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Leafs linked to Blackhawks and Red Wings in trade talks

TSN’s Frank Seravalli with the inside scoop.

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When the 2020 offseason begins (whenever that will be), Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is going to have his work cut out for him. 

Not only does Dubas need to sort out what he’s going to do with pending free agents like Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Travis Dermott, Jason Spezza, Kyle Clifford and others, but he’ll need to go fishing for some long-term-injury-reserve (LTIR) contracts to bury.

Huh?

Assuming the Leafs let big contracts like Ceci and Barrie walk, they’ll have more than enough space to fit everyone in, right? Wrong.

Also coming off the books this offseason are Nathan Horton and David Clarkson, whose contracts represented a boon to the team’s salary cap situation. You see, because both Horton and Clarkson were on LITR, the Leafs were granted nearly the entire value of their deals to allocate to the cap. Because of this, the Leafs were allowed to spend north of $95 million in a league with a $81.5 million salary cap.

With Horton’s and Clarkson’s contracts expiring this summer, the Leafs would be smart to add at least one new LTIR contract to their payroll. But who?

NHL insider Frank Seravalli targets a few options in his latest column for TSN, but two in particular stand out: Henrik Zetterberg and Brent Seabrook.

Check it out:

The Red Wings announced in Sept. 2018 that Zetterberg would be unable to continue his NHL career due to a degenerative back condition. He’s remained a part of their salary cap structure for these last two seasons as the Wings have dug out of cap hell. They still needed to use LTIR space this season to ice one of the worst teams of the cap era. That is over now. GM Steve Yzerman has only a couple cumbersome contracts remaining and plenty of cap space to reshape his team. Zetterberg’s contract won’t do Detroit much good, short of getting back a pick or prospect for it. But the truth for Toronto is that with just $1 million owed in real dollars on Zetterberg’s back-diving deal, his contract might be worth much for a different budget-minded club in a cap crunch.

Let’s get real… there’s no way Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman takes any part in these silly games, is there? Steve Y is a no nonsense kind of guy and it’s tough to see him making a move like this.

Seabrook underwent right hip surgery in February, his third operation – including his left hip and right shoulder – in a span of two months. But talk to those close to Seabrook and his motivation to keep playing has not waned. He’s told friends that he is moving as well as he ever has after connecting with a new trainer in the Chicago area. So, his inclusion on this list may well be premature. In fact, there is a chance Seabrook could be ready to return whenever the NHL does, especially if this pause drags on into August. Still, there has been no shortage of question marks about whether Seabrook will be able to continue after so much wear and tear. So while his term and relatively high cap hit would make him the most intriguing contract acquisition for the Leafs, his status as a true LTIR candidate might throw a wrench into that. Stay tuned.

Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman seems more likely to tinker in these sort of “black arts”, but… is he prepared for a full-on rebuild? The Blackhawks may not be the juggernaut they’ve been for the previous decade, but a team with Toews and Kane should still compete for a playoff spot each season. 

What do you think, Leafs fans?

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