Get ahead on pending contracts
If there is one thing Kyle Dubas can be criticized about during his tenure with the Leafs is not signing players to new deals ahead of time.
Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to doing business like this but considering how little room Toronto has to navigate with their salary cap, the Leafs need to find a way to sign some of their players to more team-friendly deals. There are many examples of these contract around the league including on the Leafs.
Back on April 13, 2016, the Leafs signed Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri to six-year deals where Rielly was signed at $5 million per season while Kadri got $4.5 million. At the time, it was an investment for the Leafs in two players who had not reached their full potential yet and it is no coincidence they did right after that.
While the Leafs didn’t necessarily get these deals done ahead of time but they did get excellent value on those contracts. Similarly, the Leafs believe they are doing that with the contracts they signed Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen to.
What Dubas can do this time around is look ahead at players with expiring deals and try to get that out of the way and get an idea of how much salary cap they have to work with.
Looking at players with expiring deals obvious candidates that come to mind are Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman. Both are pending free agents (Dermott is an RFA and Hyman is a UFA) and figure to be a part of the Leafs immediate future so why not see what it will take to get them signed now rather than wait and potentially see the price go up.
Let’s say Barrie is thriving within the first couple of months of the season and is open to negotiating a deal, you would hope that Dubas will do what he can to try and get ahead of the market. At the same time, when you look at what right-handed shot defencemen have gotten on the open market, the Leafs could have a tough time convincing Barrie to not take that door.