Max Domi would slot in properly on the Maple Leafs’ second line. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
With the March 3 commerce deadline quick approaching, the Toronto Maple Leafs have simply over a month to fortify their roster forward of one other pivotal playoff run, the place they’ll try to extinguish their postseason demons.
There isn’t a lot monetary flexibility to work with, although, which means basic supervisor Kyle Dubas will seemingly be restricted to 1 notable acquisition this yr.
The Maple Leafs, like a number of different NHL golf equipment, are strapped for money this season and at present sit properly above the $82.5 million wage cap. But with Jake Muzzin ($5.625 million), Nick Robertson ($796,667) and Victor Mete ($750,000) residing on long-term injured reserve, administration’s reduction pool consists of roughly $7.17 million.
Toronto is already utilizing simply over $6 million of that determine, leaving them $1.135 million in spending with a 23-skater roster. That quantity could be elevated by sending a number of gamers to the minors — like Bobby McMann and Joey Anderson, maybe — and working with 21 gamers.
So, how ought to Dubas spend his group’s remaining cap area? Will he add one other blueliner on the again finish? Or enhance his top-six ahead group with a dependable scorer?
As depleted because the Maple Leafs defence has been this season, the present group has carried out properly to this point, sitting sixth in targets in opposition to per sport, sixth in photographs allowed per sport, eleventh in anticipated targets in opposition to and tenth in scoring probabilities in opposition to. Up entrance, nevertheless, it would make extra sense to amass a brand new linemate for John Tavares and Mitch Marner, ideally a left-hander.
And with a number of top-six forwards reportedly accessible, there seemingly received’t be any scarcity of potential targets for Toronto. So let’s take a peek at a number of of them.
Cap hit: $3 million, UFA after 2022-23
The son of Tie Domi, who performed 12 seasons with the Maple Leafs from 1994-2006, Max Domi has been losing away with the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
The 27-year-old impending UFA leads his membership in targets (14) and factors (32) throughout 45 video games whereas rating second amongst forwards in common ice time (18:22). He additionally sits tied for first in power-play factors (14) and fourth in anticipated targets (six) at 5-on-5, in line with MoneyPuck.
Unlike earlier seasons, Domi has been firing pucks at a a lot increased fee in 2022-23 and changing on the second-highest taking pictures share (13.5 %) of his profession. In comparability, the left-hander’s 13.8 share in 2018-19 resulted in profession highs in targets (28) and factors (72) throughout his inaugural marketing campaign with the Montreal Canadiens.
The 5-foot-10 ahead tallied three targets and 6 factors — together with an extra time winner — in 14 playoff video games with the Carolina Hurricanes final season following a deadline commerce from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Domi has solely dished out 11 hits to this point — which might rank final amongst Toronto’s common forwards, one again of William Nylander — however has been identified for his physicality and post-whistle dust-ups. So for a group missing grit, significantly at ahead, the twelfth total choice from 2013 would make the Maple Leafs a more durable opponent.
There most likely wouldn’t be room for the Winnipeg, Man., native on Toronto’s prime power-play unit, although he might enhance the secondary group’s offensive ceiling. And he’d act as one other net-front presence, becoming a member of Michael Bunting in that regard.
The Maple Leafs might match Domi’s team-friendly cap hit onto their roster with out the Blackhawks retaining 50 %, limiting his acquisition value. But if Chicago halved his cap determine, that might enable Dubas to make one other transfer elsewhere.
Cap hit: $5.5 million, UFA after 2022-23
Like Chicago, Columbus will even try to unload items to enhance their lottery odds in quest of the primary total choice in subsequent summer time’s draft, which can seemingly see Nyquist traded for a second time in his profession.
The 33-year-old, dealt from the Detroit Red Wings to the San Jose Sharks in February 2019, is within the remaining season of his four-year contract with the Blue Jackets and has been a constant half-point-per-game participant throughout his tenure with the franchise.
Nyquist is a four-time 20-goal scorer and fell simply wanting that mark final season, ending with 18 targets in 82 video games. This season, the 5-foot-11 lefty sits tied for fourth in targets (10) on the group, tied for third in even-strength targets (eight) and third in anticipated targets (7.3) at 5-on-5.
Despite notching 4 targets and 10 factors with the person benefit in 2021-22, the veteran ahead is with out a level throughout these conditions this season. He has been efficient on the penalty kill, although, potting a pair of shorthanded markers, tied for the group lead.
At this stage of his profession, Nyquist nonetheless logs vital minutes every night time, incomes a career-high 18:06 in common ice time. And due to his versatility, he would seemingly play a dependable function in Toronto’s prime or bottom-six group.
Though Nyquist hasn’t made the playoffs since 2020, he would include seven seasons of postseason expertise, together with a Western Conference remaining berth with San Jose in 2019. During that run, he registered one aim and 11 factors over 20 contests.
The Maple Leafs would require the Blue Jackets to retain 50 % of Nyquist’s cap hit, however as a second-tier winger, he might function one other scoring menace alongside Tavares and Marner.
Cap hit: $4 million, UFA after 2023-24
Following three and a half seasons in Carolina, Niederreiter inked a two-year deal value $8 million with the Nashville Predators over the offseason. But along with his group underperforming and prone to miss the playoffs, he may very well be made accessible by way of commerce.
The 30-year-old has loved a productive inaugural marketing campaign with the Preds, posting 13 targets and 23 factors in 47 video games. He ranks tied for second in targets, second in even-strength targets (11), second in anticipated targets (9.5) at 5-on-5 and fifth in factors (23) amongst Nashville skaters.
Niederreiter produced consecutive 20-goal seasons with the Hurricanes from 2020-22 and is poised to increase that streak to a few straight this season, undertaking the feat for the seventh time in his profession.
Skating subsequent to teammates Ryan Johansen and Mikael Granlund at 5-on-5 has been an efficient mixture for Niederreiter, who’s averaging 15:49 of ice time, the second-highest of his profession. The 6-foot-2 lefty isn’t a power-play specialist however has notched two targets and 4 factors on the person benefit, making him a viable candidate for Toronto’s second unit.
Similar to Domi, Niederreiter would carry some much-needed physicality to the Maple Leafs, as he’s landed 100-plus hits in seven of his 12 NHL seasons — together with 2022-23. He has been a key supply in that division this season, along with his 103 hits rating fourth amongst Predators forwards.
The fifth total choice from 2010 has 9 seasons of playoff expertise, 4 of which have seen his respective group advance past the opening spherical. Last season, Niederreiter netted 4 targets — three versus the Boston Bruins within the first spherical — and 5 factors over 14 video games.
As a non-rental acquisition, Niederreiter would most likely value greater than Domi and Nyquist, particularly with Nashville needing to retain 50 % of his cap hit. But it may very well be value paying somewhat additional for a participant of his calibre.
Considering Toronto has six forwards as pending UFAs and two pending RFAs with arbitration eligibility after this season, including a skater signed by means of 2023-24 would possibly show worthwhile this summer time.
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