It has been a rough couple of weeks for the Maple Leafs who have seen their lead in the North Division vanish as they sit tied with Edmonton in points with 42 (although Toronto has two games in hand). GM Kyle Dubas has made it known that he’s looking to add a rental player to the fold and as TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports in the latest Insider Trading segment (video link), their top target is Predators forward Mikael Granlund.
The 29-year-old eventually returned to Nashville in late December after not being able to secure a long-term contract elsewhere. Instead, Granlund opted for a one-year, $3.75MM pact with the hopes that a full season under John Hynes would put him in a better position to cash in on the open market this summer.
That hasn’t happened. After a delayed start to his season due to quarantine protocols, Granlund simply hasn’t found his footing. Although he played well under Hynes following the coaching change last season, any momentum was certainly long gone as he has been limited to just six goals and five assists in 28 games this season. While his deal looked like a possible bargain back in the winger, it’s now an above-market contract.
Despite that, it’s understandable why Toronto would have some interest in Granlund. They have a spot in their top six that they’d like to try and improve upon and while his numbers this season are down, he averaged 63 points per year between 2016-17 and 2018-19. In the right environment, he’s a strong bounce-back candidate and with the quality of their top forwards, he could certainly step in and make an impact.
There are some questions that would have to be answered first before a deal can happen. Let’s get the obvious out of the way with the salary cap. Per CapFriendly, Toronto has just over $400K of cap space. Even as that builds up as time elapses, it’s only worth about $750K in a full-season salary, nowhere near enough. Even if Nashville was to retain half, they’d still need to offset money. Including Ilya Mikheyev ($1.645MM) would work in that scenario but if the Preds aren’t willing to retain, then someone like Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5MM) would likely need to be involved. With term left on both of those contracts (one year for Mikheyev and two years for Kerfoot), there’s no guarantee that the Predators would want to add money into next season.
As Seravalli adds, there is also the question of the quarantine status. Right now, players that are moved from the United States to Canada are required to serve a 14-day stint in a hotel, causing them to miss several games in the process. Canadian teams – led by Toronto – have been trying to push to have that reduced but haven’t made any progress on that front.
There’s also the matter of Nashville’s potential playoff push. Heading into play tonight, they’re only four points out of the final postseason spot in the Central Division. While it has been assumed for a while that they’d sell, their proximity to fourth place could push GM David Poile to delay deciding on their plans for Granlund.
Clearly, while the Maple Leafs have some interest in Granlund, there is a lot to work out over the coming weeks for a deal to happen. But if some of those can’t be resolved or Nashville’s tentativeness in selling is extended, Toronto may have to set their sights elsewhere before the April 12th trade deadline.