The start of free agency week hasn’t exactly gotten off to a slow start. There seem to be plenty of rumours either around the Leafs, Leafs adjacent, or potentially impactful to the Leafs. So here’s a brief recap of what is out there to get you caught up.
This is obviously the big one to watch for Leafs fans, and it seems that the deal is essentially good to go and the Leafs doctors and front office are just deciding how good they feel about Matt Murray’s health. It never seems like an encouraging step, but better they do this and make their decision on complete data.
It’s very likely the Leafs will get around 50% salary retention for Murray. It also seems highly likely that the deal is going to be tilted largely in a Leafs direction for taking on this risk.
Here’s some more on Matt Murray from yesterday:
Kyle Dubas has previously stated his intention to qualify Pierre Engvall, but was on the fence about Kase. It appears his mind has been made up and Kase will hit unrestricted free agency. Kase is very much a player the Leafs will double back on when he isn’t arbitration eligible, but the idea of locking into an arbitration ruling on an injury riddled player like Kase would be difficult.
Still no word on the remaining Leafs RFAs.
From the 32 Thoughts Podcast: Campbell likely to Edmonton, Kuemper likely to Washington
At this stage in free agency we should probably assume statements like that are very much at the deal in principle stage and the players are highly likely to wind up in the locations listed. That means that Jack Campbell will join the ever-growing collection of former Leafs in Edmonton with Hyman, Barrie, and Ceci.
Moving on from Campbell isn’t something we should be too heartbroken about. His numbers took a dive as his workload increased and his high danger save percentage was terrible. Campbell is looking to be paid as a starter but it is questionable he’ll consistently be able to handle a starter’s workload.
As for Kuemper. If Kuemper is essentially off the market the Leafs focus on Matt Murray might make a lot more sense. It’s also likely that while the Leafs shouldn’t be dealing assets to bring in Murray, it’s possible the return isn’t going to be as valuable as the 7th overall + Murray for 16th overall deal that the Sabres and Sens were rumoured to have.
The Blackhawks doing Blackhawk things should be impactful around the league. The amount of cap space they are clearing is setting them up to likely absorb a ton of Mrazek style bad contracts in the coming days and gear themselves up for a tanking season as well as holding a number of futures heading into another strong draft. Unfortunately for the Leafs, the contracts they have that they could want to unload are attached to players with no trade clauses, and you can bet that Chicago is now on the list of most players.
The Hawks being a depot for contracts could mean that Atlantic division teams like Florida tap into them in the coming days and that will be impactful for the Leafs.
Additionally, Brett Connolly isn’t a bad league minimum target, assuming that he’ll keep playing.
More on the Hawks decision to move on from Dylan Strome here:
We’re starting to get more and more names of RFAs who didn’t receive qualifying offers. So far the Blackhawks seem to be the most interesting of the lot with Strome and Kubalik likely to not receive offers, but usable tweener depth like Gabriel Carlsson (Columbus), Victor Mete and Adam Gaudette (Sens), Evgeny Svechnikov (Jets), and Brandon Perlini (Oilers) are all now available.
Aube-Kubel is a definite option for the Leafs as well.
Finally, former Leaf Connor Brown is being made available and since he is being shopped separately one can only assume he is not part of the Matt Murray trade as so many Leafs fans seem to want. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Leafs shouldn’t be exploring the idea of bringing him back, but I’d say that ship has sailed.