After the Nazem Kadri trade, what's next for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

NHL Editor
Yahoo Canada Sports

Few teams have made more of the last two weeks than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tired: Zero first-round draft choices, struggling to stay afloat while drowning in cap troubles.

Wired: Mastery manoeuvring out of multiple bad contracts, upgrading bottom six lineup, securing a top right-handed defenceman.

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All this was accomplished without Toronto’s biggest puzzle piece, Mitch Marner, being secured in place. After the dust settled on a Canada Day firework of a trade, Toronto has just over $11 million in cap space — plus Nathan Horton’s LTIR $5.3 million — to sign Marner and two more RFAs it picked up.

It’s $16.3-million that still might not be enough despite the Kyle Dubas wizardry that has occurred in the last two weeks.

Cody Ceci’s last contract with the Senators was for two years with an AAV of $5.6 million, but he’s reportedly agreed to fit into the same mould as Nikita Zaitsev’s contract at $4.5 million for next season. He’ll be an RFA at the end of next season, along with a handful of other Leafs who will need new contracts in 2020. They can worry about that next year, though.

Alexander Kerfoot’s deal is a bit harder to pin down as he’s coming off a two-year, $2.275 million entry-level contract, where he basically mirrored his rookie season in production. He notched 15 goals and 42 points in his sophomore year, but what he does with his defensive instincts off the scoresheet is equally impressive.

Upgrading from Nazem Kadri, an older third-line centre, will cost the Leafs in the range of $3-4 million, depending on how arbitration talks go with Kerfoot. If you meet in the middle and estimate $3.5 million yearly, that only leaves a remaining $8.3 million for Marner.

It’s simply not enough for what is estimated to be a contract worth north of $9 million.

So, the Leafs will need to offload a few more contracts to add another $1-2 million in space for Marner. Or even more. The Leafs have already pushed out $18.1- million this offseason by shipping out contracts like Patrick Marleau, Kadri and Zaitsev, while simultaneously strengthening their roster. The cost of building a team with a win-now, worry-later mentality is that there isn’t a lot of “fat” left to cut from the lineup.

Frederik Gauthier is the easy option as he’s moved off the radar to a sixth-line role after the additions of Kerfoot, Jason Spezza and Nick Shore in the middle. Gauthier is set to make $675,000 this season before becoming an RFA next year. Add that to the Marner fund.

What else are the Leafs willing to move out to fit Marner under the cap? (Getty)
What else are the Leafs willing to move out to fit Marner under the cap? (Getty)

On the back end, Justin Holl and Martin Marincin are on the bubble to be potential seventh defencemen this season and are making $675,000 and $700,000, respectively. The additions of Tyson Barrie, Ceci, Ben Harpur and Kevin Gravel mean there’s not much room left.

Toronto can make it all work by the skin of its teeth as long as Marner can agree to something in the $9-9.5 million range, Kerfoot doesn’t swing for the moon in arbitration, and the Leafs give up a few players in the process.

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