Alex Kerfoot, Jake Gardiner, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyson Barrie

Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Barrie, Kerfoot, Marner, Offer Sheet & More

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One more day has gone, and still no news of a Mitch Marner signing. It’s no longer surprising that the Toronto Maple Leafs drama has dragged out this long. Until recently, it was fortunate for the team that across town the Kawhi Leonard and Toronto Raptors free agency drama had taken some of the heat away from waiting for Marner to make up his mind to either sign with the Maple Leafs or to move on.

Now that Leonard has signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, perhaps fate has the Maple Leafs in its hands. It would be a big loss for Toronto to lose both Leonard and Marner. We’ll see soon enough.

Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews
Mitch Marner with Auston Matthews and Frederik Andersen
(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

In the meantime, amid rumors, general manager Kyle Dubas has continued working on the business of team and, to my mind, has done that business well. Here’s some of the news and rumors around both new and old Maple Leafs players.

Item One: Barrie Talks about Kerfoot

New Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie probably knows that he was the main return in the trade for long-time Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, but he’s ensured that fans know he didn’t come alone in the team’s trade with the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week.

Related: Was It Time for the Maple Leafs to Trade Nazem Kadri?

Barrie took time to let others knew how he felt about Kerfoot. His message? Wait and see how good this guy is. He’s not a minor piece of the deal.

Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot
Former Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Specifically, Barrie noted about teammate Kerfoot, “He’s a Harvard grad, great kid, smart kid, and he’s a tremendous playmaker.” He added: “I think you guys are really going to love him. I was really happy to see him come with me. He’s going to be a good player in this league for a lot of years.”

If he’s right, that’s good news for the Maple Leafs who almost immediately signed Kerfoot to a four-year contract at $3.5 million AAV. That signing saves the Maple Leafs a million per season by replacing Kadri with Kerfoot, and his two-season Avalanche history suggests there’s reason to believe Kerfoot will be a more-than-adequate, third-line center for his new team.

Related: NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs, Canucks, Flames, More

“He’s got some of the best vision I’ve ever played with,” Barrie also noted about the young center. Kerfoot has scored 34 goals, 51 assists, and 85 points during his first two NHL seasons and comes with the reputation of playing well at both ends of the ice. His 56 percent faceoff success rate was ranked 12th for all NHL players with over 400 faceoffs.

Item Two: Is an Offer Sheet Coming for Marner?

Rumors persist that unsigned restricted free agent (RFA) Marner might get an offer sheet. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reports that the chances of Marner receiving an offer sheet are increasing. These rumors suggest that at least one team is seriously considering presenting an offer sheet to Marner.

The rumors I read suggest that it might be the New York Islanders. It wouldn’t be a surprise if former Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello were smiling at the opportunity.

Lou Lamoriello New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders attends the 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Obviously,
an offer sheet means nothing unless Marner “dares” to sign it. No logic I can
fathom suggests any obvious reason, other than money, that might lure Marner
away from his hometown Maple Leafs. That’s why I suggest “dares,” because
there’s no certainty Dubas would or could break the bank to match any offer
sheet Marner signed.

Although Dubas has always taken the high road during these negotiations by restating that Marner is a great guy, if I were Dubas I might be miffed if Marner put a financial gun to the team’s head by signing an offer sheet. Everyone knows the situation: the Leafs are extremely vulnerable because they lack cap space, and Marner’s signing would force the Leafs to trade other players if they hoped to fit under the salary cap limitations.

Related: Maple Leafs Need to Trade Nylander to Keep Johnsson & Kapanen

As I have regularly noted in previous posts, it would less than good business not to consider the nature of the compensation of four first-round draft picks coming back if Marner signed. He’s a great player, but who knows what young star might be available over the next few years from the NHL Entry Draft? Furthermore, not signing Marner immediately relieves any salary cap pressure the team was facing.

Item Three: Maple Leafs Salary Cap Space Getting Smaller

Speaking of the Maple Leafs opportunities being limited by declining salary-cap space, Dubas noted during an interview on the Tim & Sid Show on July 4, “I’ll try to get as creative as we possibly can to try to get it across the finish line.” That’s really not surprising news. Dubas has no choice.

Kyle Dubas Toronto Maple Leafs Draft
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During this week, the team has almost locked up its remaining salary cap space by signing Kerfoot and new defenseman from the Ottawa Senators Cody Ceci. Currently, the cap space is about $3.77 million plus the $5.3 million that represents Nathan Horton’s contract that can be moved to the long-term injured reserve list. Still, that’s still just over $9 million and probably not enough to sign Marner.

Item Four: Might Gardiner Go to the Canadiens?

Darren Dreger reported on TSN 1050 that he believes the Montreal Canadiens are “keenly interested” in Jake Gardiner and that Marc Bergevin had salary cap space to make such a deal. He believed the Canadiens could use a left-handed defenseman and Gardiner might be high on their list.

Related: Canucks News & Rumors: Kevin Hayes, Eriksson, Offseason Changes

Gardiner might seem like a gamble because of last season’s back issues. However, those same back issues create a soft market for Gardiner, which makes him a good risk for a team like the Canadiens.

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