A potential Flames firesale, Jake McCabe’s agent change, and defence by committee: Leaflets

Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
29 days ago
Bless the NHL GMs who have had enough of waiting for the Stanley Cup Finals to wrap up to conduct their business. The sooner the NHL realizes that their product isn’t limited to what is on the ice and that there is a passion for seeing how the sausage is made. Going back to the McDonagh deal earlier the playoffs have seen five household name players change teams and it’s good for engagement across North America when you consider the limited reach of the Florida Panthers and the fact that the Edmonton Oilers might not resonate well with an American audience even if they do have Connor McDavid. Selfishly from a Leafs perspective, there is also hope that Brad Treliving might join the fray at some point.

The Calgary firesale

The Flames parting ways with their number goaltender after selling off a number of their pending unrestricted free agents last season raises the question of what direction the team is going. On one hand there are good players still under contract on the Flames and moving on from Markstrom to allow for their goaltender of the future, Dustin Wolf, to start getting his reps in does mean the team is throwing in the towel. Nor does the acquisition of young players and draft picks exclusively point to the Flames rebuilding.
With $24M of cap space to work with, a still capable group of players, and playing in the anything can happen Pacific Division doesn’t signify the end of this Flames group.
On the other hand, what if it does? Vegas and Edmonton have established themselves as top teams in the division with the Canucks right there with them when Thatcher Demko is healthy. The Kings look to be a step ahead of Calgary and the rest of the division seems to be ahead of them in the prospect/picks/cap space arms race for the future. Free agency would at best give the Flames a couple more years of battling for wild card spots. Maybe they do blow it up.
If the Flames are going big with turnover the Flames have some useful players to make calls on. Rasmus Andersson is at the top of the list as he is the physical right side top four defenceman at a great price that every team should want and is a player worth paying a ransom for.
Mackenzie Weegar is another strong option on defence and one the Flames would probably be more open to moving and while his contract might look like a steep price today, I’ll bet it will look like a bargain after July 1st. The same might be true of Nazem Kadri, who could be a strong 2C option. Kadri has what looks like a questionable contract but has numbers that will be very much in line with what gets paid in free agency.
The Flames will be an interesting team to watch and given that Brad Treliving is very familiar with this group and signed most of these contracts, there is likely an interest from the Leafs if these teams can do business together.

New agent, new contract

In some lightish version of Leafs news this week, Jake McCabe has switched his agent:
Maybe not the most exciting piece of Leafs news but if you are changing agents you probably plan on using that new agent pretty soon and this could signify that McCabe is ready to start negotiating an extension with the Leafs (or the far less likely scenario that McCabe is looking to force a trade out of Toronto.)
We’ll operate under the premise of the first idea and assume that McCabe is looking to spend more time in Toronto after his contract expires at the end of the 2024-25 season. While he carries a $2M AAV cap hit with the Leafs, his take home is higher thanks to the salary retention from the Blackhawks and could very well still require around a $4M AAV going forth given that he is an established top four defender.
McCabe returning the Leafs would likely be met with a ton of enthusiasm but there should also be some “buyer beware” mentality as hard hockey has a way of catching up to you the further you progress into your 30s. Still, McCabe has worked out well in Toronto and the team has navigated tougher situations before, so expect McCabe to be one of the more straightforward extension negotiations for Brad Treliving.

Good defence by committee

Speaking of Jake McCabe, he could be the template for what works best in Toronto on defence. At the trade deadline Brad Treliving under shot the Leafs defensive needs by bringing depth role players like Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin. Now heading into free agency there might be a worry of over correction and the Leafs might chase after the expensive potential top pairing options. Admittedly not the worst kind of over correction, but it is worth exploring players who are similar to McCabe and could help Toronto at a far more reasonable price allowing them to address other needs too.
While not exactly true bargains, players like Alexandre Carrier, Brenden Dillon, and Matt Grzelcyk represent an opportunity to establish some blueline depth while being capable in all situations, and giving Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe more support than they had last year.
Even potential bargains like Oliver Kylington, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alec Martinez, and Colin Miller represent worthwhile gambles on upside exceeding their cap hit.
That’s not to say that it would be disappointing that the Leafs bring in players like Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Brandon Montour, Dylan DeMelo, or Matt Roy. At this point seeing Toronto invest in the blueline would certainly be welcomed. There might just be more ground that can be made up by not swinging for the fences.

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