NHL Rumors: Toronto Maple Leafs – Goaltending, Defense, Marner and Tavares

Sportsnet: Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on the 32 Thoughts: The Podcast – And Then There Were Two (Canadian Teams) episode on the future of Toronto Maple Leafs and some of the decisions they are going to have to make with regards to goaltending, the blue line, and the big contracts of Mitch Marner and John Tavares.

** NHLRumors.com transcription

Friedman: “I think they also have to make decisions in goal. I’ve got to think that, I like, I wonder how Samsonov feels? He started, he got pulled. They made the right decision, but maybe he’s gonna say, ‘I want to go somewhere else.’

And with Woll, even though he’s really talented, they have to be asking yourself, themselves, is he ever going to be healthy? Are we concerned about his health? So they’re going to have to consider what they’re going to do and goal.

NHL Rumors: What changes need to happen with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

They’re going to have to consider what they’re going to do with their core four. You know, (Matthew) Knies obviously took a huge step. They’ve got a couple of young prospects in (Fraser) Minten and Easton Cowan. They had really good years. Are they going to be ready next year or do they still need some AHL seasoning?

They’ve got some cap room. They’ve got to decide what they want to do on their defense. You know, maybe they weren’t great puck movers but those guys played really hard. And like I said, those were three of Toronto’s best defensive games they’ve played with this group. It’s going to be interesting.

You know, are they going to try to extend (Jake) McCabe? I heard in addition to how he played, the organization loves him behind the scenes. Especially when they went down three games to one. A lot of the attitude came from him, the pride with, in the team, the pride in his teammates, the us against the world mentality that would make Pat Quinn proud. Quinn was the king of us against the world and I wouldn’t be surprised if they look at him and say, ‘What can we do here?’

Are they going to keep Joel Edmundson for another year? They’ve already extended (Simon) Benoit. Like they have some flexibility and make some room, to make some decisions.

But I definitely believe there’s going to be change and I think the most fascinating one is, you know, what Marner decides and depending on his decision, what do they say to him?”

Marek: “Okay, so a couple of things there and just rewinding quickly to the blue line. Safe to say T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, who by the way for the longest time in Calgary were fantastic pair together, maybe the best pair in the NHL. I think that’s the end of those two players with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I think we wonder about Max Domi, who’s on the one-year deal. Tyler Bertuzzi, who’s on the one-year deal as well.”

Friedman: “Yes.”

Marek: “Listen, Max Domi, we talked about you know one man’s injuries another man’s opportunities you always like to say. Max Domi fit in their hand to glove and I think really distinguished himself.

I don’t know what the situation is on Tyler Bertuzzi. Do the Leafs want him to stay? Does he want to stay? I don’t know the answer to any of it.

I do wonder like you do about Joel Edmundson. I thought he had a really good playoffs for the Maple Leafs, albeit brief. Seven games and I think we’ll take away from this series that hit on David Pastrnak specifically.

But you’re right, Jake McCabe became the guy on that blue line. and they have him for one more year at a very, very discounted price of $2 million. I do very much wonder what happens there.

NHL Rumors: Friedman’s Thoughts on the Future of Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner

But getting back to Bertuzzi and Domi and these types of players. One of the interesting things through all of this Elliotte and this is not my point. This is a point that’s been made in countless other places. But the lion’s share of money is occupied between Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares. Yet the issue continues to remain, not defending, but scoring goals here.

The issue here is you’re done with John Tavares is $11 million cap hit after next season. Either John Tavares goes back to the Maple Leafs on a reduced rated or he’s just not back with the Maple Leafs at all.

So if you’re making a decision on Mitch Marner, you find yourself in a situation where, and again, I’m the guy this keeps reminding everybody that cap space is the thing. Cap space is a commodity. No one’s …”

Friedman: “We’re gonna talk about that in a second.”

Marek: “… (working for??) nothing but are you in a situation where, okay, we need to make a decision on one, when really in a year it’s going to be a decision on two.”

Friedman: “Yeah, I understand your point, Jeff, but I just don’t think you can run it back anymore.”

Marek: “Oh, I’m not saying run it back. I’m just saying like, does this complicate anything at all?”

Friedman: “No. Whatever decisions you’re making now are about your roster, and you can only make the decisions in the order that you contractually can do them, right?

So you can’t worry about Tavares in a year. I mean, you can use it to plan for your cap, but, you know, someone said to me if they really wanted to send a message. I mean really wanted to send a message. What they could do is they could buy out Tavares.

Now from a salary cap point of view. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. His salary is almost all bonuses and bonuses are guaranteed. They’re not affected by a buyout. So next year, instead of paying, having an $11 million cap hit, it would be like $10.4 (million). And the year after, you know you’d have a $300,000 cap hit. So it really doesn’t change your cap picture a lot, but boy, what it sends shockwaves through your roster.

Now the question is, now I would say this, I think there are GMs in the league that would absolutely consider that. I am just not convinced that the Maple Leafs are going to do that. Like Tavares still has very useful moments as a player. So, but it was just interesting that someone presented this to me.

The thing with Marner is, you know Jeff, it goes to what you said there, I was thinking about this, with Nylander, they were not willing to lose the trade. If they were gonna make that deal last summer, they were not willing to lose the trade. They set a bar. They said if we’re trading him, were getting this, a top defender that makes a difference.

If they really want to change their mix, they have to consider the possibility, especially since Marner can decide where he wants to go, they have to consider the possibility they make the deal and they look like they lose it, and say ‘okay, we’re going to do this but we’re going to do it not for this trade, but to give us the flexibility to do other things.'”