The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of UFAs. That was the undercurrent of the cap calculation that shows both a lot of offseason cap space and a lot of open jobs on the extended roster.
European leagues are already deep into their signings and roster construction for next season, with the KHL set to start training camp in August, that all happens on a dramatically different schedule to North America. Free agency opens on July 27 this year.
Unrestricted Free Agents
There are no career AHLers on the Leafs roster who are expiring. The Leafs have not signed many players of that nature, and successfully convinced the ones they do want to take AHL deals by offering them big AHL deals. Marlies captain Rich Clune and the veteran Tyler Gaudet are the two main veterans on this year’s team. The Leafs do have a lot of players, two received in trade at the deadline, who have moved up and down the lineups of other teams less likely to contend.
Full Time NHLers
Tweeners and Squadies
Martin Marincin - press reports in Czechia say he is signing with Ocelari Trinec in the Czech league
Kenny Agostino - signed with Torpedo in the KHL
Kalle Kossila - signed with Jokerit in the KHL
Restricted Free Agents
There are three types of RFAs. Full time NHLers, young prospects coming off their ELC, and players at age 24 to 26, playing mostly in the AHL, who might be on the bubble in terms of team interest.
Full Time NHLers
On the Bubble
All of the RFAs have arbitration rights except Joe Woll, so for the bubble players, the decision on interest will be made with an eye to arbitration awards, which are always at least the same as the current base salary. That timeline is completely different this season, and teams have more time to contemplate what they want to do.
Qualifying Offers are due to RFAs on July 26. If the team does not issue a QO, the player becomes a UFA. There is no other way for an RFA to become unrestricted, they cannot opt for it themselves.
The deadline for player-elected arbitration is August 1. Teams have their first window open to elect arbitration one day after the Stanley Cup Final. This window applies only to players on a salary level in the $2 million plus range, and none of the Leafs’ RFAs qualify.
The second club-elected arbitration window opens on August 1, just as the player-elected period closes. Arbitration hearings begin in mid-August.
European Free Agents
Prior to July 27, expect the Leafs to be looking at more European free agents. They have signed two so far: Kirill Semyonov, a centre, and Erik Källgren, a goalie. These moves have to be made quickly as players will opt for the KHL or the other NHL teams that are also traditional signers of Europeans.
North American Free Agents
The Maple Leafs will have a lot of jobs to fill on the Marlies, and also need to find enough of the sorts of players that filled the Taxi Squad in this season. The traditional method is to sign career AHLers to NHL or AHL contracts, and that will likely happen to some extent. If Rosén doesn’t re-sign, someone of his nature will be found.
The other way to flesh out the rosters in the AHL and ECHL, and potentially find undiscovered gems like Trevor Moore, is to sign graduating junior and NCAA players. Chances are good that the Leafs will sign a lot of these players. The season for signing them is already upon us, and the Leafs have added Alex Steeves, a centre out of the NCAA.
Many of these graduating juniors have not played or played very little. Last week, and running through to Jun 13, is a tournament organized by some OHL players to highlight draft-eligible players. For the older juniors, an AHL try-out contract is often their entry to pro hockey, but the timing and quarantine issues around the AHL this season led to fewer of those signings.
As the players who put on this OHL-based tournament have demonstrated, there is a vacuum in prospect and development opportunities this summer, and the leagues have been slow to fill it. Rules are changing almost daily, and the border issues are a big barrier, but there almost has to be something that will give NHL scouts a chance to see players, judge their conditioning and make some choices.
We might see signings delayed while hope is held out that this sort of thing can happen.
With 24 free agents coming off the SPC count on July 27, and only five new ones added so far, there is room to add players for all roles. This is not going to be the thing that thwarts the Leafs from adding an important player.