In decision to keep Big Four, Maple Leafs general manager Dubas to juggle financial balls
A year ago – last fall, to be precise – Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was looking for a certain type of player to improve the team.
Squeak. Live. Physical.
Anything that went in this direction was welcome and wanted.
Now, as Dubas heads into the 2021 offseason much sooner than he expected following the Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens?
“We are just trying to add as many good players as possible to the roster,” Dubas said of the months ahead.
“We’re just trying to make the club as strong as possible, and knowing that we have to dance around the margins with the salary cap situation, that’s really I think where we’ll be judged.
“Can we take what we have and continue to develop it and show tangible progress next season? ”
This is the biggest question Dubas will have to answer in the coming months.
With Dubas and team president Brendan Shanahan confident that the $ 40 million quartet of Captain John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander will remain intact, staff will dig under the cushions of the MLSE couch for additional sub.
Poor Brandon Pridham. The Leafs’ assistant general manager and capologist barely had time to get up and enjoy some downtime (in theory) after the regular season ended.
The Leafs have pledged around US $ 67.8 million in wages for next season, leaving them little room under the cap, which is expected to remain at $ 81.5 million.
Dubas could get ahead of defenseman Morgan Rielly’s potential loss in free agency in 2022 and trade him this summer to free up $ 5 million. But that would leave a hole on the blue line, a hole that Rasmus Sandin could potentially fill in later.
If Alex Kerfoot is caught by Seattle in the expansion plan, there’s still $ 3.5 million on the books.
However, as it stands, the Leafs will not be able to afford Zach Hyman.
The group of the last six forwards will have to be reshaped. If you’re a deep defender looking for work this summer, Toronto could be a landing point. Ditto for NHL alternate goaltenders.
There is a pool of players who should be motivated no matter what: forwards Nick Robertson, Joey Anderson and Kirill Semyonov, maybe Rodion Amirov, a full-time job could be yours once camp is over.
MONEY NO ITEMS
While Jason Spezza might be looking for more money on the open market – and getting it – we could probably ask the bank to re-sign with the Leafs.
Spezza’s wish when he initially signed with the Leafs in the summer of 2019 was to win a Cup in Toronto and that hasn’t changed.
The minimum wage in the NHL will rise to US $ 750,000 (from $ 700,000), and that’s probably where Spezza will land.
“Any dollar over that could help bring someone else in, and he knows it,” a source said. “Money hasn’t been a priority since day one and it’s not now.”
Obviously Spezza would be valuable on the ice and not just be a veteran voice in the room.
In 54 games this season, he has collected 30 points. Of the 110 NHL players in 2020-21 who earned the league minimum and played at least one game, Spezza has dominated all points. Only three other players got more than 13 points.
In his last two full seasons with the Dallas Stars before signing with the Leafs, Spezza had 53 points in 154 games.
In 112 games with the Leafs, Spezza has 55 points.
Spezza turns 38 on June 13 and the respect for him in the Leafs hall is clear.
“He’s better now than he was four or five years ago,” said a seasoned Leafs observer. “His foot speed has improved.”
What is the source of Spezza’s passion at the end of his career?
“I’ve realized that my chances of winning are getting smaller and smaller, and that probably creates a high level of desperation internally for me to drive and be at my best every day,” said Spezza. “There is a lot of credit to (the Leafs coaching staff) for helping me prepare well, prepare and be in great shape and work throughout the season. It would be easy to leave a guy like me alone and focus on the younger ones, but there is a lot of focus to help me succeed.
It’s unfortunate that the Leafs are unlikely to find a way to get Nick Foligno in shape financially.
There is no doubt in the heart of the former Columbus Blue Jackets captain, not that there ever was.
We wondered out loud on Thursday if Foligno, who missed 2-4 games against Montreal with a lower body injury, is playing around 50%.
The response from a source during our conversation: “About that, but maybe not quite.”
Upon arriving in Toronto, Foligno was very impressed with the way the Leafs’ organization was run.
Foligno had an intense desire to make it work in Toronto. He would have been a hard-hitting player if he hadn’t been injured.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021