Why the Maple Leafs Are An Ideal Trade Partner for Blackhawks
By Tony Gianares
It’s everybody’s favorite time of the year — rumor mill season. The Toronto Maple Leafs will be sellers this offseason which could benefit the Blackhawks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in all kinds of trouble. Another early exit from the playoffs and no cap space. Multiple pieces of their young, promising core could be on their way out this offseason, unless Maple Leafs’ GM, Kyle Dubas, can make something happen. This works to the Blackhawks’ advantage, as they have multiple roster holes to fill.
As of right now, the Maple Leafs are projected to have $8.790 mil in cap space. That’s not nearly enough to retain their trio of RFAs.
Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson are all RFAs this offseason, so Toronto will need to get creative if they intend on keeping any of them.
Any of the Toronto Trio would be a welcome addition to the Blackhawks, but they will likely have to take on at least one of Toronto’s big contracts.
One player the Maple Leafs are expected to unload is 39-year-old veteran, Patrick Marleau. Marleau is currently playing on the final year of a 3-year, $18.750 mil ($6.250 mil AAV) contract. This latest news just about seals his fate in Toronto.
The Maple Leafs have reportedly been gauging trade interest for Marleau. They spoke with both the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes, but nothing ever came of those talks.
Toronto has seemingly become desperate. Maybe StanBo & Co. can take advantage and hold onto the more valuable Blackhawks’ assets. After all, the best way to sustain success is to develop talent from within your organization and keep it.
What Would the Blackhawks Gain and Lose In This Deal?
If the Blackhawks wanted to target one of the Toronto Trio, they do have the cap space to do it. Marleau’s contract would take up a nice chunk of the Blackhawks’ projected $20.394 mil cap space for next season, but it would only be for one year.
Patrick Marleau’s production has gradually fallen off over the years, but that’s to be expected as he nears age 40. He still managed to produce 37 points in 82 games last season as a 39-year-old.
The leftover $14.144 mil would be used to give one of Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson a new deal. On their next deals, I expect Kapanen and Johnsson to land somewhere in the $3-5 mil AAV range. This is a pretty reasonable price tag for what they bring to the table.
The question is what would a possible trade between the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs look like? At this point, it doesn’t look like Toronto can afford to retain any of Patrick Marleau’s $6.25 mil.
A Marleau deal will probably cost the Blackhawks some prospects, and potentially, some draft picks. Here is my theoretical trade proposal:
This proposal would serve as a starting point for a trade and help get Bowman’s foot in the door.
Toronto will be happy to get Marleau off their books and they will likely want a defenseman in return who can hold his own defensively. Unfortunately, most of the defensemen on the Blackhawks’ NHL roster won’t be much help in that regard.
Jake Ryczek has looked solid defensively over the past couple of seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), where he posted a 15 ± in 2017-18 and a 33 ± in 2018-19. The upside is definitely there.
Other Maple Leafs’ Trade Targets:
- William Nylander ($6.962 mil AAV through 2023-24)
- Nazem Kadri ($4.5 mil AAV through 2021-22)
Last, but not least, the Blackhawks should stay away from a Maple Leafs defenseman who is also on the trade block, Nikita Zaitsev. Zaitsev struggled last season while playing alongside Jake Gardiner. Plus, Zaitsev’s contract isn’t very team friendly at $4.5 mil AAV through 2023-24.
It will be interesting to see if anything ever develops between the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs, but a trade between the two teams could be mutually beneficial.