While Kyle Dubas attempts to piece together a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup while navigating significant cap challenges, Toronto Marlies General Manager Laurence Gilman also has a lot on his plate this off-season, although his work will go without the level of scrutiny of his boss’.
With 27 free agents and graduating players to take into consideration, the task of compiling two rosters at the AHL and ECHL level will no doubt be an arduous process.
Gabriel Gagne, Nicholas Baptiste, and Michael Carcone are NHL RFAs who were acquired from other teams during last season. The Marlies are highly likely to pass on Gagne and Baptiste, while there’s a very good chance Carcone is qualified. If none of the aforementioned three receive offers, I would not be surprised to see both Baptiste and Carcone presented with the option of signing an AHL deal.
Chris Mueller is an NHL UFA and the expectation is he wants to stay. The Marlies organization would certainly love to keep him around. Much will hinge on whether he’s offered another NHL deal — his last one saw him earn $650,000 regardless of which league he played in — or an AHL contract.
Predicting the future of the AHL UFAs is a much harder proposition after many of the forwards played a huge in the Newfoundland Growlers championship success in their inaugural season.
Those include Matt Bradley, Hudson Elynuik, Giorgio Estephan, Brady Ferguson, Josh Kestner, Ryan Moore, Zach O’Brien, J.J. Piccinich, Derian Plouffe, and Scott Pooley. My expectation is the bulk of those players will be offered a contract.
Harder to weigh up are Griffen Molino and Tanner MacMaster, although my hunch is neither will return and Tom Sestito will also depart.
Colin Greening penned a one-year AHL last summer after winning a championship, and I would not be surprised if he’s asked back for one more season depending on his health and ambitions moving forward. A deep thinker about the game and a likely coach in the making, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Newfoundland native remains in the organization to begin a career behind the bench on the east coast in the near future.
Trevor Moore is now a bona fide NHL’er and there’s an expectation that one or two of the forwards still on entry-level contracts could join him next season. Pierre Engvall, Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks, Mason Marchment, Jeremy Bracco, Dmytro Timashov, and Egor Korshkov fall into that category, albeit some are more credible candidates to push for a job as of Fall 2019 than others.
Those already inked to AHL contracts for 2019-20 include Colt Conrad (center), Justin Brazeau (RW), Riley Woods (C/LW), Rich Clune (LW), and Trey Bradley (LW).
Destined for pastures new are Kristian Pospisil (Lukko) and Josh Jooris (Lausanne), with the latter opening up a veteran spot in the lineup.
Toronto’s greatest weakness at the AHL level remains at the center position, so don’t be surprised if that is an area highlighted in player recruitment this summer, with the team possibly targeting a reclamation project or two.
Toronto has just one NHL RFA on the blue line in Jordan Subban. This reclamation project didn’t work out well for either party and Subban found himself scratched for younger, more promising prospects late in the season. I don’t envision the Maple Leafs qualifying the 24-year-old and it’s not clear if he would accept an AHL only deal even if it were offered, which I don’t believe the Toronto Marlies are inclined to do.
Vincent LoVerde and Steve Oleksy are both NHL unrestricted free agents. I could copy and paste what I said about Chris Mueller and apply it to LoVerde. Both parties seem to want the same thing, but can they agree on terms?
There’s little doubt that Oleksy will not be offered another NHL deal and his veteran status plus susceptibility to injury in the last three years probably means an AHL deal is unlikely as well.
Toronto’s AHL UFAs on the blue line are quite the motley crew that includes Frank Corrado, Alex Gudbranson, Sam Jardine, and Kristians Rubins. The Marlies seem to like what they have in Jardine, Gudbranson, and Rubins, which gives them depth while also bolstering the ranks in Newfoundland. I could easily see one of these defensemen missing out on a contract offer, though, and that candidate is probably Gudbranson, who didn’t feature in an AHL game last year.
Frank Corrado found his season curtailed by yet another injury in his career, limiting him to 39 appearances. However, if he’s healthy, I’m sure Toronto would lean towards signing him as a veteran for the roster rather than Steve Oleksy.
Those almost certain to be a part of defensive core are Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandin, Mac Hollowell, Joseph Duszak, and Jesper Lindgren — all are on entry-level contracts.
The trio of Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman and Teemu Kivihalme (ELC) will not likely know their NHL fate until late in training camp, and that adds another level of complexity to Gilman’s task at hand as far as what kind of depth he adds on the blue line.
The goaltending situation might appear an open and shut case, but there are still a few unknowns heading into the summer and training camp.
Eamon McAdam is an RFA and isn’t expected to be qualified or offered an AHL contract (the latter he may pass on regardless).
It’s reasonable to assume Michael Hutchinson will be seeking out an NHL deal as a UFA and any kind of return depends on what the Maple Leafs are thinking in regards to their back-up goaltending. Either way, a veteran goaltender probably isn’t what the organization wants for their AHL affiliate with Kasimir Kaskisuo, Ian Scott, and Joseph Woll all on entry-level contracts.
With all things being equal, Kaskisuo takes on the number-one role with the Marlies while one of Scott or Woll takes the back-up role. The other rookie will head to Newfoundland, but with AHL UFA Michael Garteig already signed for Tappara, that leaves a gap at the ECHL level and a dilemma as to whom to partner with one of Toronto’s young prospects.