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Is Alex Pietrangelo the answer in Toronto?

6 décembre 2019
The struggles of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been well-documented this season. Many were expecting Toronto to be among the top 6 or 7 teams in the NHL again this season, following the acquisitions of RHD Tyson Barrie and utility man Alexander Kerfoot, but that's just not the way things have worked out in Canada's hockey mecca.


Toronto currently sits in 22nd place in the league, with a minus 6 goal differential. Not a pretty picture. Yes, it's only December. Yes, there are other team's struggling just one year after displaying dominance (see Nashville, Tampa, Calgary). Yes, the St. Louis Blues were dead last in January and came back to win the Stanley Cup. But the one thing that exists in Toronto that doesn't exist in any of these other markets is the overwhelming media pressure.

If you're the Toronto Maple Leafs, you have a 34-year-old analytics guy managing your team, preaching speed and skill over size and grit. You have a 39-year-old head coach who further perpetuates that philosophy. You have let go of Lou Lamoriello, Mike Babcock and lost potential GM candidate Mark Hunter because your team President (Brendan Shanahan) has decided to allow Dubas to experiment in an attempt to find a new winning formula for modern hockey. If you're the Toronto Maple Leafs, you need to win games. You need to be among the top teams in the NHL. You need to be dominant. Anything less than a deep playoff run is a failure at this point.

The answer to the Leafs' problems does not appear to be Kerfoot and Barrie. At least not following the first quarter-mark. So, as you begin to look around at the players who could potentially be available to help address a need for the Maple Leafs, there is one name that stands out above all the rest. Alex Pietrangelo.

The soon to be 30-year-old checks a lot of boxes for Toronto. He's big, he's heavy on the puck, he's a right-handed, top pairing defenseman who eats a lot of minutes against the opposition's best players, he has championship pedigree, he has a booming shot, he has leadership qualities and he is from the GTA, which never hurts. Pietrangelo ranks 8th among all defensemen in points since the 2010-11 season. He has ranked in the top 10 in Norris votes three separate times in his career and is widely considered a top 10-15 defenseman in the NHL.

The Leafs may not have the proper assets or the willingness to lose the assets they do have in order to acquire Pietrangelo via trade, but if they did look at pursuing a trade to bring in the big defenseman, you'd have to imagine that the asking price would begin at two draft picks (a 1st and a 2nd), one of Timothy Liljegren/Rasmus Sandin and a cost controlled roster player with term remaining such as Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson. The cost may be a little too prohibitive for the Leafs, but unfortunately, it's the cost of doing business. Even if the Leafs did bite the bullet and put together an offer close to this and the Blues actually like the offer enough to accept, there's still the chance that Pietrangelo declines the deal and looks to run it back for another cup in St. Louis, as he has a no-trade clause in his contract.

However, if the Leafs decide to take a run at Pietrangelo during the summer, should he make it to free agency, it would cost the Buds nothing but cap dollars. With the Leafs having an abundance of expiring contracts, it may actually be possible to accommodate a large contract on the back end. The Athletic's James Mirtle shows just how the Leafs could squeeze Pietrangelo into the picture at around the $8-9M mark on a long-term deal, should the King City, Ontario native decide to accept a deal in Toronto to play closer to home. They may have to shed some salary, such as one of Kapanen, Kerfoot or Johnsson to fill out the roster, but the math does check out.

If the Leafs manage to land Pietrangelo as a free agent, the roster would look something like this:

Forwards: Matthews, Johnsson, Nylander, Tavares, Marner, Mikheyev, Kefoot, Kapanen, Hyman, Gauthier, Moore, Engvall

Defense: Rielly, Pietrangelo, Sandin, Dermott, Liljegren, ??

Goaltenders: Andersen, ??

So, moving someone like Kapanen at $3.2M with two years remaining on his deal would give the Leafs a total of $5.8M-$6.8M (depending on whether Pietrangelo signs for 7 years x $8M or 7 years x $9M) to sign a middle-six forward, a bottom pairing defenseman, and a backup goaltender and still fit under the cap.

Of course, this is all hypothetical. There is no indication at this point that Pietrangelo has any intention of leaving St. Louis, the only organization he has ever played for in his 718-game NHL career.

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Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON