The Toronto Maple Leafs have officially announced the contract extensions for both Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Kapanen’s deal is a three-year contract that will carry a $3.2MM average annual value, while Johnsson has signed a four-year deal with a $3.4MM average annual value. Both players were restricted free agents that had been issued qualifying offers earlier this week.
Kapanen, 22, broke out this season with the Maple Leafs, recording 20 goals and 44 points in his first full NHL season. The blisteringly-fast forward used his skating ability to routinely blow by defenders and get in tight on goaltenders, resulting in glorious scoring chances on a regular basis. Playing alongside Auston Matthews for much of the season, Kapanen was able to play an offensive game at even-strength which resulted in some excellent production. Even better perhaps was his contribution on the penalty kill though, where he has developed into a reliable option for head coach Mike Babcock. That kind of versatility makes him an extremely valuable piece for the team, and a bargain on this three-year deal that will leave him as a restricted free agent in 2022.
Johnsson, 24, also produced a 20-goal season in his rookie year with the Maple Leafs, but came about it a little differently. More elusive than fast, the Swedish forward scored most of his goals from in tight off cycle chances he or his linemates created, and did so in relatively limited playing time. Johnsson averaged just under 14 minutes of ice time per game for the season, but still managed to put up 43 points in 73 games. In fact, he registered 40 points in his last 55 games after a slow start, something the Maple Leafs will hope he can continue moving forward. The four-year deal buys out one year of unrestricted free agency for Johnsson, making him a UFA in the summer of 2023.
The inevitable question now is what will happen to the Maple Leafs other key restricted free agent, as Mitch Marner is still unsigned and the team now has just $6.9MM in cap space. They can exceed the $81.5MM ceiling by $8.15MM in the offseason and have Nathan Horton’s $5.3MM deal to put on long-term injured reserve, but will still have to clear some more room if they want to add anywhere else on the roster. Defense is obviously the easy place to make an improvement, as the team only has seven defensemen in the whole organization with any NHL experience and three of those—Justin Holl, Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman—have played a total of just 69 NHL contests.