Maple Leafs Wrap-up: Marleau, Marner, Restricted Free Agents and the Draft

What a crazy draft weekend that turned out to be, we had the Patrick Marleau trade, contracts to Kapanen and Johnsson in essence agreed to, more insight into the Marner negotiations and oh yeah those six draft picks the Maple Leafs made as well.

In one of those moments in sports where the business of the game took priority over the heart of the game, we saw Pappa Patrick Marleau get traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in cap dump trade. The writing was pretty much on the wall for this one, an aging veteran on a cap killing contract in one of the worst years for that to happen.

What Patrick brought to this young Maple Leafs squad is immeasurable, his relationship with the two engines of the team Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will go down as one of those stories we in Leaf Nation won’t soon forget.

But with his on-ice production deminishing and the cap crunch facing the team with three key contracts needing to get worked out, Marleau become a cap casualty. I know a lot of you were upset about trading away a first round pick (protected against an unforeseen drop in the standings), but when you look at the trade as a whole, it is essentially Marleau and a first round pick for Marner, Johnsson and Kapanen and that I can live with as we head into next season.

As for the contracts to Johnsson and Kapanen, if the numbers and term are correct then GM Kyle Dubas has hit home run on the value of both deals. Johnsson’s contract reportedly for four years at a cap hit between $3.25 million and $3.5 million, while Kapanen’s contract is expected to be between $3.2 million and $3.4 million on a three-year deal mark some great work on both parties in these negotiations.

Both players avoid the dreaded offer-sheet threat, and both remain part of the Maple Leafs for the next 3-4 years respectively and that has to be seen as a win-win for everyone.

Too bad the same can’t be said for the last remaining RFA Mitch Marner, I won’t go into too much as I expressed my opinion in my last blog. But I will say this again, I fully respect the negotiating process and have always defended the players in such disputes. Where I differ strongly is the drip, drip of leaks in the media via Daren Dregar almost daily now.

I want to see a resolution but if the numbers and term that have been reported aren’t good enough and if his camp is going to negotiate via the media and not in the boardroom then I am not sure how much I want said player on my team.

Also the incorrect characterization of Mitch’s time with the Maple Leafs by his father Paul is nothing less than toxic and factually incorrect. To say that the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t appreciate Mitch is completely separated from reality. One only has to look at the opportunities given to Mitch based on his ice-time (3rd on the team his first two years), playing on the top Power Play (all three years in Toronto), getting to play John Tavares where he saw his most success isn’t a depiction of a team that doesn’t appreciate one of its youngest and most talented stars.

If that wasn’t enough to drum up concern, lately you are starting to see even Mitch’s most ardent fans now questioning the process, the salary demands and the threats to meet with other teams. This wasn’t the quiet and easy process everyone had hoped for but at this point we need a prompt resolution so the summer heat doesn’t carry into the fall.

Finally to the 6 new prospects that were added to the Maple Leafs talent pool, drafted were three defencemen, two centres and one winger. All are long-term projects which project to make an impact within 3-4 years at the very best, which fine with the depth of players ready to make the jump to Maple Leafs main roster in the next few years especially.

As is expected in this market, a small yet vocal group lamented about the size of the players as none were bigger 6’0 feet tall. Drafting for size was always one of those qualities that I believe has a clear ceiling, and if drafted poorly (i.e. Tyler Biggs) can cost you if that is all you seek in that selection. Talent however has uncapped potential, all one has to do is look at late picks like Andreas Johnsson to see that with the right development program you can mold that talent into something more than valuable and a lot easier to trade if needed down the road.

No, I am not advocating that I found some special plan no one has ever heard of, and yes drafting a young player who is only 17-19 years old is still a crap-shoot but you raise the level of success when talent takes priority over size. That isn’t even going into how the NHL game has evolved the last few years, where players like our very own Mitch Marner, Patrick Kane and Johnny Goudreau have dominated the league with their skill and speed.

In closing, the draft weekend brought some heartache with the departure of Patrick Marleau, some excitement with the news that both Johnsson and Kapanen had deals agreed to in principle, and hope as we greeted six new members to the Maple Leafs organization.

Here is hoping that the next week and into July 1st can bring its own excitement with the news of Marner resigning and the shoring up of the Maple Leafs defense.

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