O’Reilly/Acciari reaction, the potential flattening of the cap and prospects worth keeping: Leaflets

Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
It’s time for another Saturday morning round of Leaflets, everyone’s favourite column where I largely talk out of my ass hoping that a nugget of wisdom slips out along the way. wouWhen I originally wrote this on a Friday afternoon, I thought, hey, this is a pretty standard around the NHL, I’ve waited for the 5pm new drop and nothing happened, I should be able to go and watch this Oilers and Rangers game in peace. That held up for two periods and then the Leafs decided they’d give us all some news that would change a lot of the context of what originally written. So her is the hastily adapted version of Leaflets.

O’Reilly and Acciari breakdown

Here’s the thing. There are going to be a lot smarter and a lot more sober people than I am tackling this in a meaningful way. I’m hoping the fact that I’m three sheets to the wind when I write this will add a certain level of honesty you won’t get in other articles, but the analysis will surely be lacking.
So let’s start with the fact that like Kyle Dubas, I don’t like the idea of the Leafs giving up a first for a rental. The fact that it’s two rentals here makes it an easier pill to swallow, as does the fact that the draft picks are spread out over three drafts, but not having a first in 2023 hurts those of us that still care about prospects. I can talk myself out of caring by reminding myself that Dubas would have traded down anyway, but it hurts.
Now, quickly getting over the first round pick and looking at the rest of the deal, and suddenly everything starts looking good.
Ryan O’Reilly addresses one of the needs that I kept on insisting was important and that was making the third line a viable line, not just beefing up the top six, but as well as having someone who could play center in the event that Matthews or Tavares were injured. Previously an injury to either one of them made it seem like it was time to shut down the Leafs until they were healthy again, O’Reilly definitely changes that.
O’Reilly brings a lot of good experience, especially of the playoff variety and that’s something I’ll learn to be excited about as well compared to a lot of the alternatives, Ryan was establishing himself as the best rental available even if he wasn’t on the Meier or Chychrun level of excitement.
Acciari is an underrated pickup as well. On his own, he looked like a potential worthwhile target allowing the Leafs to upgrade their 3rd or 4th line over Holmberg, or allowing Pontus to move to the wing. Holmberg remains the future, but Acciari brings a physical edge now and presumably playing with Anderson and Aston-Reese, he’s going to create one of the best checking lines the Leafs have put out since the Quinn era.
As for Mikhail Abramov, it’s nice to no longer have to pretend that I ever expected anything to come of him. He could certainly prove me wrong, but he’s a wild card to achieve anything and given the nature of his style of play, it doesn’t look offense will find him at the pro level the way the Leafs have hoped and moving his contract is no biggie.
Gaudette is a player that while I have been curious about seeing as a Leaf hasn’t grabbed a spot on the Leafs roster the way others have and he seems somewhat unnecessary with the arrival of Acciari.
In the short term, the Leafs have definitely upgraded. They look like a team that if not 4 lines deep are 3 lines deep with a very insufferable 4th line to deal with when they come on the ice. In the long term, it’s hard not to miss that draft pick and it’s too early to have a formed opinion about re-signing either O’Reilly or Acciari.
I’ll close on the optimism of the Leafs getting away with this on O’Reilly at 25% of his salary. There is still flexibility for the Leafs to make other moves. Losing the draft picks they did from their arsenal will make it hard to make a significant additional splash, but I wouldn’t rule the Leafs out from doing something, why else would you double retain?

RSN Bankruptcies, the salary cap, and the Leafs

With Bally Sports missing payments and being on the path to bankruptcy, there is a good chance that the NHL is either going to go unpaid or receive only a fraction of their payment when it comes to a number of US regional broadcast contracts. Unfortunately despite the Leafs most certainly not being based in the United States, the NHL’s revenue sharing and hockey related revenue numbers are largely linked to the success of the league at large. While I’m sure no one is going to lose much sleep over Rogers or Bell pocketing a smaller share than they’d like, the issue comes back to every Toronto fan’s favourite topic, the salary cap.
How much a flat cap is a scare tactic vs likely occurrence is still unknown, but presumably, this isn’t going to kick off the glorious era of a free spending NHL. As long as there is a hard cap there will never be a free spending NHL, just progressively worse contracts given out in free agency. The issue comes from the fact that Toronto will now likely have even less money than conservatively projected to deal with their roster vacancies. Thankfully everyone is in the same boat and there are plenty of teams in significantly worse situations. That could mean that Toronto has to draw a firmer line in the sand with players like Bunting, Kampf, and Engvall this summer and Ilya Samsonov’s contract will likely dictate a lot of what comes next for Toronto, but with a discount blueline and most of the forward help being required in the bottom six, the Leafs should be able to manage. (Of course, the O’Reilly and Acciari contracts also now factor into the complications, so it’s funny how things have changed.)
Where there is also some benefit to the Leafs is that if the cap isn’t inflating, the contracts with Matthews and Nylander have a better chance to come in at more reasonable numbers as well. If the Leafs can use the flat cap to limit Auston to his likely $13.4M deal and keep Nylander around the Patrik Laine cap hit, the Leafs will have benefited from the stall in the cap.

Prospects worth keeping

I initially wrote this section before the O’Reilly/Acciari trade, and I think this section holds up well so I’m keeping it in. Like I mentioned above losing a 1st, as well as a future 2nd isn’t great, but the Leafs are also better off not walking away from the close to NHL ready assets they already have in their system, so here’s the rest of the section as it was written pre-trade.
A lot has been made of the Leafs either trading Matthew Knies or holding onto him. It’s a pretty tough decision in these crazy win now times that a generation of Leafs fans have never been properly exposed to. I feel it has made some of us ultra crazy to spend anything to get the best chance now and some of us ultra scared to give up any player that could haunt the Leafs for a generation to come as the Lightning and Bruins make for a tough path to the Stanley Cup.
Me, I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle and accumulated a collection of Leafs prospects I want to see get their shot with Toronto, and yes, Matthew Knies is on that list, but I want to make cases for the other three.
Roni Hirvonen has not had the greatest season and he might be looking more like a player the Leafs could walk away from. That said, the high energy forward that can be a winger soon or a center with some work would be a great bottom six agitating presence somewhere down the road. Hirvonen excelled at the World Junior tournament and showed what he can do when given offensive skilled players to work with.
Ty Voit looks like the latest and greatest assist machine in the Leafs system and combine his athleticism and willingness to take or dish out a hit to make a play he’s another guy with a lot of appeal for the Leafs middle six forwards.
Fraser Minten is a center with size and I think the appeal there can’t be understated for the Leafs. The fact that he was pushing hard for an extended look at training camp is also something that has stuck with me. Like Ty Voit, Minten has benefited from being on a strong team in the CHL this season, but it’s equally important that their teams are strong because of them.
Honestly, if the Leafs can escape the trade deadline season with 3 out of 4 of Knies, Voit, Minten, and Hirvonen still being Leafs prospects, I’m content.

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