The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have a choice : not everyone from the 2019-20 roster can return for the upcoming season. General manager Kyle Dubas needs to shed money off his cap space, especially if he is looking to upgrade his blue liner and improve in between the pipes in order to become a true Stanley Cup contender.
That’s why it was announced on Wednesday that another player would not return to Toronto. According to NHL insider Pierre LeBrun, defenseman Cody Ceci will hit the open market.
While LeBrun is adamant that Ceci is better off testing the free agency waters, though he believes he might circle back to Toronto in the end. Only time will tell.
The Leafs are after an upgrade on the back end, even linked to star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo who has turned down an offer to return as captain of the St. Louis Blues. However, if they cannot afford Pietrangelo - which for now is the case - or can’t boost the blue line, Ceci might remain the most affordable option out there and could be willing to sign back with the Leafs.
Ceci is coming off a one-year deal with the team, which paid him $4.5 million and could have to accept a dip in salary if ever he is not offered another contract during free agency season. According to Cap Friendly, the Maple Leafs have $6.106 million in projected cap space for next season. Fellow defenseman Travis Dermott and forward Ilya Mikheyev are two important restricted free agents in need of new deals, while 29-year-old blue liner Tyson Barrie is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The 26-year-old defender had one goal and seven assists in 56 games with the Leafs last season. He was acquired on July 1, 2019, in a trade which sent defenseman Nikita Zaitsev and forward Connor Brown with to the Ottawa Senators.
Let’s see what’s next for him in the coming weeks, while the Leafs continue to make tough decisions to get their budget straight for the upcoming season.