The Maple Leafs took an impressive step forward in 2016-17, riding the backs of several rookies to their first playoff appearance in a full season since 2004. While they were ultimately defeated by the Washington Capitals, their fan base was enthused by the performance and expects big things from them over the next several years. James Mirtle of The Athletic (subscription needed) took a look at their salary cap situation, and proposes that the Maple Leafs should make a big splash this summer before they have to pay the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner more than their current entry-level deals.
Mirtle shows that the Leafs may have as much as $15MM to spend this summer and would be wise to invest it in short-term veteran help for the team to push them into contention immediately. Joe Thornton, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Radulov all make hypothetical appearances among the Maple Leafs forwards, while the contention that a right-handed defenseman is still of the highest importance remains. Toronto, who holds the 17th-overall pick in the upcoming entry draft could theoretically use some of their prospect capital and cap room to be one of the biggest players in both free agency and the trade market this summer.
- Jordan Eberle has become a sort of whipping-boy in Edmonton of late, after his play in the postseason took a sharp downward turn. Many fans have been clamoring for his head, wanting to ship him out for the next Adam Larsson. While obviously he still holds value following his 51 point season that included a fourth-straight 20+ goal effort, Eberle will be very difficult to move contends David Staples of the Edmonton Journal. Staples quotes TSN Head Scout Craig Button in the piece, agreeing that a $6MM cap-hit is no easy transaction. Staples writes that Buffalo, Vancouver and New Jersey—the same team that accepted a Taylor Hall deal last summer—would be interested in Eberle and hold the needed cap room for the next few seasons.
- According to the venerable Renaud Lavoie for Le Journal de Montreal, the Stars actually pursued Scott Darling before acquiring Ben Bishop last week. Darling was the team’s first choice, but they wouldn’t part with the third-round pick it took for Carolina to finally lock down his negotiating rights. Darling signed a $16.6MM deal with the Hurricanes, while Bishop inked a six-year, $29.5MM contract with Dallas. It’s interesting to note that Darling is two years younger than Bishop, but received two fewer years on his contract. With an even lower cap-hit, Darling’s seems to be the much more attractive of the two deals, making the difference between a fourth—what the Stars eventually gave up for Bishop—and a third round pick seem more than acceptable.