Max Domi takes a lap during warmups
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Some early contract projections for pending free agent Leafs will surprise you

Published January 30, 2024 at 8:39
BY RYAN SMITHERAM

Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up William Nylander and Auston Matthews for the foreseeable future, the attention can now turn to the 4 RFAs and 9 UFAs the Leafs will have at the end of this season. Of those 13 free agents, the most notable are, of course, Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Ilya Samsonov, T.J. Brodie and Timothy Liljegren.

Currently, the Leafs have 12 players signed for next season with a projected cap hit of $65.594M, leaving them with $21.9M in cap space to fill out the remaining roster spots. If the Leafs were to roster the maximum number of players (23), that would mean the Leafs would have just $1.99M to spend per player, but that will likely not be the case and the Leafs will have to hope the likes of rookies Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan in the mix, and their entry level contracts should help in this regard.

Yesterday, AFP Analytics released its very early UFA/RFA contract projections for the upcoming off-season and some of the projections below for free agent Leafs may surprise you.

Tyler Bertuzzi - 5 x 6,004,687
Max Domi - 3 x 4,170,318
Timothy Liljegren - 3 x 3,342,500
T.J. Brodie - 3 x 4,896,500
Ilya Samsonov - 2 x 3,257,500
Martin Jones - 1 x 1,421,875
Mark Giordano - 1 x 3,109,166


Obviously, re-signing all of the aforementioned players would put the Leafs significantly over the cap, but there are a couple that the Leafs will consider keeping. Notably, there have been reports of the Leafs and Bertuzzi having a mutual interest in a long-term deal. Earlier in the season Bertuzzi may have gotten upwards of $6M per season, but given that he has just 1 goal in his last 26 games and is struggling on both sides of the puck, it might be worth it for the Leafs to revisit an extension with a lower AAV if they truly believe he is a long-term fit in the top-six.

Max Domi has always wanted to be a Leaf and there is belief that he is willing to sign a lengthy extension to remain one, but aside from a brief stretch in November and again in December, Domi has largely been absent offensively with just 2 points in his last 12 games. His projection seems to be far too high for his production and place in the lineup.

On the blueline, the Leafs will have to fill a number of holes with T.J. Brodie, John Klingberg and Mark Giordano being free agents and Liljegren being an RFA. The expectation is that Liljegren will be back next season and his projected raise appears reasonable given that he has taken on a larger role this season and is really the only offensive threat next to Morgan Rielly.

Giordano will be coming off of a very team friendly deal and if he wants to stay in Toronto will likely take a similar one, but he should not be an everyday player. Brodie, on the other hand, has struggled this season, but has played better of late, but the 34-year-old was not a favourite of GM Brad Treliving's in Calgary (according to reports) and given that he is aging, committing almost another $5M per season to him seems unwise.

In goal, the Leafs have Joseph Woll locked up for next season already, but will have to make a decision on Samsonov and Jones. It is possible that Jones will sign another league minimum or close to league minimum deal depending how in demand his services are in the off-season and how much he plays down the stretch for the Leafs.

Samsonov, on the other hand, is a question mark. His current projection of $3.2M per season is based on his play before he was placed on waivers. If he continues to play the way he has since returning, he could command well north of his current $3.55M salary and that would put the Leafs into another cap gymnastics situation.

Brad Treliving has said in the past that teams are built in the off-season, so it will be interesting to see who he attempts to bring back and who he lets walk when the season ends. Regardless, these projections are very preliminary and things can change in an instant, but with another cap crunch on the horizon for the Leafs, the roster will look significantly different again next season.

POLL
January 30   |   275 answers
Some early contract projections for pending free agent Leafs will surprise you

Which of the UFAs should the Leafs bring back?

Brodie/Giordano/Bertuzzi3010.9 %
Bertuzzi/Domi/Brodie8129.5 %
Samsonov/Bertuzzi/Domi16459.6 %
Other Combination00 %
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