Maple Leafs: Marleau Move Frees Up Cap Space for Marner (Hopefully)

As most people know, the Toronto Maple Leafs had an action-packed Saturday. It’s hard to say it was a good Saturday, as a lot hinges on what’s to come.

Patrick Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, a cap-freeing move that also sent a conditional first round pick and a seventh round selection for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to Raleigh for a sixth round selection next year. You’ve got to give to get.

The Maple Leafs didn’t retain any salary on the Marleau swap, which is all part of the plan for general manager Kyle Dubas. Trading Marleau saves a $6.25 million salary, which in turn should help the team afford Mitch Marner.

The club also has pending deals for Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, which we could be hearing about any day now.

But back to Marner.

Right now, things are not looking great.

Marner, Johnsson and Kapanen will become restricted free agents starting July 1, which means other teams can start ringing the doorbell and offer sheets could come into the picture.

Why is this pertinent?

Because according to multiple sources, the Maple Leafs and Marner aren’t principally close in terms of negotiating a contract. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen and it doesn’t mean things aren’t good between Dubas and Marner’s camp.

But consider the other news, specifically that the salary cap is going to a lower-than-anticipated $81.5 million next season. That means teams will be feeling the crunch, especially as they try to lock up RFAs in the coming days and avoid offer sheets and plundering tactics from other clubs.

Toronto has the green to lock up Johnsson and Kapanen, as has been stated, but Marner’s where the question marks come in. And his deal impacts a possible deal for Jake Gardiner, who looks like he’ll be the odd one out.

While the Leafs can save some money when Nathan Horton’s contract lands on long-term injured reserve, it’s still tight.

Marner, obviously a top priority for Dubas, may be in the open to field an offer sheet if daring teams come calling. And the GM has already stated that he may not be able to match said offer sheet, if it does come at too high a price. Could that bump the team’s attention from Marner to Gardiner? Only time will tell.

But Toronto’s already endured a long, tough summer with an RFA in William Nylander and they could do without having a repeat, particularly considering how well these things go over with the fanbase. Getting Marner signed as soon as possible would quash any beef between fans and their player and you know it would assuage any pending headaches between the team and their player as well.

Did Saturday solve anything? It undoubtedly freed up some green. And Marleau’s tasteful exit from Toronto, as sad as it was to see, will hopefully serve its ultimate purpose.

(Lead photo credit: Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

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