The Toronto Maple Leafs have the difficult task of getting restricted free agents Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson signed to new deals, bolstering their blueline with the likely departures of Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey and getting under a salary cap that is expected to go up slightly for the 2019-20 season.
That likely means that maneuvers like placing Nathan Horton on LTIR, trading Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev or Patrick Marleau to cut costs, and/or swapping Nazem Kadri or William Nylander for defensive help, are all possible.
One thing that GM Kyle Dubas would likely prefer in any trade is acquiring someone with years left on his contract to provide cost certainty. That was a factor in the deal for Jake Muzzin, who has one more season left at $4 Million and will likely replace Gardiner on the second pairing and could also be a consideration for the club’s reported interest in Vegas defenseman Colin Miller.
Miller being on Toronto’s radar is not a new thing. Rumors of the Leafs having interest in the right-handed blueliner popped up two years ago prior to the Expansion Draft, with Boston leaving him unprotected and the Golden Knights selecting him.
The 26-year-old posted a career-high 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) and seven playoff points in Vegas’s magical first season and that earned Miller a four-year, $15.5 Million contract extension, but last season played only 65 games due to injuries and falling out of favor with Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant.
Interest from a Toronto perspective is obvious. Miller is a native of Sault Ste. Marie, played under Dubas and Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe with the OHL Greyhounds from 2010 to 2013, and is a right-handed shooter, which the Leafs are in desperate need of adding. The Golden Knights are in cap difficulty after the additions of Paul Stastny in free agency, and the extensions of Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, and could be willing to deal Miller for cap relief for a prospect or draft pick.
With three more years at $3.875 Million AAV, Miller is making less than Gardiner’s $4.025 Million salary, but even at that price point, Dubas may have to move some salary out to have enough flexibility to re-sign his free agents or match an offer sheet if that unlikely situation occurs.
New Leafs Convo. 🚨🚨
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