After another first-round exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins, the offseason focus for the Toronto Maple Leafs was clear: find a way to improve, starting with clearing a little cap space by moving some of the higher-priced players on the team.
This venture started in earnest yesterday, when news came that defenceman Nikita Zaitsev requested a trade, taking his remaining five years and $4.5M AAV with him.
Now, a day later, another cap-clogging contract appears to be up for grabs, as Pierre LeBrun reports that winger Patrick Marleau has been the subject of trade talks between the Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings.
Hearing the Leafs and Kings have talked about a potential Patrick Marleau trade. Obviously there’s the Todd McLellan connection there for Marleau so he might waive. But as of now I don’t think the two teams have found a fit. Kings would need to unload a contract or two as well…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 31, 2019
Marleau is due $6.5 million in the 2019-20 season, and is coming off a year where he scored the fewest goals (16) since his rookie year, which was all the way back in 1997-98.
There are plenty of hoops to jump through, of course, before simply giving the benefit of the doubt the Maple Leafs will effortlessly pull this deal off. The Kings are in a cap crunch of their own, with several underperforming veterans making big money, and Marleau’s contract has a no-movement clause. It seems unlikely the Maple Leafs could simply shed Marleau’s money without taking on a bad contract or two in return.
As LeBrun also points out in his tweet, there is a connection between Marleau and Todd McLellan, his former head coach in San Jose, that could make it an easier decision for the 39-year-old to waive the clause in the interest of reuniting.
The usual disclaimers about grains of salt and hearing trade rumours while the Stanley Cup Final is still happening apply here, but it does at least stand to reason the Leafs’ quest to shed some of their pricier contracts may not be as difficult as most people initially assumed.
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