Like any trade deadline rental right now, Kyle Clifford hopes that his stay with his new team is longer than just a handful of regular season games. If the NHL season does not resume, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be one of a number of teams regretting the prices they paid at the deadline for assets they were unable to use in the postseason. However, it seems that Clifford is hoping to stay longer than just this season anyhow and the Maple Leafs are equally hopeful of making more of their deadline deal. Agent Todd Reynolds tells Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun that there is mutual interest on both sides in a contract extension.
Of course, there are a couple obvious caveats with this report. The first is that this report comes from Clifford’s agent, whose job it is to drum up interest in his client. With NHL action suspended and Clifford heading toward unrestricted free agency with 17 points on the year and just three in 16 games with Toronto, Reynolds needs to keep the veteran forward’s value up, especially if he doesn’t get another chance to play this year. The other issue is that the Maple Leafs are in no position to make any future salary commitments until they are aware of the impact that the current league pause will have on the salary cap. With nearly $77MM already tied up in 17 players for next season and major needs on defense, Toronto may not have the room to sign a bottom-six forward like Clifford if the salary cap remains at $81.5MM or only increases marginally.
With that said, should the report be more than just puffery from an agent and if the Maple Leafs do indeed have the desire and space to retain Clifford, the fit makes a lot of sense. The team acquired he and goaltender Jack Campbell from the Los Angeles Kings because they both fit specific needs. Toronto could use a veteran defensive forward who plays with grit and intensity, not just in in the 2020 postseason but moving forward. Clifford brings experience and leadership, but most importantly a physical element often lacking in the Leafs’ lineup. The Ontario native reportedly likes playing in Toronto, has an identifiable role on the team moving forward, and it doesn’t hurt that Reynolds also represents another Maple Leaf defensive forward in Zach Hyman. A signing might not be imminent, but mutual interest in an extension between Toronto and Clifford seems to make more sense than not.