Now that it’s official and 32 year old Kyle Dubas has been named general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team’s fans and media personalities have spent the past few days predicting the young GM’s first big move. Re-sign James van Riemsdyk? Negotiate extensions for William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews? Make a pitch for John Tavares? What’s it going to be?
Well, here’s the thing… Dubas has a LOT of big decisions to make this offseason and the resulting moves could mean that as many as 10 current roster players will not return to the team for 2018-19. Let’s be clear, Matthews, Marner, Morgan Rielly and Frederik Andersen aren’t going anywhere. Together with head coach Mike Babcock, these players comprise the core of the Leafs both now and for the foreseeable future. But what about JVR? What about other pending free agents like Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov?
In his latest article for The Athletic, Leafs insider James Mirtle surveys the Leafs’ current roster and highlights 10 players whom he believes could have played their last game for the Leafs.
Unsurprisingly, van Riemsdyk tops the list. Given that JVR is likely to earn himself a huge raise in free-agency and that the Leafs have so far neglected to even begin contract negotiations with the big winger, he’s likely gone. Ditto for Bozak. No contract negotiations and Babcock made it clear down the stretch that he didn’t trust Bozak for anything more than depth assignments.
Tomas Plekanec and Dominic Moore are both likely to move on, either into retirement or with another club via free-agency.
Mirtle also predicts that Dubas will look to move enforcer Matt Martin or, failing that, re-assign him within the organization to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
The last two pending free-agents are Komarov and defenseman Roman Polak, both of whom are likely to walk this offseason. “It’s possible he doesn’t get any bites in free agency and circles back to the Leafs,” says Mirtle regarding Komarov, however the maturation of young Marlies blue liners like Justin Holl and Tomas Liljegren likely means that Polak is out of luck.
Perhaps the most interesting player on Mirtle’s list however is defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. With extensions for Nylander, Marner and Matthews on the horizon, it’s possible that last summer’s extension for Zaitsev could be problematic. Could Dubas look to move the blue liner before things get too tight?
It’s possible he could rebound in a big way if fully healthy next season. And he has the backing of the coach, too, so dealing him could be controversial internally. Also noteworthy: Zaitsev’s 10-team no-trade clause kicks in July 1, 2019.
Interesting. While it might seem like a bit of a stretch to trade Zaitsev, the truth is that Dubas is a true wild card. The wonderboy GM is bound to make a splash this offseason and you can bet that the Toronto media will spend every waking moment trying to predict it between now and the moment it goes down. Stay tuned for a very interesting offseason in Toronto.