Leafs Trade-Busy on Free Agent Frenzy

by | Jul 2, 2019

Leafs Trade-Busy on Free Agent Frenzy

by | Jul 2, 2019

No, it wasn’t Mitch Marner. But the Toronto Maple Leafs and GM, Kyle Dubas still managed to be noise-makers on a busy July 1 making a pair of trades.

The day started with an all-Ontario deal between the Leafs and Senators that saw Nikita Zaitsev, the Buds’ blueliner that requested a trade from the club, along with forward, Connor Brown and Michael Carcone. In exchange, the Sens sent defensemen, Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur along with forward, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 third round pick.

Zaitsev, 27, has five years remaining on his contract that carries a $4.5 million cap hit. The Russian-born defenseman, whose desire to be traded was reported last month. In 2017, following a stellar first season in the NHL, scoring 36 points in 82 games, he signed a seven-year, $31.5 million extension. Brown, 25, is coming off a near-30 point season and is just two years removed from netting 20 goals in 2016-17, but the forward depth in Toronto has moved him down the lineup.

Ceci, 25, is currently a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. In 74 games last season with Ottawa, he netted 26 points. Like Zaitsev, he also garnered trade talk throughout the season–as did many of the Sens that were ultimately moved. Harpur, 24, suited up in 51 games last season.

That was before the frenzy even started. The more sizeable deal of the day came in the evening, as Nazem Kadri was sent to the Avalanche in a four-player deal. Defensemen, Tyson Barrie and center, Alex Kerfoot were acquired in return. Calle Rosen was also sent to Colorado via Toronto. The two sides also sent picks in the transaction–the Leafs getting back a 2020 third; the Avs getting a 2020 sixth rounder.

Kadri, 28, was Toronto’s first round pick in 2009. Though his production fell to 44 points in 73 games, he enjoyed back-to-back 32-goal seasons in 2016-17–2017-18. Though he came under fire for his antics–most notably suspensions in back-to-back first round playoffs versus Boston, Dubas noted his overarching contributions to the franchise.

“His contributions throughout have been massive in seeing this team turn around,” Dubas said on a conference call on Monday. “He’s played extremely hard for the franchise, he’s grown up with the franchise and given everything he’s had to try and help the Maple Leafs. It’s unfortunate that we had to include him in this but we had to give up something very lucrative. He won’t soon be forgotten here.”

Avalanche GM, Joe Sakic is excited for the boost to their lineup.

“Nazem is a proven goal scorer and a fierce competitor who plays in all situations,” he said. “He is under contract for the next three seasons and will immediately fit right in as our second-line center and improve our scoring depth.”

Barrie, 27, is coming off a career-high 59-point season and is a much-coveted right-shooting defenseman. Sakic, armed with a collection of young blueliner’s including Cale Makar and Samuel Girard, wasn’t confident he’d be able to re-sign the former third round pick, who leads the franchise in points amoung defensemen. He also is confident in his young players development.

“With the arrival and emergence of (Girard) and (Makar), as well as the recent draft pick of Bowen Byram, we felt it was time to move in this direction,” Sakic said.

The Avs, who have Mikko Rantanen, due for a sizable raise, still have well over $25 million in cap space–nearly $6 million from the floor. This, despite going shopping on Monday, inking forwards, Joonas Donskoi to a four-year, $3.9 million per season contract and Pierre-Edouard Bellmare to a two-year, $1.8 million per contract.

Toronto has just over $11 million in cap space, Monday’s moves helping clear space with Marner’s extension still looming large on the franchise. Colorado will eat 50 per cent of Barrie’s deal, making it just a $2.75 million hit.

The dipped into the market with low-cost deals–highlighted by the one-year, $700,000 contract to ex-Senator captain, Jason Spezza.

Day Two of the Free Agent Frenzy sees some popular names remaining including Jake Gardiner, ex of the Leafs; 56-point and former Senator, Ryan Dzingel; former Flame turned Hurricanes forward, Micheal Ferland and Marcus Johansson (Boston) and Patrick Maroon (St. Louis), who are coming off playing in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.


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