The Maple Leafs very obviously need to find a couple of meaningful forwards to add to their roster. They can promote Alexander Kerfoot from third-line centre to wing in the top six and then they really only need one important player, although some more options lower down the lineup would be nice.
There are very few UFAs left, but the return of Alex Galchenyuk or giving Thomas Tatar a new home (or both) are options. The other method to add talent is in trade, and there are teams that need to rearrange the roster for cap reasons or because they’re out of balance.
Adding to the difficulty for the Leafs is that Seattle is very light on forwards, and within the forwards they do have, light on goal scoring skill. Toronto doesn’t have a wide open field to try to find players, and the Kraken aren’t the only other team looking. Seattle also has extra defencemen to trade. Toronto has prospects and three picks. No pressure!
Running down the Cap Friendly list of teams and their cap space, we can find who is actually capped out or oversupplied at the top end with forwards.
Tampa Bay Lightning: they look capped out, but they aren’t. They added Brent Seabrook’s LTIR contract and actually have about $3 million in LTIR pool to sign their RFAs and carry a full roster.
Vegas Golden Knights: It would be weird if they weren’t way over the cap, since they always are in the offseason, and they don’t rush to fix it. They need to remove about $2 million from their roster depending on how few players they are willing to run with. Their pending UFA Reilly Smith seems like a possible trade target, since they added some wingers, but his cap hit is $5 million.
Chicago: is surprisingly capped out for a team that was supposedly rebuilding. They actually have some LTIR space, and can sign their RFAs and run a roster as is. But the open question for them is will Marc-André Fleury actually play for them or will he retire? If he says no to them, they suddenly gain $7 million in cap space, and will need to find a goalie. If he says yes, they might want to shift someone off their very full forward roster. Complicating this even more is the status of Jonathan Toews. If he’s truly capable of playing, then they are tight to the cap. If he’s not, they might become buyers, not sellers in the trade market. The addition of Tyler Johnson, actually just makes this all more confusing to parse from afar. Dominik Kubalik looks interesting if they are looking to cull the forward ranks.
Dallas Stars: They are sitting quietly with three goalies of note running at $10 million and a tight roster otherwise. If Ben Bishop is ready to return, they seem to have a problem. If he’s not, then they have $5 million in LTIR pool. Regardless, Dallas is not where you go shopping for forwards unless you actually want Luke Glendening.
Montréal Canadiens: They’re capped out with 21 on the roster, and they need to re-sign Kotkaniemi and Lehkonen. I don’t know what they’re doing with those two players, but I assume it’s LTIRing Shea Weber for five years and using that large pool to actually add a forward.
Boston Bruins: They have a small amount of space with a full roster. They need to swap out one of their endless supply of depth forwards for a backup goalie, and then... well are they re-signing Tuukka Rask mid-season or not? The only reason I even mention them is because they have a young player in the Leafs’ price range who they’ve gotten tired of. They started the traditional Boston run him down in public routine, and they just signed Nick Foligno, who looks like his replacement. Jake DeBrusk — hated by Leafs fans, and coming off a really bad year — is exactly the kind of finish the check, dig in the corners, never quit player the Leafs seem to lack. I know in-division trades are unusual, but if he’s on sale because he has been cast out of the Bruins cult, and his down year is the aberration it looks like, I say grab him up.
Edmonton Oilers: They’ve gone on a shopping trip like no other, and now the credit card bill is due. They got Warren Foegle, but they have to sign him and Kailer Yamamoto, and they are broke and looking for someone, anyone to take Mikko Koskinen off their hands. Unfortunately, unless you want Zack Kassian or Kyle Turris, they don’t really have any forwards to move.
Los Angeles Kings: They aren’t capped out, they actually have over $2 million to spend if they want to, and no major RFAs need deals. They have interesting wingers, but it’s hard to imagine they have any reason to trade them away unless they’re getting a significant return in prospects.
Washington Capitals: They have a short roster, and barely the space to re-sign Ilya Samsonov. But they always get it done. I don’t think they’re moving anyone else out unless someone offers to take Kuznetsov at full freight.
Pittsburgh Penguins: They have enough space to sign their RFAs and add a depth forward, they look finished.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have some space, a goalie to sign and a roster so bogged down by bad deals on defence, it seems hopeless. They have forwards they might move, but they could also just be holding tight until the deadline. GM Doug Wilson is a wheeler dealer, though, so anything is possible.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets need to add forwards, sign some RFAs and get a backup goalie. They’re so unfinished right now, it’s hard to know what direction they’re going in, but they have a lot of defencemen, so perhaps the play for them is to trade off one they don’t like. Dear Kyle: I know you need to add forwards, but why not get Ville Heinola?
Philadelphia Flyers: LOL
Florida Panthers: have a full roster and lots of space to sign Sam Reinhart. Annoyingly good offseason for them.
Colorado Avalanche: have chosen a path that kept their captain and lost their starter. They actually need to add forwards and might be in competition with the Leafs.
Arizona Coyotes: They keep doing smart things this season, but they’ve left themselves with a few big contracts they’d still like to move. They want someone to take Phil Kessel, and the good winger is gone, so this isn’t where the Leafs can find help.
Calgary Flames: have $13 million to spread around their unsigned defenders, but the only reason they’d have for moving a forward is if he’s not the right sort for the new coach.
St. Louis Blues: have cap space, multiple RFAs to sign, notably Robert Thomas and they want to move out Vladimir Tarasenko. The Leafs aren’t likely to be in on that deal, and the Blues should be shopping for forwards, not trading away any others.
Vancouver Canucks: They just need to sign their big two RFAs and they look done.
Columbus Blue Jackets: They have a lot of cap space and a lot of forwards, but don’t really have any reason to trade anyone now. Unless you want Max Domi.
Seattle Kraken: They need to add forwards, and could use another centre and some more goal scoring. Technically, they could flip Jared McCann back to the Leafs as long as the NHL doesn’t see any signs of cap circumvention in the deal. Why would they, though?
New York Islanders: There’s nothing they would sell that the Leafs would want to buy.
New York Rangers: The Rangers have $17 million in space and Igor Shesterkin to sign, and they haven’t even traded Alexandar Georgiev yet. They should be leveraging their space to add players, maybe one in particular.
Anaheim Ducks: Speaking of Eichel, they have space, unsigned RFAs, some of them good, and an alleged interest in the big trade that hasn’t happened yet. It’s mildly plausible Dubas is waiting to see if they want to move Rickard Rakell, but I sure hope not.
Minnesota Wild: Capped out from buyouts, the Wild seem to have a lot of space until you look at who they need to re-sign. By the time they flesh out their roster, they’ll be scraping the ceiling. Bet they’d trade Victor Rask.
Nashville Predators: They have miles of space and their starting goalie to re-sign. They look ready to just finalize those deals and roll into training camp.
New Jersey Devils: Hovering at the cap floor, they need to add forwards.
Buffalo Sabres: If they trade Jack Eichel and sign all their RFAs (which include Rasmus Dahlin) they might not be over the floor. They’re poised to add players, and have likely finished moving out anyone but Eichel. Great offseason for them so far, if you ignore the reason they had to rip it all down again.
Ottawa Senators: Their RFA deals that are due include Brady Tkachuk, so they should get to the floor, but they have space to add, and nothing desirable to subtract.
Detroit Red Wings: They have two RFAs unsigned — Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrána who would both fall in the general area of the Leafs price range, although Vrána might be expensive after arbitration. The Wings need to add players, and they need to get to the floor as well, so they aren’t selling cheaply. It’s intriguing though.
Having about $3.5 million to spend is great when you want to overpay a 4/5 defenceman or a third line centre. Trying to get impact in your top six with that much is really difficult. Getting in someone who isn’t five years older than you wish they were is even harder.
I’m not really sure what direction Kyle Dubas is going in, but he seems to have a plan. His free agent signings were, with the exception of Mrazek, built on hopes that the player is better than they’ve appeared so far. I don’t think he can do that now for a top-line winger. I think it’s time to find the best player available, not the one you can build a dream on.