The Toronto Maple Leafs have found a dance partner willing to take Patrick Marleau’s 2019-20 $6.25 million cap hit off of their hands, sending the veteran winger to Carolina on Saturday morning.

The price to offload Marleau’s remaining year: a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 draft that is top-10 protected (shifts to 2021 if it’s inside the top 10) and a seventh-round pick in 2020. The Leafs will receive Carolina’s sixth-round pick in 2020 as the asset coming back in the deal.

The Leafs have taken a harsh dose of medicine here in order to gain significant and much-needed cap flexibility, giving them around $14 million in cap space to get RFAs Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen under contract. They’re also looking to shore up their center, left wing (especially with Marleau now gone), and defensive depth, so $14 million won’t be enough to cover all of those tasks, but Kyle Dubas is nowhere near done here, with Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev both also being shopped for cap reasons.

The Leafs, provided they finish inside the league’s top 21 teams in 2019-20, will now be without their first-round pick two years in a row. Unfortunately, unlike the Jake Muzzin acquisition, this move was simply about opening up the space to keep their core group together versus bolstering it, but it was clearly a priority for Dubas to move Marleau’s cap allotment without subtracting from their current roster.

Giving up another first-round pick when the mantra from Dubas is to pay the stars and fill the edges of the roster with cheap, capable talent only adds to the onus on the Leafs‘ draft and development teams to manufacture NHL talent from the mid-to-late rounds and keep the pipeline flowing to the big club.

For Carolina’s part, they are rich in cap space and are said to be interested in convincing Marleau to play for them this season, but failing that, they’ll buy him out to set the stage for a potential return to San Jose.

Farewell from Patrick Marleau