The comparisons are already taking place. Yes, the Ottawa Senators traded a first-round pick and got Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Toronto Maple Leafs had to trade a first-round pick for someone to get Petr Mrázek and his contract .
While that’s one way of looking at General Manager Kyle Dubas’ recent move, another way of looking at it is that it’s a move based purely on value – the value of moving the remaining two years of the Mrázek’s contract and the value in which they were able to get from the pick they acquired in exchange for Mrázek and the 25th overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft.
For those behind the eight ball on this, the The Maple Leafs moved their first-round pick25th overall, and Mrázek to the Blackhawks in exchange for the 38th overall pick — a second-round selection in 2022. Essentially, they dropped 13 spots in the draft to get rid of a bad contract that admittedly wouldn’t have had to be signed last off-season.
They haven’t lost a pick in the deal and have finally made room to acquire — or re-sign — a goaltender who can, in their minds, help them get past the first round of the playoffs. So let’s break down the value of this deal.
Maple Leafs move Mrázek was a must
It was going to come down to a buyout or trade for the Maple Leafs and Mrázek. It’s that simple. A buyout would have left money on the team’s salary cap with no production and nothing to show for, while the other option might have forced the Maple Leafs to keep their salary and could have cost assets.
Instead, Dubas made a pretty clean move by sending Mrázek to the Blackhawks, keeping no salary and dropping only 13 spots in the draft. In fact, look at the separation of talents in this project. There is very little difference between what the Maple Leafs could have acquired at age 25 and what they picked up at age 38, i.e. 18 year old center Fraser Minten.
Related: Fraser Minten – 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile
Moving Mrázek, however, gives the Maple Leafs a much-needed break from the salary cap, as he was signed for the next two years with an annual average value (AAV) of $3.8 million.
Now speculate all you want on who will replace him in net, whether it’s Jack Campbell, John Gibson or any of the other names that have been thrown in among the Leafs Nation. The thing is, the Maple Leafs have lost the cap needed to try to fill that hole with a player they want on a deal that might be more realistic in terms of a performance-to-money ratio than Mrázek’s.
The price to pay for this contract was the 25th overall selection in this year’s draft. It was a pick the Blackhawks used to acquire Sam Rinzel. While I’d say he wasn’t the best player available at the time, it’s clear the Blackhawks knew what they wanted and got it – forcing players who might have been taken down to 25th to fall further. It’s a snowball effect that will eventually fall on the Maple Leafs at 38th overall, the pick they acquired from the Blackhawks.
So, did giving up the first-round pick cost the Maple Leafs so much? If Mrázek only had one year left on his contract, we might have a different conversation. Still, it’s a maybe. But getting rid of two years of a bad deal that Dubas clearly knew he had made a mistake on, as it only costs him 13 spots in the repechage, is marginal at best.
As for the pick, were there any players the Maple Leafs would have liked before Minten was picked? Surely there were. Names like Ryan Chesley and Jagger Firkus come to mind. That said, the Maple Leafs wouldn’t have made the move unless they felt they could remove a player from their roster who still checked their boxes at 38.
Maple Leafs find value in Fraser Minten
He surely wasn’t the first name on most Maple Leafs fans’ draft board, but again, there was no indication that Dubas was going down in the draft. Still, Minten offers the team an important option in the middle when it comes to scouting potential.
Currently, he is six foot one and just under 200 pounds and although he admitted after his selection that he did not believe he was physically ready to make the jump to the NHL, recognition of what he has to make for a promising future for the Kamloops Blazers forward.
Regarding his offensive game, the Maple Leafs took a player who is coming off his best offensive season in the WHL so far with 20 goals and 55 points in 67 games during the regular season. He added 16 more points in 17 playoff games and should add to that production with another season under his belt.
It’s also not the first time we’ve seen the Maple Leafs go off track when it comes to outside expectations for a pick. In 2020, the team took Rodion Amirov with the 15th overall selection – a pick some questioned at the time.
Related: Maple Leafs Blockbuster Could Solve The Goalie Problem Once And For All
Although no one can truly judge the impact of Minten’s choice for a few years, one thing is certain – Dubas’ admission to Mrázek’s bad contract was clear in his desire to rid the team of him.
Still, he stuck to what he said earlier in the offseason and didn’t just make a move for the sake of making a move, rather he found a way to continue to capitalize on a valuable pick while still getting rid of the Maple Leafs remaining cap on Mrázek’s case.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. It began airing with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He is the former London Jr. Knights play-by-play voice for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks on the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.