The Toronto Maple Leafs have made their big free agent acquisition of the offseason, signing TJ Brodie to a four-year contract with a cap hit of $5 million. As we open Day 2 of Free Agency, the Leafs still have items on their shopping list to cross off, and while a lot of good players were signed to deals elsewhere, there is still plenty of talent left to make deals with.
On the trade front, it seems pretty obvious that the team is going to trade one of Andreas Johnsson or Alexander Kerfoot, with Johnsson being the more likely of the two to go. They simply need the cap space in order to sign Ilya Mikheyev and get the roster to 20 players. And if one of them goes for a defenseman, it might be one of Justin Holl or Travis Dermott that leaves as well. I think the Leafs looked at the goalie market and took a pass on it, so the tandem is settled for this season.
The Leafs were interested in a defenseman from the Florida Panthers (MacKenzie Weegar), but a deal wasn’t made on Friday. Saturday might see that get finalized. I hope so. We haven’t heard anything else at the moment so it’s all we got.
On the free agent market, Kyle Dubas has made it clear his team is going to target a defensive defenseman for the third pair in a depth role. With Holl, Dermott, Mikko Lehtonen, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Martin Marincin, and Calle Rosen all vying for the final three spots on the roster, it’ll be a crowded field. That said, in terms of defensive defensemen, Marincin will be the only competition. It also makes me further suspect one of these players will be traded before the season starts.
Dubas should also be looking for forward help on the free agent market to help augment the bottom six. I look at the group and see a desperate need for finishers, on the wing and at centre. Below, I’ve listed all the UFAs still available who played at least one game in the NHL last season. I’ve sorted by age just for fun, while bolding players that jump out to me and italicizing former Leafs.
Joe Thornton, Mikko Koivu, Brian Boyle, Nate Thompson, Brad Richardson, Mark Letestu, Carl Soderberg, Michael Haley, Trevor Lewis, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Erik Haula, Cody Eakin, Mikael Granlund, Greg McKegg, Riley Sheahan, Mattias Janmark, Johan Larsson, Nick Shore, Travis Boyd, Frederik Gauthier, Lucas Wallmark, Christoffer Ehn
If Kerfoot gets traded, the Leafs will need at least one player on this list. Maybe Koivu has one more year in the tank on a cheap deal. Larsson, Janmark, and Wallmark are cheap-ish options. And I wonder how underrated Craig Smith is.
Left Wings (middle-six)
Patrick Marleau, Ilya Kovalchuk, Justin Abdelkader, Derick Brassard, Michael Grabner, Michael Frolik, Matt Martin, Gabriel Bourque, Kyle Clifford, Taylor Hall, Joakim Nordstrom, Conor Sheary, Matt Nieto, Jimmy Vesey, Alex Galchenyuk, Dominic Toninato, Drake Caggiula, Devin Shore, Andreas Athanasiou, Dominik Kahun, Anthony Duclair, Dryden Hunt
I really think the third line needs some finishing talent. Taylor Hall would be perfect, a fan can hope. Duclair would be my next target because he could fight for a top-six role on a winning team. Galchenyuk could be a reclamation project.
Right Wings (middle-six)
Corey Perry, Dale Weise, Evgeni Dadonov, Mike Hoffman, Melker Karlsson, Jesper Fast, Tom Kuhnhackl, Tyler Toffoli, Scott Sabourin, Vladislav Namestnikov, Josh Leivo, Dominik Simon, Brendan Perlini, Jayce Hawryluk
Just to make Simmonds and Spezza fight for a third line job, I would like to shore up the right side a bit, for players in the Leafs price range, Namestnikov, Simon, and Hawryluk are perfect options.
Left Defense (more lefties on the right side?)
Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, Jonathan Ericsson, Karl Alzner, Kevin Connauton, Michael Del Zotto, Dmitry Kulikov, Oscar Fantenberg, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Fredrik Claesson, Ben Hutton, Joakim Ryan, Slater Koekkoek, Mirco Mueller, Andreas Englund
Chara, could you imagine? Connauton and Ryan are third pair/AHL defensemen that might be of use.
Right Defense (anywhere)
Ron Hainsey, Deryk Engelland, Trevor Daley, Korbinian Holzer, Yannick Weber, Cody Goloubef, Alex Pietrangelo, Dalton Prout, Michael Stone, Zach Bogosian, Jan Rutta, Travis Hamonic, Christian Folin, Sami Vatanen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Tyson Barrie, Mark Pysyk, Cody Ceci, Troy Stecher, Steven Santini, Madison Bowey
Rutta, Pysyk, and TVR are probably better than Holl or Dermott and would end the #4 debate pretty quickly. Folin and Stecher are third pair/AHL guys I’ve liked. In terms of size, have you tried Madison Bowey?
Goalies (#3 and AHL vet)
Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard, Al Montoya, Thomas Greiss, Cory Schneider, Chad Johnson, Andrew Hammond, Aaron Dell, Troy Grosenick, Michael Hutchinson, Mike Condon, Jean-Francois Berube, Jared Coreau, Louis Domingue, Scott Wedgewood, Zane McIntyre, Maxime Lagace, Garret Sparks, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Antoine Bibeau, Philippe Desrosiers, Landon Bow, Mat Robson, Callum Booth
I hate bringing him back up (just kidding, I love it), but as a third guy, you can do a lot worse than Hutchinson. He was a back backup, but for spot duty on the bench and as a mentor for the young goalies, he would be perfect. Ian Scott has spoken about his influence on him multiple times. Everyone else are #3 options with NHL experience and won’t get claimed by waivers (except maybe Johnson). Desrosiers is a young-ish goalie with surprisingly great AHL numbers.
Thank you Cap Friendly for the data. So, who jumps out to you?
Various Hockey Branches
Wayne Simmonds was the first signing of Free Agency, signing with the Leafs on a one-year, $1.5 million contract. It’s Wayne’s World, we’re all just living in it.
TJ Brodie was the fourth last signing of Free Agency day, which meant a very long wait for all of us for Kyle Dubas to do something else. But who cares! We got our right-shot def—WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE SHOOTS LEFT?! Oh, he plays the right side still? Okay. But hey, we got a guy! And he’s pretty good! TJ Brodie, welcome to Leafs Nation.
Updated with contract clause: Toronto Maple Leafs sign T.J. Brodie
Katya analyzed the cap space left over after the TJ Brodie signed. Kyle and Brandon Pridham are right, there are ways to ice a full roster next season.
Maple Leafs Cap Space After the Brodie Signing
Brigstew wrote about undrafted prospects to be considered for next season. Victor Mancini is one I’m shocked no one drafted.
2020’s best undrafted prospects to consider in 2021
Fellow blog, Maple Leafs Hot Stove, broke down TJ Brodie’s game with some really good analysis and insight. Definitely recommend reading.
TJ Brodie signs with the Toronto Maple Leafs: four years, $5 million AAV | Maple Leafs Hotstove
For a list of all signings yesterday, head over to Cap Friendly.
Contract Signings - CapFriendly - NHL Salary Caps