Kyle Dubas, Mitch Marner, Nick Robertson, Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Qualifying Offers, Marner, Zaitsev & More

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The next two weeks promise to be exciting, as Toronto Maple Leafs fans anxiously await the outcome of the protracted negotiations between restricted free agent (RFA) Mitch Marner’s camp and Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. There is much work that needs to be done, but most of it depends on how the contract impasse is reconciled.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marleau, Johnsson, Kapanen, Marner, More

In the meanwhile, here is some news I have compiled on the Maple Leafs.

Item One:
Maple Leafs Give Qualifying Offers to Marner, Kapanen, Johnsson, Carcone

June 25 was the deadline for extending qualifying offers to restricted free agents (RFAs) and the Maple Leafs announced who would be receiving offers and who they would allow to become free agents. It was not a surprise that the team extended Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, and Mitch Marner.

Maple Leafs right wing Kasperi Kapanen
Maple Leafs right wing Kasperi Kapanen. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Their qualifying offer to Michael Carcone should also not be a surprise to Toronto Marlies fans. Carcone, who came to the Maple Leafs from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Josh Leivo, is a 23-year-old right winger who played for both the Utica Comets and the Marlies last season. He scored 44 points in 62 games and looks to be a prospect with some potential upside. Obviously, Dubas agrees.

The Maple Leafs choose not to extend qualifying offers to Gabriel Gagne (a 22-year-old right winger), Nicholas Baptiste (a 23-year-old right winger who has played 47 games with the Buffalo Sabres), Jordan Subban (a 24-year-old right-shot defenseman), and Eamon McAdam (a 24-year-old goalie). These players will immediately become unrestricted free agents.

Related: Ennis Was Maple Leafs’ Bargain Hero: Who’s Next?

Igor Ozhiganov, who played with the Maple Leafs last season, had a disappointing season and has returned to Russia. He also was not qualified.

Item Two: Dubas Gives Marner His Due

Although the negotiations between Marner and Dubas have become tense, with some posturing at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver last weekend, Dubas isn’t begrudging the process, nor is he taking any opportunity to critique Marner for making life tough for him.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Chicago Blackhawks Corey Crawford
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Dubas noted about his prize RFA: “I’m always hopeful it will get done before July 1.” However, he also admitted, “It’s not on Mitch to free us up, he has his rights. He has been a fantastic player for us, and person for us. We’ll continue to work with (agent) Darrin Ferris and his people, and just carry on.”

Dubas was facing a difficult task when he believed the salary cap would be $83 million, as was announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last December. But, with the announcement that the salary cap for next season will be $81.5 million, his job became even more difficult.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Zaitsev, Hurricanes Trade, Marleau

Although $81.5 million is a $2 million increase from the 2018-19, it’s also a $1.5 million decrease from expectations. That’s tough for the Maple Leafs and might cost them another veteran player to stay below the salary cap.

Item Three: Might Nikita Zaitsev Be Staying
in Toronto?

Nikita Zaitsev asked to be traded on May 30, and Dubas seems to be working to accommodate that request. However, the truth is that the team doesn’t seem to be close to moving the right-shot defenseman. Last week, there were rumors that the Canucks were interested, but it’s been quiet since the NHL Entry Draft.

Nikita Zaitsev Maple Leafs
Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dubas noted that, “I don’t think it’s guaranteed at all (that Zaitsev will be traded).” He also added, “We’ve told [Zaitsev and agent Dan Milstein] we will try to work with them and find a solution, but if we can’t return a defenseman back and can’t stay equal or improve the team, he will be back with the team. But right now, it’s status quo.”

Zaitsev has five seasons left on a seven-year, $31.5-million contract ($4.5 million AAV).

Item Four: Nick Robertson Excited to
Be Drafted by the Maple Leafs at #53

Nick Robertson is an undersized but a hard-working young forward. Perhaps overlooked because of his size, he was selected 53rd overall by the Maple Leafs at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Robertson predicted the pic: He told his father after the early-June NHL Combine in Buffalo that, “he would rather be the 53rd pick by the Maple Leafs than go late in the first round to another team because, ‘Toronto is the best organization in the NHL to develop and the best city, the best fans,’” (from ‘Robertson’s drive makes great first impression at Leafs development camp,’ The Toronto Sun –6/25/19).

The Maple Leafs were surprised that Robertson was still available. News from the Maple Leafs player development camp, that started on June 25, was that he impressed the team with his drive and determination.

Robertson, also, moved to the Detroit suburb of Northville as a child, when Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock coached the Detroit Red Wings. Babcock also happened to also live in Northville. Robertson knew the neighbourhood where Babcock lived and wanted to meet him.

Related: Dubas Makes Big Statement with Undersized Draft Picks

On Halloween, the very young Robertson dressed up in his Pavel Datsyuk sweater and went running up and down the street knocking on doors asking, “Are you Babcock?” When Robertson finally knocked on the right door, he asked the coach about his favorite player, Datsyuk. As he recalls, Babcock gave him lots of small candy bars.

Let’s hope Robertson will soon be knocking on Babcock’s office door seeking more ice time.

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