We did this until August. Ultimately. The darkest month for hockey content is over and by next week we’ll have prospect camps, the following week we’ll have rookie tournaments and soon training camps will open. NHL hockey is slowly making a comeback.
While the return of hockey and the things that are talked about in hockey is more than welcome, it is starting to attach a sense of urgency to some of the things that remain to be worked out for the Leafs, and at the top of the list has to be dealt with. contract of Morgan rielly.
One of the things that has been an ongoing area that Kyle Dubas needs to improve on is tackling the number of talent that has walked through the door in free agency with no returning assets for the Leafs beyond having a little more space to work with. the off-season.
Kyle Dubas became the general manager of the Leafs in May 2018. This first offseason is a little more forgivable because Lou Lamoriello would not have extended James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, but it is nevertheless under the supervision of Dubas that JVR and Bozak left the Leafs without Toronto receiving a comeback. The next offseason, Jake Gardiner would be the high profile player who would not be re-signed and leave the Leafs on the open market. The summer of 2020 was a bit more forgivable, but once again Tyson Barrie and Cody This would leave the Leafs organization with no trumps in return, and given that both were drafted with one season remaining on their contracts, that’s understandable, but given their performance as the Leafs, moving them to the deadline would have been just as understandable and instead emphasizes an exodus of branded talent without even a draft pick in return.
This current offseason has seen the same, and while the Leafs have taken an ‘all or nothing’ stance on their season, the decision to risk leaving on-hold UFA assets like Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman marching for nothing was another. bet failed. The third failed bet under Kyle Dubas and the fourth we’ve seen with the revitalized Leafs (this run to the 2017 playoffs should be treated like a found wallet.)
Here we are now with Morgan Rielly, arguably the best holding UFA asset that the Leafs have risked bringing to market. Whether you like Rielly’s style of play or not, he’s been the number one defenseman for the Leafs. He’s a valued player in the NHL, and he’s someone who could get a contract the size of Dougie Hamilton on the open market and could very well need a John Carlson-style overtime to keep him. A costly reality, and even if Rielly strikes a friendly deal with the team, it will be a significant increase and could come with a worrisome tenure.
While doing the extension during the offseason doesn’t eliminate the possibility of it being done during the season, things only get more complicated the more time it takes. An overtime at any point has the same effect, but the Leafs lose a lot of commercial influence as teams finalize their rosters, and with the number of teams in the NHL’s maximum salary cap, even the maximum salary cap in the NHL. Morgan Rielly’s very friendly $ 5 million is getting harder and harder to move. The reality is the Leafs could find themselves in a very familiar place by the trade deadline where they have still unsigned talent on the roster, and a team and fan base who want to believe it’s in their best interests. to keep Rielly as a “rental player’s own” a playoff run.
The Leafs are in the unfortunate situation of wanting to keep Rielly, but faced with the complex realities of their salary cap situation, which is not going to improve. They are also presented with an offseason where there doesn’t seem to be enough defenders for everyone. The Leafs aren’t exactly a team that can sacrifice defensive depth, but given the offensive nature of Rielly’s game, they might be more comfortable moving on. Rielly being traded means there wouldn’t be much compromise on the defensive zone, but the Leafs 5v5 transition game immediately takes a giant step backwards.
Rielly is represented by JP Barry, who has no shortage of clients, and has four other clients on the Leafs, so there’s an absolutely good working relationship with Toronto. Barry also has a track record of reasonable contracts, like the Pastrnak deal, Klefbom in Edmonton, but he’s also just secured for his other client Dougie Hamilton a $ 9 million AAV deal with a remarkably similar role to Rielly. Basically, it’ll be team friendly or it won’t.
The Leafs are quieter than ever about whether there is progress, but at the same time, there has also been no mention of Rielly in trade rumors. With the August vacation coming to an end, we might start to learn more about this important contract, but for now, we just know Rielly should be an organizational priority.