It’s never a suprise when Kyle Dubas’ Maple Leafs trade down in the draft order, although this move isn’t for additional draft picks: They’ve offloaded the final two years of Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million AAV contract to Chicago by moving down from pick #25 to pick #38 in the 2022 draft order.

You never want to have to erase mistakes if you can avoid it (obviously), but dropping 13 picks in the draft order is a very palatable price to pay to create significantly more cap flexibility under the $82.5 million ceiling this year as well as clear Mrazek’s $3.8 million off the books in 2023-24. There was no retention applied on Mrazek’s contract in the trade.

Dom Luszczyszyn places a 25th overall pick’s Game Score Value Added (GSVA) at 3.4 and a 38th overall draft pick at 2.2 GSVA; the difference between the two is about the value of a 60th overall draft pick. For a Cup-chasing cap-strapped team, paying that price to clear off $3.8 million in cap space for two seasons is something of a no-brainer.

Dubas also confirmed tonight that there were a few prospects they were eyeing at #25, but the players were off the board by the time the pick rolled around, setting the wheels in motion on the trade with Chicago.

On the draft floor, the Oilers moved their 29th overall, a 2025 second-round pick, and a 2024 third-round pick to Arizona in order to offload two years of Zack Kassian’s $3.2 million AAV contract, with Colorado’s 32nd overall coming back in return. By moving down just 13 spots and giving up no additional picks, the Leafs paid significantly less to move out Mrazek, who cost more on the cap and arguably had a worse season.

This leaves the Leafs with a totally blank slate in net; they have no goaltenders with significant NHL experience currently signed beyond July 13. Whether the plan is to pursue Darcy Kuemper — who we learned today will test the market and is rumoured to be a target of significant interest to the Leafs — will remain to be seen, but the Leafs now have around $10 million in cap space with 17 players on the roster per CapFriendly.

Mrazek’s year from hell started in his very first start for the team when he fell injured with  a groin issue, which he reaggravated multiple times during the season. He never gained traction in 2021-22, posting above .900 in just seven of the 20 games he appeared in and finishing the season with a career-worst .888 save percentage.

Kyle Dubas confidently stated yesterday that he was betting on Mrazek’s career track record rather than the small sample of his tumultuous 2021-22; that may have simply been a case of pumping up a negative-value contract he was looking to offload at minimal cost, but it’s also possible he stepped up his aggression about moving out money once it became clear Colorado was going in a different direction without Kuemper in the fold. Time will tell if it’s Kuemper that is the main target, but the books are cleared for the Leafs to totally remake their netminding, which ranked 27th in the NHL in 5v5 save percentage this past season.

Kuemper is said to be seeking a contract in the neighbourhood of Phillip Grubauer’s long-term $5.9 million AAV contract signed with Seattle last offseason. He was known to be a trade target of the Leafs last summer before the Avalance swooped in and made the trade with Arizona and Dubas ultimately signed Mrazek in free agency.

This theoretically adds the cap flexibility to perhaps keep Jack Campbell instead — he’s rumoured to be looking for something closer to $5 million with 4-5 years of term — but discussions between the sides have reportedly been bereft of meaningful negotiations for some time now. Maybe this move changes the temperature of those contract talks.