With $9 million annual contracts being handed out like Halloween candy this offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs are at real risk of losing #1 defenseman Morgan Rielly when he becomes a free agent next offseason, reports Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons.
Rielly's six year, $30 million contract expires next offseason and he'll hit the open market as a 28 year old looking to cash in just like Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse and Cale Makar all have this offseason. Given Rielly's production the past few years, it wouldn't be surprising to see him earn as much as $8 million per season on his next deal.
More from Simmons:
The emerging star defencemen in the NHL, most younger than Rielly, have been signing this summer for somewhere between $8- and $9-million per season.
Darnell Nurse, Cale Makar, Seth Jones — all considered better players — will earn in the $9-million range per season on long terms deals in Edmonton, Colorado and Chicago, respectively. Miro Heiskanen, the 22-year-old in Dallas, will be paid $8.45 million a season in tax-free Texas.
So the Leafs have a challenging decision to make. Do they sign Rielly? Do they let him walk a la Zach Hyman? And if they do sign him, which adds at least $3 million to a payroll that is already over the salary cap, who then goes to make up for the shuffled dollars.
And this gets more complicated when you consider Jack Campbell’s contract will be up as well. He is only paid $1.6 million a season. If he has any kind of year comparable to last season, that number will double or triple.
To maintain Campbell and Rielly, it might cost the Leafs $6 million they currently don’t have.
If I'm Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, I'm going to play it cool with Rielly this offseason. Prices are sky high for defencemen right now and I'm willing to bet that things will cool down once the 2021-22 season officially starts. Do you really want to hitch your ride to a nearly 30 year old defenceman at $8+ million per season? Even if the Leafs had/have the cap space, that's simply too much risk to take on.