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FTB: Monday, Tuesday, Free Agent Day

Your schedule leading up to the big day.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last year in free agency some big deals were signed as extensions. Seth Jones signed for eight years at $9.5 million four days before Gabriel Landeskog signed for eight years at $7 million just a few hours before the deadline that allows for eight-year deals. The Avalanche were not sure about that deal, but I don’t think they’re sorry today.

The deal that matches Jones’ is another eight-year deal announced on Free Agent Day that was an extension to begin this coming season. Brayden Point signed for an identical AAV. One of those is a great deal, the other is a massive risk, and Chicago’s new management might be unhappy now.

The deal that looks like the biggest mistake in hindsight is likely Philipp Grubauer’s six years at $5.9 million. You’d think that would be a cautionary tale for those choosing between Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell this season, but it won’t be. They’re all that’s left — seemingly — and they’re not taking cheap deals.

Before we get to the fun of free agency (Wednesday at noon) there’s a few things that happen first.

Qualifying Offers

The Leafs have said they will issue a QO to Pierre Engvall, and they’ve been vague or silent on everyone else.

Unsigned RFAs

RFA Qualifying Offer
RFA Qualifying Offer
Pierre Engvall 1,250,000
Ondřej Kaše 1,250,000
Rasmus Sandin 874,125
Chad Krys 874,125
Kristiāns Rubīns 787,500
Joe Duszak 787,500
Ian Scott 874,125

The deadline is today at 5 PM. Unqualified RFAs become UFAs on Wednesday, which is largely interesting to the Leafs in the sense of other teams’ players who will be available. Some teams announce who they have and have not qualified very early, some never do, and reporters have to ferret it out. It’s not unusual to be left in the dark on some peripheral players well after 5 PM.

One notable player not to be qualified is Chicago’s Dylan Strome, who might like to play in Toronto. He needs to take less money than he might get elsewhere, but he’s hardly an unplayable forward.

Buyouts

The buyout window closes on Tuesday at 5 PM. Because players require unconditional waivers (unless they have a no-move clause) expect a few people on waivers today. You might have noticed, that while in-season, the waiver time seemed to have moved to 2 PM, it’s back to being at noon.

8-Year Deals

Players eligible to get eight-year extensions have until midnight on Tuesday to sign those deals. They cannot do it after that, unless it’s a deal like Point signed last year that takes effect one year hence. Extensions of all sorts that take effect in 2023-2024 can be signed starting on Wednesday.

To sign an eight-year contract, the player has to have been on the team he’s signing with at the previous trade deadline or be under contract already for the next trade deadline. That last part is new, and is meant to cover players acquired in trade after the deadline who are being extended before their deal runs out.

Offer Sheets

Teams may talk to RFAs beginning tomorrow. Offer Sheets cannot be signed by RFAs until Wednesday at noon.

Fake July 1

Wednesday is fake July 1 for the purposes of no-trade clauses, signing bonuses or no-trade lists being due into the team. Free agency opens at noon, and “this season” will formally refer to 2022-2023 at that time (at least from me).

Cap Space

Barring any late breaking deals on Sunday, the Leafs now have $7 million or so in cap space on a plausible 20-player roster. That roster includes Erik Källgren, since there is no one else in net, and three unsigned RFAs who will get raises. Factor those raises in and that’s the space left for a goalie. Some changes to the personnel will be inevitable as the Leafs sign depth forwards as UFAs. No two ways about it, there is very little space to enter the overpaid goalie market.

Goalies!

Are you sick of talking, thinking and reading about goalies? Are you starting to suspect they are all bad? If so, have I not got good news for you. All we’re going to do for the next three days is talk about goalies, and then after that, it’s months of talking about whichever goalie the Leafs have, and then it’s watching this (these?) goalie(s?) in preseason, which leads inexorably into October when we will obsess over them (him?) all season. We got a head start yesterday with the Matt Murray rumour.

Luckily I don’t eat meat, so I won’t actually also suffer from being unable to face eating chicken tenders after all the memes you all will post.

Sigh.

Actually, you know, here’s an interesting thing to consider if you buy those things pictured above, they cost 2.4 cents per gram per the internet. If I buy Janes brand chicken strips, they cost less than 1 cent per gram. Now, I’m used to this nonsense where the stuff made from what they feed to chickens costs less than the stuff made from chickens, but it shocks a lot of carnivores.

What’s going on here is many things, some of which is economy of scale, but there’s some other stuff at play. The meatless market is growing, and there is some competition in it now, but not a lot. The % of shelf space in a grocery store given to the lolariously named “plant-based” products is tiny compared to the meat. So a growing and motivated customer base buying a limited supply makes the prices go up.

Yes, I’m saying Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell are actually veggie dogs, and maybe the Leafs should just buy a package of Red Hots. That’s what Colorado did, after they’d stress-tested the idea of winning with average goaltending. The Leafs can’t do that because they can’t win if the goalie isn’t superb. Right? Everyone knows that. Are you sure?

So who qualifies as just an ordinary hot dog, hamburger of chicken tender out there? Who can the Leafs get who is less salubrious in results, but cheaper than Kuemper and Campbell?

When I look at goalies, I look at the past five years aggregated. If you look at just this season, that’s a hot take. If you look at two, I suspect you of picking your end point to support the thesis you’ve decided in advance. Three is okay, but five is more robust. I am going to ignore all goalies with less than 100 GP here, because those unknown players are what god inventing rebuilding teams for.

Antti Raanta has standout stats (I’m just looking at Fenwick Sv% over Expected), but only 132 games in this period. Still, he has a history of some average or even much better performance, and is under contract for a delightful $2 million. Does Carolina want to keep him and Andersen going another year? Depends how much they want to play Pyotr Kochetkov, but if the Leafs wanted another Mrázek, this guy is it. Not like that! I mean more like a tandem partner.

John Gibson upsets everyone because it’s very easy to declare him bad now. I’m unconvinced. He’s a seriously excellent goalie who has been playing pointless hockey for a lot of years. He already has a Grubauer-level deal, so something would have to be done about that, and I sort of believe that the Leafs aren’t the team for him. But he seems destined to be traded to someone.

Well, that’s us told.

The Leafs can likely get Sergei Bobrovsky, but they’d need to be drunk for that to happen.

Joonas Korpisalo is UFA next summer, and is very inexpensive, and I’m not sure if Columbus wants to keep him. He has very erratic results and seems like a goalie a rebuilding team should give the starter’s job to for science.

Jake Allen is said to be available, and he really intrigues me. His five-year numbers are average level, and he rates out as better than the next guy I’ll mention by an insignificant amount. Allen is only 31, and has one year at $2.875 million.

Cam Talbot is allegedly not being traded (per his GM) and wants to know what the hell is up with this Fleury signing (per him). He’s got one year at $3.67 million.

And now I come to that guy, the one who I’ve said I don’t want, and we’ve already had to talk about. Matt Murray has five years of results exactly the same as Talbot and Allen. The difference is that his bad years are all ones you’ve heard about, they’re recent, and he’s absurdly overpaid. I don’t want him as a starter with Erik Källgren as a backup, because the Leafs aren’t tanking, but he seemed good when a strong Pittsburgh team was in front of him.

If I go any further down the list by results, I get guys like Carter Hutton and Brian Elliott, so you know — no.

I skipped one you all talk about that is hilariously not happening, and that’s Eric Comrie, who has 27 whole games played. You make that kind of gamble with Michael Bunting, not a goalie.

The other set of guys I skipped is the surplus in LA. LA wants to be good now, and they have $10.8 million tied up in goalies. Their future looks like Cal Petersen, who they aren’t moving, but Jonathan Quick (quick by name, quick by temper) is in the last year of what is surely his last deal in LA. He’s a last resort kind of trade at 36, but he had a very good season this year (hot take alert). His AAV is $5.8, but he’ll go away quietly in 12 months, unlike either of the veggie tenders that have the name recognition right now.

Anthony Stolarz (also with Anaheim) has a lot of stans, and I skipped over him and his 55 game sample because I don’t think the Ducks are moving him, nor would I take that gamble, but he rates out as pretty much okay, not even very good, but hardly bad. He’s a backup.

So that’s my take on goalies. Pay the premium for the veggie option or get an ordinary hot dog (or two) and spend a little on those scoring forward lines.

And now, I really hope this entire trip through the Loblaws wasn’t wasted by the time this is published tomorrow. Happy Monday, everyone!

Brigstew jumping in at 1:30 am to add this: