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Offseason game plan for the Maple Leafs

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It’s here too soon, but there is work the Leafs have to do this spring.

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The work begins in earnest for the Maple Leafs front office now that they’ve had time to get over their first-round exit. In this offseason; there isn’t really a lot of time to sit around and dwell on the past. While the first round pick has already been used to select Jake Muzzin, the bigger issue is signing some contracts, and Kyle Dubas said he wants the Mitch Marner deal done first.

Before we get into all of the front office work coming up, there still is hockey to be played, however and not all Leafs players are finished for the season.

World Championships

The IIHF World Championships are in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia this year, and play begins May 10. Martin Marincin has been asked to play for the home team, Nikita Zaitsev has been added to the Russian team, John Tavares has agreed to play for Canada, and Swedish media reports that William Nylander will play for Sweden. Do not expect to see players without contracts like Mitch Marner there. Auston Matthews has said he’s interested, but no official word from USA Hockey has confirmed his choice. Danish Ice Hockey officially reports that Frederik Andersen declined their invitation this time.

Expect to see the Leafs scouting this tournament heavily, as sought after free agent Ilya Mikheyev is on the Russian team. Sergei Andronov, who the Leafs have been linked to for months, is also still on the team, pending new additions.

Memorial Cup

The Memorial Cup is in Halifax this year, and begins May 17. Ian Scott would like to get the Prince Albert Raiders there, and they begin the WHL Championships games on May 3. Meanwhile, in the OHL, Fedor Gordeev and the Guelph storm are playing in their championship to try to get to Halifax as well.

Combine

The NHL Scouting Combine begins the day after the Memorial Cup ends on May 27. The Leafs will be in Buffalo interviewing prospects. With approximately 100 players present every year, second- and third-round picks are there to be discovered. As Dubas said in his post-season presser, the Leafs have to meet the challenge of drafting very well in later rounds now that they are hoping to never have a good first-round pick for years to come.

Contracts

The current season runs until the end of June, and contracts are valid until then. But now that the playing season in the NHL is over, players signed will be on contracts that count as of July 1, 2019. The limit is 50 SPCs.

According to Cap Friendly, the Leafs currently have 34 players under contract for next season. That is NHL contracts only, as players signed to AHL contracts are not part of the NHL roster. That number does not include the long list of free agents whose deals will expire on June 30. It does include some junior players who might not count against the 50-player limit if they are loaned back to junior hockey next season. The crisis of too many SPCs is definitely over, and the Leafs have a lot of wiggle room.

Free Agents

The Leafs have a few players who finished the season on the NHL playing roster who are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) on July 1:

  • Tyler Ennis
  • Jake Gardiner
  • Ron Hainsey
  • Martin Marincin
  • Michael Hutchinson

They have a group of players who played on the Marlies who are on expiring NHL contracts:

  • Chris Mueller
  • Josh Jooris
  • Vincent LoVerde
  • Steve Oleksy

All of these players can be re-signed at any time, or allowed to walk away as UFAs on July 1. Josh Jooris has been rumoured to have a deal in Switzerland for next year. Everyone else is a question mark.

The Leafs have a lot of Restricted Free Agents this summer. The NHL players who are RFAs are:

  • Mitch Marner
  • Kasperi Kapanen
  • Andreas Johnsson
  • Igor Ozhiganov

On the Marlies roster, under NHL contract, and expiring as an RFA are:

  • Nick Baptiste
  • Gabriel Gagne
  • Michael Carcone
  • Jordan Subban
  • Eamon McAdam

The Leafs have until June 25 to issue qualifying offers to their RFAs, so there is no great hurry, and for some of those players, the QO will just be done without hesitation as a way to kick the negotiation down the road. Some of the AHL players may not receive offers, but those decisions will wait until after the AHL season is over.

Of those RFAs, the following have arbitration rights:

  • Andreas Johnsson
  • Igor Ozhiganov
  • Nick Baptiste
  • Jordan Subban
  • Eamon McAdam

The deadline to file for arbitration is July 5-6.

The big contract is obviously Marner’s, but the Kapanen and Johnsson deals are also very important, and if Johnsson goes to arbitration, his deal will have to be a one or two year contract (depending on who files for arbitration). Ozhiganov is rumoured by reliable sources to be returning to the KHL.

Free Agent Signings

KHL contracts expire on April 30, technically midnight Moscow time. The scouting of European free agents will continue through Worlds, and we are almost certainly going to see the Leafs sign some players.

Free agents of this sort will likely be a top priority ahead of most other things for the next few weeks. You can’t hold those back waiting to wrap up the Marner deal.

Trades

It’s not unheard of for teams out of the playoffs to make trades before the Stanley Cup is awarded, but there is a sense that the league doesn’t like it, and teams usually wait. There was one trade during the playoffs last year, and it was (of course) an Arizona trade.

Most trades from the award of the cup to the draft involve draft picks in some way.

Entry Draft

The Draft is June 21, and 22 this year, and for Leafs fans, we likely won’t need to tune in before the second day. With no first round pick, the Leafs could chose to make a trade between now and then to acquire one, but that doesn’t seem like a high priority at the moment.

The Leafs currently have seven picks in the later rounds. Their draft pick position is 23rd, but won’t be finalized until deeper into the playoffs. Considering where the Leafs will be picking, the exact number is entirely irrelevant to overall pick value. Right now the picks are: #54, #85, #113, #116, #147, #204 and #209.

Reserve List

The Leafs have some unsigned draft picks to make decisions about. The team’s rights will expire for some of them:

  • Fedor Gordeev, rights expire on June 1
  • Dakota Joshua, rights expire on August 15
  • Ryan McGregor, rights expire on June 1

With a flurry of prospect signings at the end of the regular season, the Leafs seem to have made their choices there for now. They might choose to sign some non-expiring players as the summer wears on. The information that Yegor Korshkov wants to come to Toronto in some capacity is solid. He might want to do that on an ELC at training camp.

Prospect Development

The Maple Leafs are participating in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament this year.

This is the autumn event that takes place in September, just before training camp starts. There will also be a prospects event post-draft that lets teams get a look at just-drafted players and the prospects from previous years before they head off for summer workouts.

Buyout Window

The first buyout window opens in mid-June, dependant on the date of the Stanley Cup Final. The Leafs are extremely unlikely to buy out any players.

Cap Friendly’s front page today.

If you’re one of the people pumping up those stats looking at buying out Patrick Marleau, you need to go back and read this again:

The Leafs might be interested in players other teams buy out. Finding another Tyler Ennis would be fun for next season.

Free Agent Day

July 1 marks the beginning of free agency, as always. That seems like a long time from now, but in order for Dubas to know what or if he’s looking to sign players, he needs the Marner contract, and likely the Kapanen deal done. The clock is ticking on Marner, and they have two months to get it done.

The depths of summer get filled around here by the Top 25 Under 25, and we look forward to the weeks of prospect madness. Until then, we just have to watch Dubas and wait for his moves. So far: