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Wednesday FTB: Three paths the Leafs can take to get cap compliant with Rasmus Sandin

Give me your best guess, what’s the move?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Washington Capitals
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Rasmus Sandin #38 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates after scoring a third period goal with John Tavares #91, Justin Holl #3, and Auston Matthews #34 against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on February 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

We all know the Toronto Maple Leafs are right up to the salary cap ceiling with a 20-player roster with Rasmus Sandin left to sign. At the current moment, there is no money to sign him. If the Leafs are planning to sign Sandin (who’s contract negotiation is a whole different kettle of fish), they’ll need to make some space. I have three theories for how they can do that, so let’s have a look at them. But first thing’s first:

Sandin’s Comparables

Is signing Sandin to under a million possible? Under an authoritarian regime, yes, but his comparables say very clearly that he deserves more. On the Leafs alone, Timothy Liljegren at 2 x $1.4 million and Travis Dermott at 2 x $1.5 million are realistically the floor of where Sandin should sign at because he’s already played higher in the lineup and played more games than the two at the time.

Outside the team, his current recent comparables on multi-year deals are Oliver Kylington at 2 x $2.5 million, Adam Boqvist at 3 x $2.6 million, Henri Jokiharju at 3 x $2.5 million. There is also Vince Dunn at 1 x $1.875 million, Ethan Bear at 1 x $2.2 million, Caleb Jones at 1 x $1.3 million.

With all of that information, I’m expecting between $1.5-2 million on a one-year deal, or $2-3 million on a two-year deal. For the rest of this exercise, let’s play on the cheap end of this and give Sandin a cap hit of $1.5 million for next year.

Trade Alex Kerfoot

This is by-far the easiest and “safest” route the Leafs can take when it comes to resolving their cap and keeping Sandin. His $3.5 million cap hit would give a lot of flexibility by allowing them to fit 22 skaters (Sandin and possibly Zach Aston-Reese). And if the Leafs play their daily cap hits right during the season, they’ll have lots of space to add at the Trade Deadline.

The downsides are quite high, however, as the team would lose a very good middle six forward and they wouldn’t get much in return as other teams know the Leafs need to make a trade. This is one of the reasons why Oliver Bjorkstrand was traded to Seattle for so little, and many other players late in the summer.

The only way this is possible, in my opinion, is if Nick Robertson breaks out of camp and is a solid 2LW right out of the gate. It’s possible, but the question comes down to whether it’s probable and whether Robertson can reliably play the role all season. Another possibility is Calle Järnkrok takes the job in what will hopefully be a bounceback season.

This plan is very doable, which is why I brought it up first, but it does make the forward group shallower, especially when it comes to having scoring options.

Trade Justin Holl or Rasmus Sandin

In a simple one-in, one-out scenario, the Leafs could trade away Justin Holl and replace him with Rasmus Sandin (or the less popular scenario of trading Sandin outright). The positives are simplicity and joy for Leafs fans who have wanted to trade Holl after every goal against for the past two seasons.

The downsides here are unfortunately also simple. They would lose their 4/5 defender who has been good for the team since his breakout season, as well as push Timothy Liljegren into the top-four without any safety net (the next right-shot defender in the Leafs organization is Mac Hollowell).

Putting Liljegren that high in the lineup right away is a high-risk move for a contending team, especially when the benefit is fitting Sandin on his off side on the third pair. We discussed Liljegren’s position in the lineup in our Top 25 Under 25 article for him last week if you want to delve deeper into this situation.

Someone’s Injured (waivers scheme)

This third scenario is probably the most clever and would explain the lack of movement on behalf of the Leafs. There is a chance someone on the Leafs cap sheet is injured, and will be to start the season. We are speculating right now whether Mikhail Abramov has an injury due to his omission from the Traverse City Prospect Tournament roster, so that got us to thinking maybe there’s someone else on the shelf too.

All the Leafs need to do is get cap compliant for opening night after the big waivers day where many players get claimed and then things will be easier to figure out once the season gets going. So if one of the following players is injured to start the season, then the Leafs will be able to sign Sandin:

David Kämpf ($1.5 million), Ilya Samsonov ($1.8 million), Justin Holl ($2 million), Calle Järnkrok ($2.1 million), Pierre Engvall ($2.25 million), Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million), Matt Murray ($4.7 million), TJ Brodie ($5 million), Jake Muzzin ($5.6 million).

It wouldn’t take much to fit the roster together. The Leafs can technically run a roster with Sandin on a $1.5 million deal with any of these players out, it doesn’t take Muzzin at the realistic top of the list to do it, and it also doesn’t require him to be out all season. All it takes is a couple weeks to build back some trade value and see what happens. Most seasons for the Leafs have seen at least one person on IR for most, if not all of the year. We could even give it a name: Plan Pass the Potato (PPP).

Poll

What’s the plan?

  • 22%
    Trade Kerfoot
    (179 votes)
  • 28%
    Trade Holl
    (224 votes)
  • 8%
    Trade Sandin
    (71 votes)
  • 40%
    LTIR hot potato (comment your guess)
    (316 votes)
790 votes total Vote Now

Various Leafs and Branches

According to his Twitter account, Duante’ Abercrombie has been hired by the Maple Leafs as a Coaching Development Associate, a job title shared with TJ Millar as part of the Coaching Development program. His name first came up in the Leafs press release of their Traverse City Prospect Tournament roster (see above). You can see Abercrombie work with the Arizona Coyotes during their development camp last year, I found it both informative and hopeful for his future as a coach. You can also read the interview he did with William Douglas of the Color of Hockey for NHL dot com.

Elite Prospects ranked two Leafs prospects in their top-50 league-wide list, putting Matthew Knies 37th and Topi Niemelä 48th.

Rick Westhead got a response back from a player’s agent regarding the 2018 sexual assault case and the agent gave some details on what the player saw.

“My guy has already spoken with police [in 2018] and he was completely honest with them, and he will be honest when police speak with him again,” the agent said. “My understanding is that police will be travelling to do interviews with players in person over the next few weeks.”

Calgary is the hub for the Canadian Women’s hockey team so they got very lucky a better Johnny Hockey showed up to work with player development and grassroots programs.

And finally, FEDOR GORDEEV...in Boston?