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Is “Priority 1” preventing Leafs from pursuing upgrades??

June 26, 2019, 4:45 PM ET [653 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are in that uncertain territory where restricted free agent Mitch Marner has the freedom to talk to other NHL clubs, but while talks between agent Darren Ferris and GM Kyle Dubas continue, the uncertainty of how much it will cost to get the 22-year-old locked up on a long term agreement has already had a limiting effect on what the club could do to address other pressing areas of need.

The trade on Day 2 of the NHL Draft in Vancouver moving Patrick Marleau’s $6.25 Million cap hit allowed the Leafs to get both Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson signed to multi-year extensions, but there has yet to be confirmation of those contracts likely because the Leafs have to keep their cap flexibility for the unlikely possibility of a Marner offer sheet

According to the Leafs GM, the lack of any deal has prevented any serious pursuit of pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Jake Gardiner and also limited Toronto’s ability to explore other options to upgrade on defense.

“We still don’t have that amount of (cap) space. We love Jake. We talked about this at the year-end press conference as well. He’s been a huge, huge part of having the team turn around.” Dubas said on Saturday. “We would like to continue to keep (contract talks) on the front burner, but until we solve Mitch’s situation, it is impossible to engage with anybody.”

Dubas was a busy man on the draft floor on Friday (in spite of not having a first round pick) speaking with Nashville GM David Poile amongst others. Speculation indicated that the Leafs checked in on the availability of defenseman P.K. Subban.

In his ’31 Thoughts’ column on Wednesday, Elliotte Friedman indicated that Toronto was amongst a small number of teams that spoke to Poile about the former Norris Trophy winner.

Friedman believes that the Leafs seriously pursued the Toronto native, but perhaps needed the Preds to retain some of Subban’s $9 Million salary (possibly to have enough room to re-sign Marner).

Poile waited until Saturday before telling New Jersey GM Ray Shero that he was not going to wait on “something else he was looking at” and went with the Devils deal, who were the only team willing to take Subban’s full salary.

At a certain point, the Leafs cannot let the impasse with Marner prevent them from other moves that can help them become a better club, which is why it is imperative that they continue to work with the winger’s camp to get a deal done.

If however, Ferris and Marner’s camp are intent of putting pressure on Toronto by waiting until after July 1 to use the threat of an offer sheet, it could be a scenario where it hurts both sides.


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