The Maple Leafs have already made the biggest move that they are going to be making for the foreseeable future but newly appointed general manager Kyle Dubas still has plenty of things on his to do list for this summer. At the forefront of that list will be 3 decisions that he must make regarding the future of 3 restricted free agents and whether or not he sees them as part of his future plans for the organization.
On Wednesday The Toronto Maple Leafs answered one of those 3 questions when the Maple Leafs' Department of Public Relations announced that they had come to terms on a new contract with restricted free agent Frederik Gauthier. According to the report from the Maple Leafs the new contract will be a two year deal that will pay the young forward an average annual value of $675,000.
Some have taken this as a sign that Dubas continues to have faith in Gauthier as a center, however that may be premature at this point. The Leafs are reporting that this is going to be a two way deal and that would seemingly indicate that the Leafs intend to have Gauthier spend significant time in the American Hockey League as a member of the Toronto Marlies once again.
It's true that the Maple Leafs did lose an important part of what they do up the middle when veteran center Tyler Bozak signed with the St. Louis Blues organization as an unrestricted free agent, but the addition of former New York Islanders captain John Tavares has more than filled the gap that would have been left by Bozak. As a result Gauthier will likely once again fill a depth role for the Leafs and will more than likely only be called upon in the event of injury, illness, or a desire from the Maple Leafs to give one of their other centers a rest.
That now leaves just two restricted free agents on the Maple Leafs roster than do not have a contract, those of course are forwards Andreas Johnsson, and William Nylander. These two deals will likely be significantly more complicated for Dubas and it's likely for this reason that the Gauthier deal was concluded first.
In the case of Nylander, Dubas will need to negotiate a deal that will allow him to fit Nylander's new contract under the cap, especially come the 2019-2020 National Hockey League regular season. The Maple Leafs are expected to hand out rather hefty contracts to both star forward Auston Matthews and star forward Mitch Marner with the next year and Dubas will need to make all of that money work under a salary cap that thankfully has been steadily increasing season after season.
That's not to say that a new deal for Johnsson won't come with complications of it's own however. Although the 23 year old has only ever played in 9 NHL games for the Maple Leafs he truly distinguished himself as an excellent player for the Marlies during their championship run this season and has undoubtedly earned a ton of favor within the Leafs organization as a result. Dubas does work closely with the Marlies though so that could help him get this deal done.
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