Toronto Maple Leafs: GM Kyle Dubas’ Unfinished Businessby Dom Lunardo August 13, 2022 0 comments
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas has had a busy off-season. After offloading his goaltenders from the previous year, Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, and replacing them with the likes of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, Dubas has been busy tweaking his roster ahead of the 2022-23 NHL campaign. With this being said, the 36-year-old still has some unfinished business with this Maple Leafs team. What decisions remain, and what else needs to be officially finalized before the puck drops on a new campaign? Let us read on and find out.
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First Order of Business: Sign Rasmus Sandin
The Maple Leafs boast a few promising youngsters on their blueline. At the very heart of those youngsters lies Rasmus Sandin. Alongside Timothy Liljegren and Topi Niemela, those three form the next wave of defensemen set to don the famous blue and white. However, there is one small issue. Sandin is a restricted free agent (RFA) and, as of right now, is without a contract heading into October.
As a player, Sandin employs an impressive tool kit. He is a good skater, can move the puck efficiently, and can quarterback a power play on a high-octane Leafs team. Still only 22 years of age with just 88 NHL games to his credit, the Uppsala, Sweden, native is just starting to come into his own as a player. Although Sandin is likely searching for north of $2 million per season, at this stage in the off-season, that is beginning to appear more and more unlikely. With this being said, look for the Maple Leafs and Sandin’s camp to hopefully agree to a contract in the ballpark of a two or three-year deal at just under $2 million. It would be a massive win for the Leafs.
Second Order of Business: Acquire a Middle-Six Winger
As many “in the know” around the hockey world would attest to, the Maple Leafs have a bit of a vacancy in their middle-six forward group. More specifically, the team’s second line has a fairly large void. So as we inch closer and closer to the start of training camp, one question remains, who will slot in alongside John Tavares and William Nylander on the Leafs’ second unit?
As of August 12, 2022, there are indeed a number of unrestricted free agent forwards still available. Sonny Milano, Evan Rodrigues, and Zach Aston-Reese are a few names that quickly come to mind. Not only would these players be excellent fits for Toronto, but they would also be cost-effective, which would bode well for a Leafs team that is right up against the NHL salary cap. Should the Leafs opt to fill this void internally, Dubas can always opt for highly coveted prospect Nick Robertson. Although these are all viable options, at this point, we can only speculate as to what Dubas and his staff will do prior to the start of next season. Stay tuned, Leafs nation.
Third Order of Business: Michael Bunting – Contract Extension
Michael Bunting finished the 2021-22 campaign as a runner-up for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie. With respect to Bunting’s excellent campaign, not many “in the know” around the hockey world would have predicted this.
In his first full season in the NHL last year, the Scarborough, Ontario, native put up some stellar numbers. While playing alongside stud linemates Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, Bunting scored 23 goals, 40 assists, and 63 points in 79 games. He also posted a whopping plus-27 rating with a 13.5% shooting percentage in his first full season in the show. What is even more pressing is that he did all this playing on a $950,000 cap hit. For a team like Toronto that is right up against the cap, this is absolutely tremendous value.
As of today, Bunting is set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. All indications point towards the 26-year-old receiving a significant pay increase, assuming he puts up similar production this year. Obviously, we can only speculate what an extension would look like at this point, but if Dubas can “pull the trigger” and get Bunting’s deal done early, this would be a tremendous win for all parties involved. As we conclude, one thing remains certain, “Leaf Land” is going to be must-see TV over the next 7-8 months. Enjoy it, folks.
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