Everyone was impressed when Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas managed to sign four star players, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander to stay on the roster long-term. But now, space is missing for the rest of the team, one that hasn’t proven it can be a top contender for the Stanley Cup.
And cap space has become a recurring problem as we saw this offseason as the Maple Leafs didn’t have the room to hold on to goalie Frederik Andersen or forward Zach Hyman. And now that star defenseman Morgan Rielly is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, fans in Toronto have become increasingly worried that he will leave for nothing.
Pierre LeBrun reminded fans on last night’s Insider Trading on TSN that Rielly is hoping to stay in Toronto. However, contract talks at the moment are very tentative.
“ I can tell you there have already been some preliminary talks during the summer and they’ve kept that pretty quiet but nothing really concrete at this point. The expectation, I’m told, is that general manager Kyle Dubas and veteran agent J.B. Barry will chat again during training camp in the next little while. But I’m not really sure that something is going to get done quickly and a lot of it has to do with where the new unrestricted free agent defenseman market has been set. Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Darnell Nurse all got deals this past off-season for $9 million-plus. And so that’s pretty difficult for the Leafs to get into at this point pending other moves when it comes to next year. So, to me, I think the dialogue will be open, it will continue, but I suspect this will drag on potentially into June.”
There is no doubt that Rielly too is eyeing those big numbers. Over the last few months alone we have seen several defensemen cash some very big checks, defensemen like Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and even Cale Makar. Every single one of those players will carry a cap hit of over $9 million per season on their new deals, we bet Rielly is also looking to cash big. Everyone doubts that Rielly’s next contract will come in lower than $8 million per season, and we know that’s a lot for Toronto to take on.
For 2022-23, Cap Friendly shows the Maple Leafs with a projected $67.78 million invested in 14 players. Goaltender Jack Campbell is also slated to become a UFA while promising defenseman Rasmus Sandin is a restricted free agent.
Spector’s Hockey’s Lyle Richardson also fears that Rielly’s contract talks will drag until June, and reminds us that fans are still calling for Rielly to get traded if he doesn’t re-sign this season.
“I don’t see that happening unless the Leafs are out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline,” he says.
But you see it too… there is a chance he could be moved! And imagine if Toronto cannot make it past the first round of the playoffs again! You’ll have to get ready for significant changes, and not just on the roster!
Source: TSN and Spector's Hockey · Photo Credit: Zuma Press