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Pair of Leafs on their way out?

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

For a team who is heading into a bit of a crap crunch this coming season, some interesting news has broken over the past week. With just under $9 million in cap space, the Toronto Maple Leafs have some key young RFA’s to lock up while also trying to bolster their defence (yes this is a recording), especially with defenceman Travis Dermott being sidelined for several months after completing shoulder surgery this offseason. Obviously, Mitch Marner is the name being most talked about, whether it is because of his vocal agent or certain media outlets saying that the Leafs will be victims of the scary ghost that is an offer sheet. There is also the claim that certain media personnel believing that if the Leafs wish to keep Marner, the offer must be above $10 million, maybe even north of $11. This may all be speculation and hot takes to get people talking, but the fact of the matter is Marner, if he chooses to re-sign with Toronto, will most likely receive a deal in the range of $8.5-10 million for x amount of years (I believe $9.5 for 7 is the magic number). By signing Marner to a deal somewhere in that range, the Leafs will be either at the cap hit or over while still having Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and holes in the back end to fill with little-to-no money.

That leaves the Leafs (yes, pun intended and no I am not proud of it) with a bit of an issue, and this is where the rumour talks come into play.

There are two players on the roster that are deemed as “cap anchors,” and it has been reported that both of these players want or are willing to be dealt under the right circumstances.These two players are defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and beloved forward Patrick Marleau.

Coming as a bit of a surprise to many, rumours began to swirl on Thursday that Nikita Zaitsev had requested for a trade out of Toronto. The right-hand shot defenceman had a decent rookie season for his first year in North America, and signed a rather meaty contract at $4.5 million for 7 years, with a modified no trade clause kicking in for the 2019-2020 season (year 3 of 7). Zaitsev never really met expectations after that rookie year and has requested a trade out of Toronto for “personal reasons”; likely for a fresh start elsewhere. Being a mobile right-hand shot, he has the tools to be a serviceable defenceman but his time in Toronto seems to be coming to an end. He can be a valuable piece elsewhere, especially with his penalty killing abilities and doing quite well on the powerplay in his first year with the Leafs, expect him to be moved without any retained salary.

Now for the more complicated scenario that is Patrick Marleau. Only a day following the Zaitsev news, multiple reports began to surface that Patrick Marleau would be willing to waive his no trade clause if it meant playing out the final year of his contract somewhere close to home (aka San Jose). The LA Kings were the first team who seemed to engage in talks with the Leafs on a potential trade, but recently those talks began to fizzle. Conversation has then shifted to the Arizona Coyotes and possibly the Anaheim Ducks. Though nothing is imminent, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially considering how the younger players, Matthews and Marner, have become very close with the soon to be 40-year-old, who acted as a father figure throughout his tenure with the Leafs. With just one more year left on his 3-year $6.25 million contract, a trade as complicated as this one will require Kyle Dubas to get creative in offloading most of that money. It seems as if Marleau’s family wants to return home and he is willing to do so if a trade to the right team can get done.

Needless to say, if the Leafs are able to successfully move both players, they will be looking quite alright with just under $20 million to play with. That is also not including trades that may involve other rumoured players such as centre Nazem Kadri and winger Connor Brown. But that is a story for another day.

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