Sellers beware: Why Leaf should be hesitant to move salary on deadline
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Let’s address my dishonest title. Pages are not vendors. Boom, clickbait, baby.
My confusing label aside, the Leafs may be looking to move salary at the deadline and that essentially makes them sellers when it comes to Kerfoot, Engvall, and Holl, as their three pending unrestricted free agents have more significant cap hits attached to them. The Leafs, of course, would have $5.2M to work with if they cut 19 players off their roster and put Jake Muzzin on LTIR for the rest of the season. Throw in salary retention and that’s $10.4M worth of upgrades available. That’s enough for Timo Meyer and Jack McCabe to retain 50% of the salary. How they will add those players, who knows, but from a salary perspective (not an SPC perspective) they can be brought in.
There are things that always have to catch up. When you are talking about 50% salary retention the cost of players goes up a lot. And yet Leaf’s little matter probably wants at least one or two healthy scratches hanging around the club. To get to that point, the Leafs will have to look at Kerfoot, Engvall and Holl options. And these are varying degrees of good ideas and can look like an addition and turn it into a random deckchair instead.
So let’s start with a small guess and that is that Timo Meyer, Bo Horvat and Travis Koneni all represent significant upgrades and if one of them lands, it’s probably worth parting ways with a pending free agent. That said, there’s no shortage of potential 2LW players out there, and comparing them to Kerfoot and Engvall doesn’t necessarily show a significant upgrade.
While both Engvall and Kerfoot have seen their points rates drop since the start of this month, Engvall dropped from 1.66 to 1.51 and Kerfoot from 1.6 to 1.39. A few assists could swing those numbers again, but for now the comparables I’ve chosen all represent upgrades offensively, but don’t show upgrades in longer playing time and on-ice performance.
So the lack of an upgrade in on-ice performance can largely be attributed to playing a lottery-bound team versus a team near the top of the league. The outsiders will also play in top six situations for tougher competition than the current Leafs incumbents, in short, a slight drop off is expected.
That’s not really the full story though, and it’s worth considering that none of these players match the physical play of Kerfoot or Engvall, and to some extent that was on the checklist. Nyqvist is the best option and Garland comes close, but they don’t check that physical play box.
Kerfoot and Engvall are both worthwhile defensive zone options and capable puck carriers. We can ignore O’Reilly’s GF%, which is potentially a brutal outlier for him, and assume that he could be more capable with better linemates, but that’s also ignoring that he’s an older player with speed coming back from a broken leg. reduced A less aggressive, less physical Pierre Engvall doesn’t have a huge appeal.
You can talk a lot about playoff pedigree, clutch performance, leadership and how a better team will produce better results, but before you consider the possibility of taking a pay cut for Engvall or Kerfoot, do you want the Leafs to use the first round? Pick and send a prospect to hopefully meet third line performance?
The story is somewhat similar when you look at someone like Connor Garland vs. Alex Kerfoot. Of course Garland is a player I like and trust, but it’s not worth giving up a squishy asset when I can’t make a case for him with Kerfoot outside of everyone getting better after coming out of Vancouver.
When it comes to forwards, it’s a big or cheap situation. The Leafs shouldn’t blow what they have or if they absolutely must, they should first deal players like Kerfoot or Ngvall as assets because the second Kerfoot is traded by the Leafs as a salary dump, the team immediately flips him for a 3rd round pick. will be able to, or perhaps better off if they retain the salary.
When it comes to adding defensemen, the situation appears to be more complicated than it appears to be. The trade deadline mentality around defensemen has most GMs and fans reverting to dead puck era thinking. Everyone wants to be tough, shotblocker and home defenseman. If you have a player who has been remotely good in that role over the last few seasons, you have the right to be the first to claim that your fanbase has probably been trying to scratch healthy since October.
That’s an exaggeration and a player like Zach McCabe represents a capable defenseman in all situations with traits that could help the Leafs as well as provide some grit.
McCabe on Hall’s side shows an offensive upgrade. McCabe had the same hit as Hall. And McCabe is doing the same as Hall while playing on one of the worst teams in the league.
Now, that’s not the whole story as McCabe is playing a top pairing role and Hall is more of a 2nd pairing/3rd pairing hybrid when the blueline is healthy. He could also end up as a 7D if the Leafs keep him around while upgrading the blueline. In short, you have to be significantly better than Hall to upgrade.
McCabe has the added bonus of being a very affordable option this offseason if traded with 50% salary retention and should be considered, but leaves the potential cost of the 1st to get a new appreciation for running along the blueline.
In all honesty, McCabe is pretty much off the cut for a defensive move I’d probably take. If you want to go big and go for the Jacob Chaichroon blend, chill. It’s a worthwhile goal, but what’s the point without him (or maybe Mattias Ekholm)?
This elite defenseman is available at the trade deadline.
The line starts on the left. Go for it if you want to dump futures for names that can curse you when you match up with a lineup led by Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
It goes without saying that keeping Kerfoot, Engvall, and Holl should be an absolute certainty, and especially when it comes to Kerfoot and his high cap hit, a possible trade off of moving on from his contract to free up the Leafs to do more. has . There are also questions about what the Leafs want to accomplish in both their top six and bottom six. Already Kerfoot doesn’t seem to be a direct part of the plan, and instead, he’s resumed the “just stick him in there and see what he does” role. With a $3.5M cap hit, that’s not what you want. And that’s what you have for guys like Jarnkrok, Holmberg, and even Engvall. Let the Swedes handle it.
There’s also the issue of the Leafs having to send a player out every time they bring someone in. 49 contract and plans to sign Matthew Nice, Toronto will have to move players if they are active at the trade deadline. The Marlies’ depth can certainly handle the blow, but again they may have interest in moving a free agent if they struggle to hold onto a roster spot.
Appreciating Kerfoot, Engvall and Hall may not be a regular occurrence in Toronto, but moving on from them for the sake of bringing in new faces would be a minor setback. While the idea of O’Reilly, Gavrikov, and Domi may seem like an upgrade, recent evidence suggests it isn’t, and losing draft picks and prospects to bring in some name brand players seems unnecessary.