The Toronto Maple Leafs look like they have young guys ready to graduate to the NHL level… But is this really what the team should be looking for?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are heading into a offseason where they will most likely have a high turnover of forwards.
In need of new contracts are essentially all of the playoff bottom six, including Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev, Ondrej Kase, and Collin Blackwell. Blackwell should return as a fourth liner for the league minimum thanks to his work ethic and ability to cause chaos in front of the net.
The other three could leave the team due to pricing themselves out.
Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Primed for a Youth Movement?
On the bright side, if they do, the Maple Leafs have young guys ready to go in Nick Abruzzese and Nick Robertson. With Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin likely returning to the team, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to be becoming much younger anyway (with veterans likely on their way out).
Graduating players on entry-level, league-minimum contracts, to the NHL will give the Leafs a major competitive boost. In addition to the salary cap not going up, they have been handcuffed in recent years by not having very many NHL ready prospects ready to make an impact, due to poor drafting outside the first round while they were picking in the top ten.
However, there is a risk that young players bring, and the Leafs are too close to winning to rely too heavily on rookies.
John Tavares is starting to decline a little at age 31, but he should remain a star for several more years. The Leafs have displayed their ability to play with the best in the NHL, taking the Lightning to 7 games and that very same Lightning team sweeping the President’s Trophy winners in the next round.
What this team needs are guys who have playoff and Stanley Cup winning pedigree. Guys like Justin Williams who happen to play their best hockey when their backs are against the wall. They do NOT need a plethora of young talent who could plummet in the playoffs, nor do they need another big-name addition.
So, should the Toronto Maple Leafs undertake a youth movement? No, no way. They are a couple additions away from the Eastern Conference Finals, not a couple years. This team is in “win now” mode, and they must make the necessary moves to reach the next level to become cup favorites. Rather than bring in multiple unproven prospects, this team has to sign on playoff veterans on cheap contracts.