Latest on the Leafs – April 3, 2017
A look at how re-signing some of the Leafs young players could affect efforts to address issues elsewhere.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited NHL insider Elliotte Friedman discussing possible moves by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sportsnet 590. The Leafs need experienced depth on their defense. Friedman noted defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner are the biggest names potentially available via this summer’s unrestricted free agent market.
However, the Leafs must also re-sign young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander within the next couple of years. That could give them second thoughts about chasing big-ticket UFAs this summer. “I don’t think Toronto is going to be able to do that. Unless they look at it like, ‘We’ll do it now and we’ll deal with it later.’ But it’s hard to do that in a cap world,” said Friedman.
Friedman also noted the Leafs will have some salary cap overage issues because some of those young stars will reach bonuses that will come off next season’s cap. He speculated that could make things interesting for winger James van Riemsdyk, who will be eligible next July for unrestricted free agency. Do they keep him and his scoring for next season at the risk of losing him for nothing to free agency next July? Or do they trade him for something they need?
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman suggested, the Leafs could opt to pursue someone such as Shattenkirk or Alzner via free agency and deal with the potential salary-cap headache in a year or two. Then again, they could opt for more affordable options or swap some salary via trade to a club with a good young defenseman.
van Riemsdyk’s name popped up earlier this season linking him to the Anaheim Ducks, who have lots of young blueliners and could use a scoring winger if they fail to re-sign pending UFA Patrick Eaves. They could also consider dangling him to the Minnesota Wild or Carolina Hurricanes, as they’re also deep in defensemen.
That’s not to say for certain van Riemsdyk’s a goner, but he’ll be in line for a substantial raise over his current $4.25 million annual cap hit. He also carries a 10-team no-trade clause, which will limit where they can ship him.