VANCOUVER -- The Toronto Maple Leafs needed to free NHL salary cap space in order to re-sign forwards Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen and Mitchell Marner, who can all become restricted free agents July 1.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said contracts for Johnsson and Kapanen "are at the finish line" after he traded forward Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday along with a conditional first-round pick and a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for a sixth-round pick in 2020.
"We just have to punch them across, which would be nice," Dubas said of Johnsson and Kapanen after the 2019 NHL Draft.
[RELATED: Marleau traded to Hurricanes by Maple Leafs | Marleau thanks Matthews, Marner]
Marleau, 39, has one season remaining on a three-year, $18.75 million contract ($6.25 million average annual value) he signed with the Maple Leafs on July 2, 2017. He played his first 19 NHL seasons for the San Jose Sharks.
If Toronto's first-round selection in 2020 is a top-10 pick, the Hurricanes will instead receive the Maple Leafs' first-round pick at the 2021 NHL Draft.
Video: Babcock on Patrick Marleau, 2019 NHL Draft picks
Dubas's logic in moving a first-round pick in the Marleau trade? If it was the price to pay in order to make financial room for three skilled younger players (Kapanen and Marner are 22, Johansson is 24), then so be it.
Kapanen had 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in 78 games this season; Johnsson had 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 73 games.
Now comes the difficult part: signing Marner, selected by the Maple Leafs with the No. 4 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft who led them with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 82 games this season. Dubas addressed reports that the speedy wing is looking to make in the neighborhood of $11 million per season.
"With Mitch, like I said, he's an incredible person and player on our team," Dubas said. "We're going to continue to work with (Marner's agent Darren Ferris) to try to move it along."
Ferris remained relatively tight-lipped on the matter.
"We'll be talking," he said.
It's interesting that it was the trading of Marleau that eventually could allow the Maple Leafs to afford Marner. Marleau has been like a big brother to Marner and center Auston Matthews, and often had them over to his Toronto home for family dinners.
"Sad day today," Matthews said via his Twitter account (@am34). "What an honor it was to play with an unbelievable player and an even better person. Gonna miss sitting next to you in the room and seeing you every day. Thanks for welcoming me into your family …"
Marleau was equally as complimentary to Matthews and Marner.
"You will always have a place at our dinner table, and extra sticks in our hockey room. I will miss seeing you at the rink every day. Never forget how good you guys are," Matthews said in a message posted on his wife Christina's Twitter account (@c_marleau).
Dubas thanked Marleau, who had 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 82 games this season, for his contributions at and away from the rink.
"I think the one thing, I think you can see his statistics but when you see what he's done off the ice, it's hard to quantify and do it justice," Dubas said. "He was incredible for our young guys. … He set a great example of our young players every single day."