In wake of some actual news and a few semi-confirmed signings, I thought I'd take a stab at a roster. I hope you enjoy and take everything I put forward with a grain of salt because, as you know, this is silly season where the unexpected will certainly happen.
What We Know
The following players will certainly be on the team next year: Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Zach Hyman, Trevor Moore, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott, Freddy
Those I think are self explanatory. An expanded core if you will.
On top of the above, we also know that the leafs are counting on Ilya Mikheyev to make an impact on the left wing, so we can add him. In addition, Mackenzie has reported that Kappanen's deal should look like 3.2 x 3, and Johnsson should be 3.4 x 4. We'll take those numbers and move forward.
With these locks in place, the roster looks like this:
John 'PJs' Tavares
Auston 'Mother Fucking' Matthews
Morgan 'The Captain' Rielly
- When healthy
So, with this set we are missing a back up goalie, 2 centres, 2 RW, 1 LW, 1 spare, 1 LD, 2 RD.
Lets start with who is coming back. I think Nylander and Kadri aren't going anywhere. They could potentially be traded but I really think that Dubas values these two immensely. Of the two Kadri is more likely to be traded but I think we can make a good team without moving him. If he does get moved, I'd guess Willy slides over to the 3C until a replacement is found/traded for, but for simplicity I'm going to keep Kadri at the 3C for now. If Kadri was moved, you can expect a damn decent RD in return, so it wouldn't be the end of the world but I digress.
Next, I expect at least Calle Rosen to make the jump up from the Marlies, and possibly Lilljegren as well, perhaps as the 7th Dman to start. I think the Goat and Petan will be sticking around at least for opening day. That fills our 2 centre spots, 1 RW spot, 1 LW spot, 1 LD spot, and a spare D.
Alright. Now lets slay this dragon. Mitchell "Actually Jesus 'Actually Paul's Son' " Marner. He stay. Despite the oral vomit that Dreger spouts every day, I think what happens is that Mitch's camp meets with a few teams and realizes they have way less leverage than previously thought. Even with this happening, I think it's still going to be a hefty price to lock this beautiful little bastard up long term. Contract length is apparently the sticking point. I think 5 years is a non starter for the leafs, and 8 years is apparently a non starter for Mitch. Lets settle on 6 for the sake of argument and move this along. I'm going to pencil him in at 10 x 6. Is it an overpay? Maybe. Let's call it the "worst" case scenario (I hope). Cue the tweet from bob saying he signed for 11 x 5 or something.
After that is said and done, we now have everything except the RD side and a goalie. I think Dubes is going to wait to move Sparks until after training camp or even a little into the season. Its not ideal but the other option is signing a UFA goalie, and aside from the ones that we clearly can't get, our options are McElhinny (lol), Pickard (double lol), McKenna, Neuvirth, Johnson, Elliot, etc etc. For a team skewing young in recent years, thats a lot of mid to late 30 year olds.
As much as it pains me, Brown cow has to go. In addition, we still have the contracts of Holl and Zaitsev to deal with. With babcock refusing to ever play Holl, and Zaitsev wanting out, I'm going to try to make a few trades that seem reasonable.
TSN lists the following D men as top trade bait: Barrie (RD, $5.5M, 1 Yr Rem, Colorado), Letang (RD, $7.25M, 3 Yr Rem, Pittsburgh), Hamonic (RD, $3.86M, 1 Yr Rem, Calgary), Miller (RD, $3.88M, 3 Yr Rem, Vegas), Hamilton (RD, $5.75M, 2 Yr Rem, Carolina), Tanev (RD, $4.45M, 1 Yr Rem, Vancouver).
Among these, I think simply due to cap hits the only targettable ones would be Hamonic and Miller. Lets try for Hamonic.
I don't think Brown or Z are a fit for calgary. They currently have 12ish million in cap and a lot of forward spots to fill. Instead I think the cost is probably one of our prospects. Sandin and Lilly are not moving, so the next on the list would be Bracco. Unfortunately, you have to give to get, and Bracco is our most-known prospect commodity. You could have some picks going in either direction to even things up, I don't care to debate which picks, but lets table a Bracco+ for Hamonic+ trade.
After this, our trade chips really get thin. Once Derms is healthy, a top 2 RD of Hamonic and Dermott is pretty decent (assuming the leafs want to stick with Derms on the right side). We just have to shed some salary and nab a 3RD from UFA or trade to finish up.
Teams with a lot of cap space: Vancouver, Ottawa, Carolina, New Jersey, a few others.
Now, I've heard Zaitsev would fetch a decent return, and I've also heard that the leafs would have to sweeten the pot to make a trade work. So the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Let's just say that Ottawa is willing to do business, so we send Zaitsev and a prospect (Marchment? Borgman?) in exchange for checks notes uhhh Dylan DeMelo? Sure. As before, there could be additional picks going either way. Whatever works.
Finally, Connor Brown goes for a 2nd or perhaps 3rd round pick. I'm calling Jim Benning and hoping he's in a frisky mood.
Also, lets say Holl is an addition to one of the above trades. Otherwise I think he either gets buried or sent away for a 6th or 7th rounder. Babs just doesn't trust him enough for it to make sense to keep him around.
The trades are then:
The Roster Prediction
Freddy Andersen, Garret Sparks
- When healthy
Thats it folks. According to capfriendly, this crew comes in a hair under $80 million, so theres a tiny bit of wiggle room for free agency next season. You could also devote that space to an upgrade over Sparks if you wish. Other perks of this lineup: 1) The forward group is dope. 2) Our RD side is now two thirds Travis, which is neat. 3) Freddy Andersen is our saviour
Hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to pick it apart / suggest better trades.