The free agency frenzy came and went with The Maple Leafs resigning Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks. The Maple Leafs followed up by signing Ron Hainsey on defence and Dominic Moore. These moves help to fill holes on defence and on the 4th line with the departure of Brian Boyle to the New Jersey Devils. The biggest splash came when it was announced the Maple Leafs signed Patrick Marleau to a 3-year contract.
Patrick Marleau’s signing was greeted with a mix bag from Leafs Nation and from the local media. Local sports writers did not understand the term/money agreed to in the contract, citing his age as the primary concern (37 years old, 38 once the season starts). Based on the argument made by some local sports writers, the Marleau signing makes the Shanaplan go boom; And everything else that has been done to date and can still can do to improve their roster in the offseason is all for naught! In a vacuum, this signing may not have been a prudent signing as The Maple Leafs now are above the salary cap. In order to acquire the top four defencemen we lack, as well as resign Connor Brown, the Maple Leafs must start shedding salary.
I cannot disagree more with this I would like to think before this signing was completed management would have at the very least reached out to their capologist Brandon Pridham on the long-term ramifications of this signing.
One would also assume trade conversations have taken place with teams like New Jersey who still have availability in their contract status/ have the cap space to take on some extra money. Given Connor Brown has yet to be signed, it is conceivable his name, along with James Van Riemsdyk, have come up in conversations to complete any trade for the missing piece in the top four defence pairings.
Now I do not need to be a hockey genius in any way, but does anyone think that the Maple Leafs could not find a cheaper replacement for say Tyler Bozak if the team chose not to renew his contract or traded him? Could we not say the same thing about Leo Komorov, I like to think the Maple Leafs front office would not break up the trifecta of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander to keep other players that do not hold the same potential and talent of these three young stars.
The Marleau signing offers the veteran mentoring required to take these youngsters to the next level of their development. The signing makes even more sense now that the Maple Leafs are now going for the cup. The Maple Leafs are trying to use the next 2-3 years to compete for the Stanley Cup while players like Matthews, Nylander and Marner are still on their entry level contracts.
The sacrifices that will need to be made moving forward to keep the core of these young Maple Leafs together could include veterans like James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komorov, Matt Martin or any veteran on a big ticket contract. Cheaper options could be found within the Maple Leafs prospect pool. With 33 draft picks in the last 3-4 years, graduating players from the Marlies on cheaper entry level contracts could be the way the Maple Leafs go moving forward so they can allocate appropriate cap space to keep the core together longer.
The Maple Leafs prospect pool offers up many opportunities that in the past would not be there. The front office strategically built up one the best and deepest prospect pools for this eventual situation. The hard salary cap system does not give teams the ability to keep their entire team together, especially a successful one like was seen with Chicago Blackhawks who have lost players after each successful Stanley Cup run. That is where having a deep prospect pool can offer cheaper options to fill gaps around the core of the team.
So Leafs Nation, let’s not fret or worry yet. Our boys in the blue and white offer us the best prospects of success while taking advantage of a weakened Eastern Conference over the next couple of seasons. Let’s enjoy the rest of summer, and get excited for the season opener in October!