Maple Leafs general manager set to work on top-to-bottom changes

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While the bottom of the Maple Leafs’ depth chart has changed a bit after this week’s draft, the top tier is a work in progress.

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Until free agency begins this Wednesday, general manager Kyle Dubas will try to set the stage for a run at a goalie, either retaining Jack Campbell or entering the dwindling number that will hit the open market, namely Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper or pursuing a trade.

If the “sacrificial lamb” theory has any validation — that the Leafs can no longer count on ending their first-round playoff hexagon unless their core four is broken — the next few days will determine whether Dubas actually gets bold enough to move William Nylander’s palatable $6.96 million cap hit for space, defense, or prospect. The downside is the loss of Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev, as a pending UFA would drain goals from the NHL’s second-highest offense.

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Another Leafs striker, Alex Kerfoot, who will face further comparisons to Nazem Kadri now that the latter won a Cup after being traded for each other, is also trade bait. As with Nylander, he’s not short of contributions as a Leaf, but represents an attractive offer for a team, especially a team near the cap who could manage his $3.5 million on their books, while not paying him than $750,000 in real dollars.

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No matter how it’s accomplished, Dubas must find an important goaltender, either outbid teams like Washington and Edmonton for Kuemper or negotiate for a proven goaltender like John Gibson from Anaheim.

Defender Ilya Lyubushkin and forward Colin Blackwell are also on hold from UFA, though the $3.8 million earned this year and next when Dubas wrote off goalie Petr Mrazek in a trade to Chicago may be in part. used to keep them in-house.

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Dubas is also negotiating with restricted free agents, first trying to assure defender Rasmus Sandin that he is still part of the long-term plan, coming to terms with winger Pierre Engvall once the club submits an offer $1.25 million qualifier on Monday. But they could lose winger Ondrej Kase, their Bill Masterton Trophy contender, the same way he was made available by Boston. His history of concussion makes it doubtful whether to bring him back as FRG, with arbitration rights potentially driving his price up.

The Leafs will soon announce details of their development camp with some of this week’s draft picks, previous selections, young members of the AHL’s Marlies and some undrafted guests that Toronto has expressed interest in.

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