A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. We’ve increased capacity up to 3,500 negative comments for this week’s blog.
1. From a Toronto Maple Leafs perspective — because is there another perspective? — one can’t help but see the playoff work Alex Pietrangelo is putting in for the Vegas Golden Knights and wonder.
One UFA summer ago, the right-shot, plays-the-right-way Pietrangelo represented everything the Maple Leafs needed. He’s a leader of championship pedigree who defends hard, contributes offence, logs tons of ice, and raises his play when stakes elevate.
Guys like that don’t come cheap. So, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas kicked tires but admitted he was “not very close” to winning a derby that saw Pietrangelo sign for $61.6 million in the desert.
Instead, Dubas focused on the more affordable, stay-at-home T.J. Brodie, a model of consistency and fine value at $5 million a season.
Chasing a difference-maker like Pietrangelo would’ve been a massive swing that required moving a significant contract out and, likely, eating some overpaid years as the D-man ages. (Vegas, you may recall, was so cramped to the cap ceiling, it could only dress 15 skaters for a meaningful game in May.)
Which brings us to Toronto native Dougie Hamilton, another prized free agent the Leafs — like any team — should at least discuss.
Like Pietrangelo, Hamilton is searching for long-term security and an AAV that begins with an eight. (Maybe that drops to a seven if Hamilton gets his desired eight years?)
To accommodate a star of that calibre — and improve his blueline’s righty-lefty balance and his power play all at once — Dubas would have to carve out salary somewhere.
Even if Zach Hyman, Frederik Andersen and whoever joins the Seattle Kraken (Alexander Kerfoot is a candidate) depart, something else would need to give to acquire all of Hamilton’s glorious underlying and overlying numbers.
More important: Hamilton, immortalized as a boyhood Leafs fan, would need to welcome the pressure of being the latest hometown saviour.
Dubas likes the player.
He also likes the player who would probably need to be dealt to make room for Hamilton: Morgan Rielly, a heart-and-soul component of Toronto’s roster.
Maybe the bidders will render the Maple Leafs “not very close” on the most coveted UFA defenceman.
But with Toronto’s contention window shrinking with each early ouster, and Rielly’s own raise due in 2022, it’s a route worth exploring.