary cap hit.
That should be an easy hard no for pretty much everyone, and while Frank Seravalli mentions the idea of the Leafs kicking tires on Karlsson next summer (I’m assuming this involves Toronto contemplating a change in direction) that price seems high no matter the situation and no matter how good Karlsson is.
The interesting thing, also raised by Seravalli, is that it is unprecedented to see one of the players with a cap hit north of $10M traded in the NHL and even if Kane or Toews are moved, Karlsson would be the first with term. The return on him would be precedent setting. With the Leafs being a team with three players who make north of $10M, what happens with Karlsson is worth noting, likely not for the current contracts, but what happens on their next ones.
Maybe Leafs fans should hope that someone ponies up for Karlsson, but just hope it isn’t Dubas that does so.
Speaking of precedents… David Pastrnak’s next contract
After all the years of debating Mitch Marner’s contract, it’s nice that there will soon be a new winger who is either getting one of the top contracts in the league or potentially the largest contract in the league.
The notoriously tight fisted Jeremy Jacobs might prevent that payment from happening, but Pastrnak is an interesting situation where Bergeron and Krejci will be retiring soon, Marchand isn’t a spring chicken either, and the case for taking a discount to stick around Boston and extend their competitive window isn’t a strong one. The Bruins will likely either have to pay up or Pastrnak gets the opportunity to test the open market which will likely include a team that has just added Connor Bedard and is sitting on more cap space than they could possibly know what to do with.
After the team friendly deal, it would be nice to see Pastrnak take the Bruins to the cleaners on this contract. Or walk. Frankly I’m good either way.
The interesting thing about the Pastrnak deal is how much it will affect the Leafs. Not just on where Pastrnak plays, but with how the Leafs will need to compensate Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
The last contract cycle, Nylander had the benefit of going after Pastrnak, and despite Pastrnak being the better player going after meant being able to ask for more money before the flat cap world. Once again we are not in a flat cap world.
This go around the Mitch Marner contract is likely the baseline for Pastrnak and we can all debate who is the better of those two. I feel on a Leafs site the overwhelming support goes behind Mitch, but league wide this seems far more debatable. Either way, let’s put Nylander third and with much more a firm consensus third than we would have seen on the post ELC deals for all three of these players. There may no longer be a case for putting Nylander up with Marner and Pastrnak, and Lewis Gross really set his own tough precedent with the Johnny Gaudreau contract and that might be what keeps Willy out of the 8-figure range.
As for Pastrnak, he’s absolutely going to dictate what Marner costs just as Marner is dictating the starting price for Pastrnak now. And with Pastrnak playing beyond Panarin, it’s likely he’ll need to get more than Artemi’s contract too.
Where this comes back to the Leafs is that as much as there is plenty of love for Marner and Nylander in Toronto, do they potentially represent too high a cost on wing? Does the fact that Tavares contract expires at the same time as Marner’s give Toronto some leeway or does that instead represent an additional need to invest more money back into the center position? All of these questions really don’t matter now and as the focus is on April not the summer of 2024. Still, the Pastrnak situation will be interesting.
And speaking of long term thoughts… goaltending
The Leafs could come out of this season with two strong performing goaltenders capable of being 1A goaltenders on some team around the league. The Leafs will have Matt Murray under contract for one more season at a reasonable cap hit (thanks Ottawa) and Ilya Samsonov as arbitration eligible restricted free agent, who probably is due for a raise if things keep going well.
Given Toronto’s cap situation it seems more than likely a decision will need to be made. Will it be the cost controlled for one more year option with Matt Murray, or will Toronto see Samsonov as someone who can be a part of their team for the next few years and go with term. Right now, I lean towards cost control, despite liking Samsonov more. He could still very much change my mind.
No matter which option the Leafs decide on, they can potentially take advantage of a very limited goaltending supply in free agency. As it sits there are only 5 UFA goaltenders with 15 or more games played and save percentage above .900. One of them is 42 year old Craig Anderson. Options are limited and there are 17 teams that are presently sitting with save percentages below .900. Though, there are only 4 teams in the league that don’t have at least one of their goaltenders over .900. There are 12 teams without a goaltender without a .910 save percentage.
As fun as it is to think about running Samsonov and Murray back next season, the salary cap doesn’t really allow for it and the Leafs potentially will be sitting on an asset. I wouldn’t imagine Toronto would make up their mind in season on who their goal is going to be, but this will be something to watch for in the offseason.
As for replacements, Joseph Woll is making a case to get a look from the Leafs next year in a backup role, and if one thing was proven this season it’s that the Toronto goaltending staff have an eye for reclamation projects now.
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