The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed William Nylander to a six year contract extension and a verbal no trade promise. (While I am no expert on the CBA, I do not believe they were allowed to write one into the deal).
With William Nylander returning, and Auston Matthews just a couple of games before that, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the need for some new lines.
Out goes Frederik Gauthier whose non-terrible play was a pleasant surprise. (Although I personally believe that players who have zero offense are useless, since it takes a lot of strong defense to equal even one goal). Also, Josh Leivo was traded for Michael Corleone. (Watch out Gauthier and Andersen!).
So what will the new look Leafs look like (besides an all-star team and one of the best rosters ever assembled?).
New Toronto Maple Leafs Lines
The thing that makes the Leafs so insane is that they have three legitimate #1 centres. Tavares and Matthews are superstar level elite players, but Nazem Kadri is is definitely a top 31 centre in the NHL, making him a #1 as well. The other crazy thing: they should be able to offer each of those centres a quality first line winger.
Matthews is scoring at over a goal per game pace. He makes Patrick Laine look like a useless dud. Whatever line he is on is the #1 line.
Obviously Matthews is going to be reunited with his boy Nylander (who we now know will 100% not be traded) but the left wing spot should go to Andreas Johnsson. Johnsson has the wheels and the talent and this would be among the best lines in hockey.
Unfortunately, Mike Babcock is almost certain to put Patrick Marleau in this spot. Marleau shouldn’t be playing in anyone’s top six, but the fact that this won’t be a total disaster is testament to the Leafs depth.
Poor Tavares, he’s only scoring at a 56 goal pace. That’s why you’re number 2, Johnny!
Tavares will be paired with Hyman and Marner. It’s OK. They do better on the power play and could use to possess the puck more 5v5. Eventually the high PDO and low possession numbers will catch up with them.
One way to improve this line would be a left winger deserving of a top six position. Hyman is nice, but he has no offense, making him essentially useless. Josh Leivo would’a been a great addition to this line, but……..if Babcock is going to use Marleau on the top line, that means Andreas Johnsson is available for this line. Won’t happen, but it should.
Nazem Kadri should be set up with Marleau and Kapanen. But since Marleau is probably going to be put on the top line, Kadri can have……wait for it……..Andreas Johnsson.
Johnsson should definitely be on one of the top two lines, but a Johnsson Kadri Kapanen line is also something I’d tune into watch. Pay to watch, even.
Unfortunately, I bet ya old Babsie is going to insert Connor Brown on to this line.
Lindholm with Johnsson and Ennis? I hope not. It should be Lindholm with Ennis and Brown.
Ranking the Leafs left wingers, I’d go like this: Johnsson, Hyman, Ennis, Marleau. Although I would consider Ennis and Marleau interchangeable.
Here are the lines we will probably see:
Marleau – Matthews – Nylander
Hyman – Tavares – Marner
Johnsson – Kadri – Kapanen
Ennis – Lindholm – Brown
Here are the lines I would like to see:
Johnsson- Matthews – Nylander
Hyman – Tavares – Marner (note that I’d really like to trade for a Hyman upgrade)
Marleau – Kadri – Kapanen
Ennis – Lindholm – Brown
Overall, with the insertion of Matthews and Nylander into what was already a great lineup, Leafs fans are in for a treat. The Toronto Maple Leafs should be the best team in hockey by a mile with this lineup.
What lines would you roll?
Thanks for reading!