Red Wings should explore poaching Toronto Maple Leafs players

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Red Wings can capitalize on a panic given the announcement of a flat salary cap and poach some Toronto Maple Leafs players.

The Detroit Red Wings offseason focus will be on resigning the plethora of free agents they have and addressing some needs. The National Hockey League (NHL) has announced that the salary cap will be stationary at $81.5 million for AT LEAST the 2020-21 season.

The league’s announcement also hinted that this flat rate could be continued beyond 2020-21, given the circumstances. Regardless, the league will see the salary cap growth drop, becoming a much slower growth, which will put plenty of teams in hot water.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be in a hot seat given the money they have shelled out recently. The organization has $40,489,366 tied up between Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares and their monster deals.

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Looking at the Maple Leafs CapFriendly page, it becomes clear they will not have much cap room in 2020-21 and will be struggling to fill some holes.

The Maple Leafs have $76,908,533 tied up as their projected cap hit for the 2020-21 season. Yes, this is under the $81.5 million threshold, but that is only for sixteen contracts.

They will have $4,591,467 to spend on filling out their roster, not a lot when the roster has sixteen contracts, with one of them being $1.2 million owed to Phil Kessel.

They will have to make some sort of moves to ensure they can stay contenders and not be in this position for years to come. This opens the door for them to off-load some salary.

It could get dicey for the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is where the Detroit Red Wings come into play.

If the Red Wings are genuinely bought into the Yzer-plan, what better place to General Manager Steve Yzerman go to work? The Maple Leafs will have to part ways with some talent that should appeal to Steve Yzerman.

The Red Wings already should be active in the pursuit of a defenseman like Tyson Barrie, who comes off the Maple Leafs books following the 2019-20 season. But there are other Maple Leafs players the Red Wings should target.

If the Red Wings want to poach one of the younger forwards, look no further than Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. Each is carrying a $3.4 million, and a $3.2 million cap hit would be a good fit for the Red Wings youthful core. Both could be targeted.

Beyond him, the Red Wings may want to get the asking price in a trade for Alex Kerfoot, who carries a $3.5 million cap hit, which is the largest among forwards beside the big core four mentioned above.

Defensively, the Maple Leafs have Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly, weighing down the backend with $5 million-plus contracts. The likelihood of a Rielly trade is slim to none, and the Red Wings could spend $5.625 million somewhere else, but could still explore a deal if Muzzin piques Yzerman’s interest as a left-handed shooting defenseman.

Now, do not get it twisted, the Maple Leafs are competing and contending for a Stanley Cup Championship. Given their nucleus, they want to compete, so moving players like Johnsson, Kapanen, or Kerfoot might be harsh on their forward depth.

However, the Maple Leafs are going to have to build a roster somehow, moving one of their non-star players might be a casualty of signing so many high-caliber players blended with the unexpected flat salary cap.

If Yzerman finds it beneficial to the rebuild, poaching some of the Maple Leafs talents might be a preferential option. This could be by way of a trade, given the Red Wings plethora of draft stock and cap room, there could be more trades than not.

Even if not, grabbing a former Maple Leafs player who cannot be re-signed might not be half bad. It is most likely that it would be by way of a trade that Yzerman continues with his Yzer-plan.

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Either way, the Detroit Red Wings should target some of the Toronto Maple Leafs players, given their limited (projected) cap room for the 2020-21 season.