Toronto Maple Leafs Don’t Have Much Room For Prospects to Win Jobs

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 5: Nick Robertson #89 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 5, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Maple Leafs 6-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 5: Nick Robertson #89 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 5, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Maple Leafs 6-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Toronto Maple Leafs spent a ridiculous amount of money on David Kampf, Max Domi, John Klingberg and Ryan Reaves.

But setting cap space on fire wasn’t incoming Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving’s only error.

He didn’t leave enough room for the team to squeeze value out of it’s AHL players and top prospects.

Of course, the Leafs will have some degree of flexibility, and whether someone struggles, gets injured or whatever, there will always be opportunities for deserving players to make the jump to the big leagues.

Where Treliving went wrong, in my opinion, is in filling up the roster ahead of time with players who are paid so much there is almost no way for a rookie to take their job.

The Leafs have enough star power that a playoff birth is all but assured, and could confidently use the early part of the schedule to audition various prospects.  Why not count on a certain amount of Marlies, accumulate cap-space throughout the season, then go shopping in March when cap-hits are discounted, and star players from non-playoff teams may be available with retained salary?

There really was no reason to act so rashly.

Toronto Maple Leafs Don’t Have Much Room For Prospects to Win Jobs

David Kampf ($2.4) Max Domi ($3) and Ryan Reaves ($1.35) represent seven million dollars in cap space, and the most likely scenario is that each of them is replacement level.

Had the Leafs been more patient, they could be flush with cap space and flexibility, while giving a better opportunity for a player with a higher ceiling to breakout.

Sure, Matthew Knies is likely on the opening night roster, but assuming good health to all other players, where does anyone else have a chance to fit in?

Knies-Matthews-Marner

Bertuzzi – Tavares – Nylander

Domi – Kampf – Jarnkrok

Reaves – Holmberg – Lafferty 

Gambrell 

Nick Robertson needs to play if he’s healthy.

Roni Hirvonen is probably ready, so is Bobby McCann, Alex Steeves and Nick Abruzzese

Ty Voit, Fraser Minten and Nick Moldenhauer should have at least be able to force their way onto the team with a great camp.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were in the perfect position to enter camp with jobs available to be won by young players.  Had those players not been up to the task, there would have been time to add at their leisure, and there would have been cap-space to do it with.

Treliving made a great signing with Bertuzzi, but every single other signing he made was an over-pay, that cumulatively add up to a bad offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Max Domi is horrible at defense, and is a one dimensional player who won’t provide anything close to his $3 million contract.  I mean, it’s possible he can, just unlikely based on his last several years of play.

Ryan Reaves was benched in the 2018 playoffs.  He didn’t get any better in the last five years.

David Kampf was a negative value player once Pierre Engvall left, and he can’t score, so unless he’s perfect defensively he isn’t going to help.

John Klingberg may have been the worst NHL player last year.  He certainly was in competition for the title.  At $900 K he was a solid bet.  At $4 million it’s like going all-in with pocket-twos.

Nick Robertson should never play less in a game than Max Domi, but he will.  Bobby McCann should be given a scoring role after last year’s carving up of AHL goalies.   He might not pan out, but the risk is miniscule.  Now they have nowhere to try him.

Next. How the Leafs Made a Series of High-Risk Low-Reward Bets. dark

The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled for years to develop star players from their draft picks and AHL roster.  Stubbornly filling up their roster in June with low-impact, low-ceiling players is part of the reason why.