The Toronto Maple Leafs have called up rookie Rasmus Sandin, almost assuring that the Swedish Defenceman will burn the first year of his entry-level contract.
When the final buzzer sounded Sunday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were no doubt looking to put the negative mojo behind them as soon as possible. With three games in five days to lead into the All-star break on the horizon, it was important for the Maple Leafs to bounce back from the longest losing streak in Sheldon Keefe’s young tenure.
But the Morgan Rielly news from Monday has shifted the focus for Toronto, and now management’s priorities have shifted – from winning games to filling a hole on the blue line usually occupied by one of the team’s most consistent leaders.
While the Reilly injury surely means Dubas will be more active (and desperate) at the trade deadline, the most glaring issue actually comes from the team’s immediate remedy.
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Rasmus Sandin has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies, and will return to the top squad after a brief stint to start the year. At the time, the demotion made a lot of sense. Sandin’s debut was not a failure by any means, but his upside wasn’t so significant that it meant burning a year of his entry-level contract.
But now things have changed – and unless Dubas pulls the trigger on a change before the All-star break, Sandin will surely play the four games required to burn the first year of his entry-level contract this current season. While this may seem like a minor issue compared to the rest of the Leaf’s salary cap situation, (a mere paper-cut compared to the massive gashes and wounds that Dubas is also dealing with) it may be a bigger issue than one would think.
The problem isn’t really this off-season, or even the next one. Sandin’s salary is locked regardless, it’s not like his cap-hit will change unexpectedly. The problem is more of a big picture one, something that a GM is supposed to keep under consideration at all times – something that this GM hasn’t always done.
If you believe that the Leafs have orchestrated a “core” that will not be dismantled, the cap congestion at the top of the roster (Matthews, Tavares, Marner, and Nylander) isn’t going anywhere. The longer you could ensure Rasmus Sandin at under a million dollars, the better off your team is.
Now, he will come up at the same time as Morgan Reilly, and Kasperi Kapanen. Even if you resign Sandin to an extremely team-friendly, Kapanen style bridge deal, those other two are going to want some type of raise. The cap congestion continues– and the team will continue to be stuck hoping for an unrealistic rising cap to help them get by.
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Is it entirely fair to criticize management for burning the year on Sandin’s contract? No. They need to fill the roster spot with “somebody”, and Sandin is the most deserving, immediate fix. But it’s yet another example of Dubas plugging holes as he finds them, make-shifting a life-raft on the fly and pretending he wasn’t the one who steered into the iceberg.
Coaches and players can’t think in what-ifs, and worst-case scenarios, they have enough on their plate game-to-game.
But that is exactly what General Managers are supposed to do.
The Leafs don’t have much wiggle room– they need the quick fix, regardless of how counterproductive the move is long term.
Dubas saw to that.
Do you think it’s worth burning a year on Sandin’s contract? What other option should the Leafs consider? Let us know in the comments below.