As Free Agency gets underway today on a random Friday in October, instead of July 1, the Maple Leafs have enough cap space to sign Ilya Mikhehev, Travis Dermott and then go buy a coffee. Maybe a muffin too. But they need defencemen and depth forwards and there’s not a lot of ways of making that happen.

Offseason cap space calculations go into effect today, and that gives the Leafs over $11 million to add players now and fix the salary cap later. This calculation, which includes a 10% cushion to the upper limit, stays in effect until the last day of training camp. There is no hurry to sort things out for any team.

Most people believe the focus of the Leafs is on the now ubiquitous “Harder to Play Against” or HPA players. Yes, I’m making it an acronym. I’m tired of typing that out. HPA players are thought to be snarly and gritty by some, just capable defensively by others. And that’s led to some names getting linked to the Leafs in free agency as the Alex Pietrangelo rumours have gone ice cold.

The following are mostly players people have speculated are available, and the Leafs might be interested in.

Wayne Simmonds

We already discussed that here:

Rumours surface of Maple Leafs interest in Wayne Simmonds

Mattias Janmark

There is a rumour of some solidity that the Leafs are interested in Dallas UFA Mattias Janmark, a solid defensive third-line winger who has offensive impacts like this:

He might be worth it, considering the scoring ability of some of the Leafs players available to make up a third line.

Janmark is about to turn 28, making him fairly young for an available UFA you might actually want. He’s a left shooting winger who has played some centre, but isn’t really known for that. He’s coming off two one-year contracts in a row of $2.3 million.

The Evolving Hockey contract predictor has him at somewhere around that AAV for a two-year term, but more for longer terms. This year’s actual market is still a bit of a mystery, so it’s not really clear how close these predictions will be, although they’ve been excellent in past years.

Janmark is an inverse of Andreas Johnsson in that, you likely can play him in the top six in an emergency, but you really don’t want to. Meanwhile, his bottom-six impacts are exactly what the Leafs need.

MacKenzie Weegar

It seemed very unlikely that Florida would part with a player they have under RFA control, who is as good as Weegar.

He’s a right-shooting defender who turns 27 in January, so he’s old for an RFA. Florida have been playing him on the left side, since they have more righties than lefties, making this seem like a good deal. However, why give up this gem?

Bill Zito, the new GM of Florida just traded for Markus Nutivaara, an inexpensive defender who shoots left. Weegar has arbitration rights and with 18 points last year and 21 minutes per game, he’s got the case for a substantial raise. The fact he’s actually good barely factors in, but ice time got Cody Ceci from $2.8 million to $4.3 million the first time. If Weegar won’t play ball, the Panthers might have to trade him for cash reasons as much as salary cap reasons. The deadline for players to elect arbitration is Saturday at 5 p.m.

The question with Weegar is the cost to acquire his rights and the likelihood of cutting a deal south of Ceci money.  Then the question also becomes: Does he maintain those results with Morgan Rielly instead of Aaron Ekblad?

At the least, Weegar really is an upgrade on Justin Holl, and a player of a totally different type — the type the Leafs want. Will Florida give him up?

Radko Gudas

I’ve always thought of Radko Gudas as Roman Polak only good. But that was then, and now he’s 30, and heading out as a UFA after a trade from the Flyers to the Capitals last year. He was traded for Matt Niskanen, who has just retired, leaving the Flyers without the defenceman they sought out.

Washington isn’t interested in re-signing Gudas, and can’t afford him anyway, but can the Leafs? He’s coming off a contract with an AAV of $3.35 million, but that was signed back in 2016, and flat cap or no, he’s got to be expecting some inflationary effects to at least keep his salary in that range somewhere.

Do the Leafs even want him, though? On the Capitals this year, he wasn’t the defensive force they needed, and it’s hard not to see some team effects in his results, for all they are as divested of that as is possible.

That big red blob of high quality shots against in front of the net is something the Leafs can produce just fine without paying $3 million and change to an ageing defender who is there to be snarly.

Gudas has a lengthy suspension history and while his PIM have declined in recent years, he’s not exactly a picture of reasoned calm on the ice.

However, he’s a totally different person when you look at just his results on the Flyers. His defensive impacts are stupendous, and he isn’t an offensive black hole. So if you think Washington wasn’t a fit, and the Leafs might be, maybe he would be worth it.

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