The New Jersey Devils could go after several of the Toronto Maple Leafs best players. Would it be smartest to go after Mitch Marner, William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen?
The New Jersey Devils seem like they should be perfect trade partners. The Maple Leafs have little to no cap space and the Devils have a ton of cap space. New Jersey has a need for a top-six forward and Toronto has a plethora of them. The Devils probably have the feeling of a Maple Leafs team from a few years ago. Kyle Dubas needs high draft picks to get talent that’s cheap for a long time, and the Devils have three 2nd-round picks along with other cost-controlled prospects.
We’ve established multiple times why the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs should be tied at the hip, and for the most part we’ve focused on William Nylander as a trade candidate, but is he the best candidate for both sides?
The reason it makes sense is Nylander is making close to $7 million per season, and he’s coming off the worst season of his career. He sat out until December, which put a bad taste in the mouth of the organization and the fanbase. He’s a player who had two 60-point seasons before the age of 22.
It seems like a great move for both teams. The Devils take over Nylander’s $6.9 million hit, while the Maple Leafs get the cap space to sign all of their restricted free agents. The actual trade cost is hard to put a finger on. It’s not like you can get this guy for a 2nd-round pick. He’s a former top-ten pick in the NHL Draft. The Maple Leafs aren’t giving him away for free.
However, he will cost a lot less than another player some analysts believe could be had. Mitch Marner is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Maple Leafs currently have about $6 million in cap space after signing John Tavares and Auston Matthews to major contracts. Obviously, they will try to trade Patrick Marleau to make room, but that likely won’t happen.
Marner is one of the best young players in the NHL. He’s coming off a 94-point season at the age of 21. That’s just ridiculous. He’s a proven NHL player, and the Maple Leafs can’t afford to lose him. But, the bigger problem is can they afford to keep him.
He’s going to cost a lot. Word around the league is he’s going to cost upwards of $10.5 million, matching Patrick Kane‘s contract for most expensive winger. The Devils could pay that, but is it worth it to give up what you’d need to give up to get him? In a word, yes.
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The Devils could just offer sheet him for just under the threshold, and it would cost them a 2020 1st, 2nd and 3rd-round pick, plus a 2021 1st-round pick. Honestly, they could probably offer all three 2nd-round picks and the 2020 1st, and that would give them enough to get him if Marner was going to leave anyway. That’s a big if, but it would allow the Devils to only lose picks in this and next year’s NFL Draft.
Then, there’s the wild card. Kasperi Kapanen is also a restricted free agent, and if the Maple Leafs pay Marner and keep Nylander, there’s nothing left to pay Kapanen, who’s also a restricted free agent.
Kapanen scored 20 goals with 24 assists. The Leafs might be forced to let him go because they just can’t afford him. If someone offer sheets him for just $4 million on a long-term deal, it would only cost that team a 2nd-round pick. Anything more than that isn’t worth the compensation required the other way.
It’s more likely the Maple Leafs will trade Kapanen if they can’t move Nylander or Marleau. How much might it cost? Because of their situation, a 2nd-round pick could do it.
So, say the Devils have their choice, who should they choose? Marner comes with a $10 million price tag and will cost a fortune in draft picks and prospects, and could even cost Ty Smith. Nylander costs considerably less in compensation and in salary and cap space. Kapanen costs the least of any of them, but provides the least on the ice.
Honestly, Marner is special, and the Devils should do everything in their power, short of the four 1st-round pick compensation package, to get him. The Maple Leafs might not allow any team to even ask, then the conversation should go to Nylander. Kapanen would be my last choice, because the Devils need high-end talent terribly right now. However, if Kapanen goes to New Jersey, that’s a heck of a consolation prize.