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Maple Leafs GM started working on changes from top to bottom

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

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Heading into free agency this Wednesday, general manager Kyle Dubas will look to set the table for a goaltending battle by either holding on to Jack Campbell, making it a dwindling number to hit the open market, namely Colorado’s Darcy. Kuemper or running a business.

If the scapegoat theory has any credence — that the Leafs can no longer count on ending their first-round playoff hex unless their starting four breaks — the next few days will determine whether Dubas actually gets bold enough to move William Nylander’s appetite. $6.96 million US cap for space, defense or prospects. The downside is losing both Nylander and Ilya Mikheev, as the pending UFA would drain goals from the NHL’s second-highest offense.

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Another winger, Alex Kerfoot, who will face renewed comparisons to Nazem Kadri now that the latter won the Cup after they were traded for each other, is also trade bait. As with Nylander, he doesn’t lack for contributions as a leaf, but he represents an attractive proposition for a team, especially one near the cap, that could handle his $3.5 million on their books while paying him just $750,000 in real dollars.

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Regardless of how it works out, Dubas needs to land a major goaltender, either outbid teams like Washington and Edmonton for Kuemper, or deal with a proven stopper like Anaheim’s John Gibson.

Defenseman Ilya Ljubuškin and forward Colin Blackwell are also pending UFAs, though the $3.8 million earned this year and next when Dubas signed goaltender Petr Mrazek in a trade to Chicago can be used in part to keep them home.

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Dubas is also negotiating with restricted free agents, first trying to make sure defenseman Rasmus Sandino is still part of the long-term plan and agreeing to a deal with winger Pierre Engvall once the club submits a $1.25 million qualifying offer on Monday. But they could lose winger Ondřej Kase, a Bill Masterton Trophy nominee, the same way Boston made him available. His concussion history makes him questionable to return as an RFA with arbitration rights that could increase his price.

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

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