Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded, the 30 NHL teams who aren’t celebrating can pull out all the stops on their offseason work. There are 19 days left, including July 1, and that’s the period Kyle Dubas and all the other GMs have to makeover their teams. Sure, a few things, even important things, happen after the very first day of free agency, and there’s no guarantee Mitch Marner’s contract is sorted out by then, but most of the meaningful work has to get packed into the next, not-quite three weeks.
This is still the most important job for Dubas, and the ideal solution is for a contract to be signed in the next week. The next best thing is for a deal to be done before July 1. If that doesn’t happen, then Dubas has to mentally allocate some cap space to Marner and carry on. He has no choice; there’s too much to be done.
There will be a lot of rumours and speculation as well as questions about the meaning of Raptors fan Marner showing up with the rest of the Leafs at the game in Toronto, but until Bob McKenzie tells us the deal a minute before it’s announced, my policy is to believe nothing.
About those Raptors, though. In deference to their historic playoff season, don’t expect the Leafs to do anything major to take attention away from them until they have settled things with the Warriors.
The Leafs have some front office and coaching decisions to make. Dr. Jeremy Bettle, the Leafs Director of Sports Science, left to take a job in Anaheim. Bettle, who came from the NBA, may point the way for his own replacement, since conventional wisdom is that the NBA is well ahead of the NHL in its use of sports science to manage player health and fitness.
Jim Hiller is no longer listed on the Maple Leafs coaching roster, and that leaves the team short one assistant coach. The expectation is they are looking for a defensive specialist, and that hiring should happen soon.
Last summer Dubas made a series of changes to the scouting and management staff of the team, and while he might add or subtract some people once July 1 rolls around, it’s unlikely to be the sorts of major overhauls that followed Dubas’s own promotion.
Offseason really begins on June 15. The first buyout window opens, and the deadline for club-elected salary arbitration for RFAs is that afternoon.
The Leafs are not buying out anyone, but they may be interested in who other teams choose to buy out. Tyler Ennis was an excellent UFA signing off of a buyout. So far, the credible rumours surround players like Corey Perry and Dion Phaneuf, but there might be another Ennis in the bunch. Teams have until June 30 to buy out players in this first window. Players have to clear waivers (or decline to be waived if they have a no-move clause in their contract), so watch for the waiver wire announcements beginning on Friday.
It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that the Leafs could elect salary arbitration with one of their RFAs. They have four with arbitration rights: Andreas Johnsson, Eamon McAdam, Jordan Subban and Nicholas Baptiste. McAdam seems unlikely to be re-signed to an NHL deal by the Leafs given their glut of young goalies; Subban is rumoured to be looking for work in Europe, and Baptiste, while a good AHLer, is unlikely to agitate too hard on a contract renewal. That leaves Johnsson, who might want to go to arbitration, and might want the team to elect it (this gives him the right to choose one or two years as the contract length) but there’s nothing in it for the Leafs to make that election, save one thing.
If Dubas is genuinely concerned about the possibility of Johnsson signing an offer sheet, he can limit Johnsson’s ability to do that by electing arbitration. If the club elects arbitration, then the player has the very short window of July 1 - 5 to negotiate and sign an offer sheet. After that, they are prevented from negotiating with any other team.
The NHL awards will drag everyone to Vegas for one night of D-list entertainment and predictable winners before the bleary-eyed trip to the draft the next day. The only thing worth watching the awards for is to see if Connor McDavid winning yet again goads the new GM of the Oilers into action. This affects the Leafs since that Connor Brown trade still seems like a possibility.
June 21 - 22
The NHL Draft takes place over two days, and while the Leafs currently have seven picks all to be used on the Saturday, the draft is where all the trades will happen. If anything major on the trade front is coming, or even the rumoured contract-dump trades for Patrick Marleau or Nikita Zaitsev, it will happen on or before June 22.
The interview period opens for UFAs, but the pretense is maintained that no one discusses actual salary until July 1, which is when the SPC can be signed.
Qualifying offers are due for RFAs by this date. If a team does not issue a QO, the player becomes a UFA on July 1. The Leafs may choose not to qualify some of their RFAs who are in the AHL, and they usually inform the players well in advance so they can look for UFA opportunities.
RFAs are allowed to negotiate with all teams, but cannot sign an offer sheet until July 1.
The flood of offer sheets we have been led to expect can be signed beginning on Free Agent Day. All the UFAs can sign deals as well. This season’s UFA list has some huge names: Sergei Bobrovsky, Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Joe Pavelski, Artemi Panarin, Jordan Eberle, and then the pool dries up fast.
Jake Gardiner is on that list, and on the Tuesday, June 11 edition of Insider Trading on TSN, they reported that he has had an MRI, is 100%, and does not need surgery. The Leafs have not ruled out re-signing Gardiner. Of course, the Leafs haven’t actually done anything yet, so all things are still possible.
Dubas may well be in the precarious position of not knowing the cap hit on the Marner deal, but having to make decisions on signing players to shore up the holes on the team. The Leafs have a lot of SPC space, so there is no worries on that score about signing AHLers to NHL contracts to flesh out the Marlies. That sort of signing happens during the summer and into training camp.
Players who want to elect salary arbitration have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to file. Teams have a second window to elect arbitration that opens at that same time and lasts for one day. Arbitration cases will be heard sometime later in the summer, and are usually all wrapped up by mid-August.
By the time mid-July rolls around, we’ll be deep in planning the Top 25 Under 25 and the NHL roster should be set.
So, what do you think? Will the Leafs have a brand new defence corps on July 1, or will it look deeply familiar?
Will the Leafs add a new top four defenceman?
This poll is closed
Does Ron Hainsey count as new?
Roman Polak re-signed in Dallas, so there’s no one out there to add.
Yes, at long last, the Leafs will get their man at 1RD.