Can a stronger post-pandemic NHL open a wider window for the Leafs?

The thing most people don’t want to talk about when it comes to the Leafs is just how much the shifting of the league due to the pandemic absolutely wreaked havoc on their plans to contend. It doesn’t make for an interesting story to just throw up our hands and say “The flat cap is the problem”, but like, it sort of is. The nuked revenue due to the near-shutdown of the league since 2020 did damage to a lot of cap teams, but none quite like the Leafs. 
Management in Toronto thought they had a strong long term plan worked out when they signed Matthews and Marner to monster second deals on top of the Tavares money in the same calendar year of 2019. They did so banking on new television deals, more expansion money, and a forecasted salary cap number that should be in the range of 92-95 million right now. With everything that’s happened since, it sits at 82.5 million. Catastrophic for a team that wanted to get the most of a 5-6 year window before another re-up was needed. 
I guess the question now becomes, with what seems to be the most normal season to get going since the pandemic started about to start, can the league, and with it the Leafs, get back on track with their long term …

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Author: Ryan Fancey / The Leafs Nation

TLN Prospect #6: Alex Steeves’ next step is a spot in the Maple Leafs lineup

Alex Steeves only wanted to do one thing when he entered the Maple Leafs organization last year, and that was dominate.
It was like the 22-year-old was shot out of a cannon when he made his professional hockey debut with the Marlies. He was coming off an injury in the prospect tournament a month earlier, but you couldn’t even tell with the way he was playing.
Through his first 13 games, Steeves scored 14 points — a sign that he was someone that not many could handle at that moment.
Alex Steeves
LW/RW | Toronto (AHL) | Age: 22 | 5-foot-11 | 185 lbs | Shoots: LAcquired: UDFA Signing, 03/28/21 | 2021 Ranking: N/A
The 22-year-old eventually dropped down to earth, finishing off his first pro season with 46 points in 58 games. A great total at that but what was more spectacular was the fact that he tied the old Marlies rookie goal record of 23 goals.
Another rookie in Bobby McMann scored one more goal and etched his name in the record books, but Steeves’ total shouldn’t be understated either.
When looking at him as a prospect, there’s a lot of excitement around the player he could pan out to be. By this time next year, the 22-year-old might not even be recognized as a prospect anymore.
Similar to Pontus Holmberg, Nick Robertson, and B …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Best guesses at what the Rasmus Sandin contract could look like

It seems like the last thing standing between Kyle Dubas and vacation is the Rasmus Sandin contract. That’s not entirely true, but it could be what’s standing between Brandon Pridham and vacation. The Leafs very much established what they were looking for when Timothy Liljegren was signed to a 2-year $1.4M AAV deal, but it doesn’t seem to be what Rasmus Sandin has in mind. From the 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman suggested that Sandin would be looking for a deal similar to Adam Boqvist’s 3-year $2.6M AAV deal.
The truth could lie somewhere between the Liljegren deal and the Boqvist deal, or we could be looking at something completely different. Sandin is represented by Lewis Gross, who you will best remember from the William Nylander contract saga. So whatever it is Sandin wants, there is the potential that his agent will advise him to wait until December to get it.
Up until now, we’ve largely focused on what 2-3 year contracts would look like for Sandin, and when it comes to defensemen under the age of 24, the 2 or 3-year contracts are by far the most popular option. That shouldn’t exclude the possibility of a one-year, let’s come back to this next year when the Leafs have a money deal or the fact that Sandin could be looking for a locked-in long-term contract now. All three present different pro …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leaflets: Teams with money to burn, the Marlies factor, and the case for keeping Holl

Optimism is a dangerous thing when it comes to the Leafs. I went into the playoffs optimistic, after all, how much a fight would Tampa put up when they’ve played more hockey than anyone else in the past three years? Similarly, I went into this offseason optimistic, sure I was a bit realistic too knowing that great goaltenders wouldn’t be available and Kyle Dubas would be running back the majority of the lineup, but admittedly I expected a noteworthy draft and something resembling an impact skater once free agency opened, and that optimism hasn’t been rewarded. In fact for all the criticism, the goaltending related moves are what stands out as the success story for Kyle Dubas this summer. Of course, I mean the summer so far. Free agency hasn’t even been open for a week, and while I’d expect Kyle Dubas to be on vacation as soon as the Leafs development camp wraps up, there is still some time to wow those of us who want to be wowed. Maybe that’s still optimism. I really need to learn.
The remaining big spenders
When it comes to teams with money to burn in the NHL, there are few of them who still have that money left. Teams like the Coyo …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation