There is a rumor circulating and once again the Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be in the middle of it.
Last Saturday, during Hockey Night in Canada’s segment “Headlines”, Nick Kypreos made an interesting statement about the St. Louis Blues and captain Alex Pietrangelo.
He stated that, while they’re not officially shopping the right-handed defender, Kypreos believes that given their current situation, GM Doug Armstrong should field offers on his top defender. To go a step further, he is open for business on all of his players.
The Blues are having an abysmal season to say the least after making “improvements” to the team during the off-season. It seems like nothing is going right for them as they currently sit at the bottom of the NHL standings.
Pietrangelo is currently on the injured reserve, which may have teams look the other way. He, like most of the Blues, weren’t having a strong season but he is still one of the best two-way defenders in the league. For his name to be coming this early in trade speculation, the Blues seem to be headed for uncharted territory and possibly hitting the reset button.
The Leafs are currently in the market to add a right- handed defenseman. The Leafs have multiple assets, either at the pro level or in the minors. Right now, they appear to be an ideal trade partner for the Blues, should they engage in trade talks.
Pietrangelo is the ideal first pairing defender. He can score anywhere between 40 and 50 points while carrying a cap hit and annual average value of $6.5 million.
It was reported from Kypreos that Nikita Zaitsev could be a piece of a package to swap right- handed defenders. While this is intriguing, there are a few things to consider.
As great as a defenseman Pietrangelo is, the cap hit and AAV may make the Leafs think twice. Acquiring that contract is a not necessarily a risk but they need to be cautious, even though it is only for one more year. But it’ll improve an area where the Leafs are looking to bulk up on.
While they’re getting a better defenseman to replace Zaitsev, they’re taking on an additional $2 million dollars in salary. The Leafs have John Tavares, signed William Nylander ($6.9 mil cap hit and AAV after this year) and need to sign restricted free- agents Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Even though Leafs will have a number of unrestricted free- agents and the cap is going up, will this be enough?
There are a couple of scenarios that can play out.
Let’s assume that the Blues are interested in Zaitsev as mentioned by Kypreos.
The Leafs manage to trade for Pietrangelo. What will the deal look? It’s possible that Zaistev could be in the deal, maybe a roster player (let’s say Brown) and a prospect or pick.
Recently, TSN’s Bob McKenzie stated that even if the Leafs end in the running for Pietrangelo, the assets involved will most likely be Connor Brown, Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen.
A proposal could be: Zaitsev, Brown and a first- round pick for Pietrangelo. This gives the Blues a current right- handed defenseman, a speedy yet, young player with a few more years with term and a first round pick. If a prospect is involved, the Blues might look at Timothy Liljegren as a potential piece. As good as he’s developing, he’s not far from stepping in for the Blues. With Zaitsev gone, that frees up $4,500,000 in cap space. In addition, the Leafs are getting a top line defender, who is still in his prime and still has a lot of hockey left to play.
The Leafs, currently have $5,830,851 in cap space before the deal. They will then have about $3,830,851 in space, after acquiring Pietrangelo’s contract, which is a difference of two million dollars in his contract and Zaitsev’s.
Here’s a look at some of the current unrestricted free-agents for the Leafs.
|Player||Cap Space Available|
|Total UFA money available||$9,425,000|
With Matthews and Marner as restricted free- agents, there’s also Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Igor Ozhiganov. It’s my feeling that as great as Kapanen and Johnsson are playing, the Leafs will try to sign them to team friendly contracts. There’s the possibility of offer sheets from other teams, but I highly doubt that teams are willing to pay a price to lose draft picks, especially rebuilding teams where they need the picks. If teams didn’t do it for William Nylander, I can’t see them doing it for the others.
It’s expected that the salary cap will increase by $3.5 million from $79.5 to $83 million, so there’s a positive. On top of the UFA money, plus subtraction of UFA’s, Zaitsev and and Pietrangelo’s contract the Leafs will have roughly $16,755,851. This may only be enough to sign a few of the RFA’s one of Matthews or Marner plus one or both of Johnsson and Kapenen.
With Connor Brown also being in the deal, there’s an additional $2,100,000 off the books. The Leafs have wingers in the minors where they won’t be RFA’s until a few years down the line. Players like Mason Marchment and Pierre Engvall can fill out the bottom six.
With this, plus the left over cap from the previous year, the Leafs will have roughly $18,855,851. There’s also Nylander’s contract dropping from $10,277,778 to $6,962,366. That’s an additional $3,315,412 of space freed up. This brings the total to around $22.17 million. This should be more than enough to sign the Leafs RFA’s. Plus the above-mentioned American League players are coming up on extremely friendly deals.
It’ll be great to add Pietrangelo for this year, as the Leafs will still have just over nine million dollars in cap space available to take on his salary. Even if they want to keep him for the following year, they’re going to have to make some minor tweaks to manage their cap wisely. For Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham, this shouldn’t be a problem. Here’s how I think the Leafs line up would look like if they went through with the proposed Zaitsev- Pietrangelo deal.
Here is how I see the team next year.
|Kapanen ($2.5M)||Matthews ($10.5M)||Nylander ($6,962,366M)|
|Hyman ($2.25M)||Tavares ($11M)||Marner ($8.5M)|
|Marleau ($6.25M)||Kadri ($4.5M)||Johnsson ($2.5M)|
|Marchment ($767,500)||Gauthier ($675K)||Engvall ($925K)|
|Rielly ($5M)||Pietrangelo ($6.5M)||Andersen ($5M)|
|Rosen ($750K)||Dermott ($863,333)||Sparks ($1M)|
|Ozhiganov ($1.2M)||Liljegren ($894,166)|
Remaining Cap Space: $4,462,635
When the Chicago Blackhawks were dealing with this situation in the past, they didn’t have the luxury of the cap increasing like the Leafs have right now.
Even with Peitrangelo’s contract the Leafs will just be under the projected cap space for both this year and next year.
Now, the Leafs will probably increase some of the values to the cheaper contracts like Ozhiganov, Kapanen and Johnsson. However, even with all of our restricted free agents and top players, we can still manage to acquire and take on Pietrangelo’s contract. The Leafs will have enough to possibly dip into free agent market, if they choose to.
While we are losing a right-shot, penalty-killing defender, we essentially replaced it with a better defender while filling key spots with players in the minors. Travis Dermott is a left-handed shot but has played on the right side before. Calle Rosen, signed a two- year, one-way extension and he appears to be NHL bound soon.
What if a different proposal is given? There’s this possibility and scenario provided by our graphic designer Mike through the website CapFriendly.
With this deal, Mike was going for the same structure that Tampa Bay Lightning gave up for Ryan McDonagh, which is also similar to deal mentioned above. The Leafs are giving up a roster player in Brown, prospect in Liljegren, a first and a conditional pick. It’s a lot to give up, but the price is fair. The Leafs are in a good spot to trade a few picks in order to win now.
Even if the Leafs plan to keep Zaitsev and shore up the right side by still trading a few picks and a top tier prospect, it would still manage to work out for the Leafs cap wise. The drafting and developing part of the Shanaplan worked out in this regard. As pieces like Gardiner, Hainsey, Lindholm are brought in, they make room for other players who could be an impact player at a cheap price.
It’s wishful thinking to try and keep both Johnsson and Kapanen, but the Leafs have other pieces to try and convince teams to move away from those players. If anything I would offer Johnsson in a deal before Kapanen as he can be used in any situation.
The Leafs still have enough cap space to even make a couple depth signings at cheap deals, if they choose to go into the free agent market. A lot of people saying the Leafs will be in a cap crunch. I don’t see any signs of a crunch for the next three or four years. The best thing about this is, the Leafs have RFA’s that’ll be with the team two to three years before they can negotiate a new contract or move other pieces out. The Leafs are already in a revolving door for the future.
In his “31 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman had this to say about the Pietrangelo situation, this time it involved William Nylander:
“Nick Kypreos shook the masses last weekend, wondering on Headlines if Alex Pietrangelo would be a fit for Toronto. With a few more days to work off it, my guess is this: St. Louis put him in William Nylander discussions, but the Maple Leafs decided to keep the winger. I see two reasons. First, Nylander is six years younger. Second, they might not be able to fit Pietrangelo’s extension (he’s eligible in July) and would prefer someone with term in that particular trade. It doesn’t mean they can’t/won’t re-consider him in the future.
They are doing due diligence on defencemen. They’re not crazy about term, but may consider some length if the cap hit is small enough. The defenceman has trade protection, but if Novice-age teammate John Tavares can handle Toronto, no reason Pietrangelo can’t.”
Prefer someone with term in a trade? This is interesting. The only other defenceman that has been linked to the Leafs and already has term to a contract is Colton Parayko.
The price will still be a big one to pay. With Parayko, you’re still looking at a first- round pick or prospect and possibly a roster player. Like a potential Pietrnagelo trade, the players involved will most likely involve one of Brown, Johnsson or Kapanen.
While both Pietrangelo and Parayko are in their prime years, Parayko (25) is younger compared to Pietrangelo who is 28. Second, Parayko comes with a cheaper cap hit and with more term, which will definitely help out to he Leafs advantage.
Parayko is in the second year of a five-year, $27.5 million dollar contract with a cap hit of $5.5 million. The Leafs would have more of Parayko’s services than Pietrangelo who could only play for one year as opposed to three more seasons plus a cheaper cap hit. There’s a strong chance that Parayko would be more of a target than Pietrangelo.
It’s also interesting to note that even with Parayko’s $5.5 million contract, the Leafs will free up a little more space as well to be just under the projected cap hit. This will be even more beneficial for the Leafs than Pietrangelo’s contract.
With all the talk of the Leafs being in cap crunch, if they have enough cap space and they allocate the dollars properly and continue to make the right decisions, there should be no problem.
Even with all the signings, the Leafs should be able to fit everyone under the cap. There’s no doubt that if and when the Leafs do call the Blues about Pietrangelo or Parayko, the Leafs would have done their homework way in advance to make the right choice.