This past Friday, Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston was a guest on the Steve Dangle Podcast, a Toronto Maple Leafs-centric hockey podcast that is one of the most popular hockey podcasts in the continent. Johnston made a prediction to the panel that he believes the Maple Leafs are going to make a big move in the offseason and that there will be a player in the lineup that will generate plenty of excitement among the Toronto fanbase.
“There’s gonna be like one player on this roster on opening night that is going to get everyone excited about…like I’m talking about a big name or big promise player and no one’s gonna see it coming. Like I think they’re gonna make a big move of some sort, it’s not just gonna be the same group next season.”
Johnston went on to say that had a player in mind that Toronto could be in on that plays for an American team that is not playing at the moment and that they have multiple years of term left on their contract.
Once that news reached Maple Leafs Twitter, everyone immediately zeroed in on the Philadelphia Flyers‘ very own Travis Konecny of all players that fit that criteria.
Listen, I totally get wanting Travis Konecny on your team. He scores goals, he’s a pain in the butt to play against, he’s not afraid to mix it up with other players on the ice, and he’s on a reasonable contract given his production.
However, what real connection does Konecny have to the Leafs in this guessing game? He’s from London and he spent his time in the OHL between Ottawa and Sarnia, so it’s not like he really spent much time around Toronto growing up.
Honestly, we didn’t even want to entertain this idea at all because there’s no real basis for it at all as it’s just widespread speculation on a mystery player that could be almost anyone, but news is slow in the offseason and it’s just fun to watch other fanbases flock after our players.
Let’s try and look at this realistically for a second. Toronto currently has 13 players on the roster that are free agents heading into this offseason, 12 being unrestricted and 1 being restricted. Seven of those, all unrestricted, are forwards, and they’ll be likely bringing back a few of those players such as Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton. They’ll also be losing someone in Seattle’s expansion draft later on as well.
It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs are pretty cap-strapped, and without any new signings, the Maple Leafs 2021-22 cap hit is already at $68,994,783 when you factor in the 14 signed roster players and the last year of Phil Kessel’s retained salary from his 2015 trade to Pittsburgh.
Konecny carries a cap hit of $5.5 million until 2025. The Leafs’ 2021-22 cap hit with Konecny’s contract without retention would stand at $74,494,783 without any other signings at the moment. It simply just wouldn’t work from a cap space standpoint as Toronto would hypothetically only have $6,505,217 in space should that happen.
Of course, the Flyers could retain salary and more pieces could be swapped and Toronto could maybe make it happen if they exchange a larger contract, but everything would probably come at a cost that general manager Kyle Dubas wouldn’t like to pay.
I get Maple Leafs’ fans frustrations. You had all these great expectations for the team and they fell flat in the playoffs in the worst collapse in franchise history. They were on the verge of winning a playoff series for the first time since 2004 (Jeremy Roenick says hello). They were the perennial favorites out of the North Division and it all just vanished as quickly as they had taken their 3-1 series lead.
We’re both fans of teams that have long Stanley Cup droughts and constantly underachieve every season, and I get that the Leafs need a shakeup. We do too, we understand the pain, but Maple Leafs fans, you’re not getting Travis Konecny. He’s ours and he’s here to stay.