December 7, 2017 | 9:50am ET
STATUS QUO ON MAPLE LEAFS’ POSSIBLE UFAs
James van Riemsdyk, left wing
The Toronto Maple Leafs are enjoying another improved season, sitting second in the Atlantic Division with an 18-10-1 record, and all signs point to management looking to improve its roster leading up to the Feb. 26, 2018 trade deadline.
In the back of the team’s mind, though, are the futures of forwards James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov. All three players, along with centre Dominic Moore and defenceman Roman Polak, are in the final year of their respective contracts and can become unrestricted free agents next summer.
The Leafs held semi-informal talks with van Riemsdyk’s camp at the start of the season, but it’s believed discussions have not progressed, and the same can be said for Bozak and Komarov, TFP has learned.
van Riesmdyk, in October, did not want to be bothered by the thick cloud contract negotiations could cast during the season, telling TSN in early-October he tries not to let his status hang over his head.
“Obviously, you know you’re going into this sort of year so you definitely know what’s going on on the outside, but every situation is a little bit different so you try to not get too wrapped up in it,” he said on Oct. 11. “But, from afar, you see what’s going on and have a gauge for where things are at. But I’m trying to focus on things I can control.
“There are lots of different things. You could probably drive yourself crazy if you start looking into and reading into too much.”
Multiple sources close to the situation told TFP this week that there hasn’t been any traction made with respect to contract talks involving any of the three players. The athletes chatted with one another last month, and none of them seem to be concerned with the lack of negotiations to this point.
Bozak, 31, has a $4.2 million salary cap hit, van Riemsdyk, 28, has a $4.25 million hit, and Komarov, 30, comes with a $2.95 million hit.
All three players will be pushing for raises, with van Riemsdyk likely seeing his next salary hover around $6 million, annually.
As Toronto continues to strengthen its position in the standings, it’s highly unlikely any of them will be moved by the deadline, as the Leafs will want to build on their performance heading into the playoffs.
The blueline remains an area the Leafs want to bolster, and while the team has kicked the tires on players like Colorado’s Tyson Barrie and Columbus’ Ryan Murray in the past, an impact move for a higher-echelon player with term left on his deal or pending RFA status may be better served for the off-season. Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello may focus his efforts on a potential rental defenceman, which would likely result in drafts picks and/or prospects heading in the other direction.
However, the Leafs do have $5.55 million in available salary cap space thanks to the relief pool created with Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul on long-term injured reserve, and if prospects and draft picks can be packaged for a controllable defensive asset, the team will consider it.
Whichever route the team goes in upgrading its defensive corps, it almost certainly won’t result in Bozak, van Riemsdyk or Komarov going the other way.
All three players love their time in Toronto and each of their preference is to re-sign with the Leafs, but those talks aren’t likely to pick up steam until after the season, by the sounds of things, and that’s okay.
TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta contributed to this report.