The Toronto Maple Leafs Free Agency Grade Is Irrelevant

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs Free Agency Grade Is Irrelevant.

The success of the Toronto Maple Leafs next season will come down to star players Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander (or his return package from a trade), and Morgan Rielly.

Nothing they did or didn’t accomplish during free agency will change this.

With the dust settled on NHL free agency, analyzing the early July action is a common practice. While it’s fun to dissect each move, the overall grade for each team is irrelevant.

Your top talent determining your achievement is not a revelation, but “winning” free agency is overrated.

Any significant contribution from free-agent acquisitions Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, John Klingberg, and Ryan Reaves would be a bonus for the Leafs. Unless all four are hits or misses, their importance will be minimal (though the amount of cap space spent on them could haunt the team later).

The Toronto Maple Leafs Free Agency Grade Is Irrelevant

The beginning of free agency caused angst for the Leafs’ fanbase because of the departure of many players from last year’s lineup. A review of these moves shows Brad Treliving and management made the correct decisions.

Michael Bunting left for the Carolina Hurricanes. Not matching this offer was the right call. A $4.5 million AAV for a twenty-goal scorer who often rode shotgun with Matthews and Marner is too costly.

Luke Schenn went to the Nashville Predators for three years at $2.75 million per season. He fit seamlessly into the lineup and was a great story during the second half last year, but this contract was too much term and money for an aging, third-pair defenseman.

Justin Holl signed with the Detroit Red Wings. Again, at a price that is too much for a player that can be exposed and fluctuates between being in the top four, the bottom pairing, or out of the lineup altogether.

Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Accarri are two players the Leafs should have attempted to keep. By all accounts, they did, but the players chose to go elsewhere.

The team did re-sign one of its own free agents in centre David Kampf. The best ability of a player is availability. Kampf is durable. He shows up and does his job. He wins faceoffs, kills penalties, and plays good defense.

This was a sensible deal for Trelving and the Leafs to lock in a player like this for multiple years at an AAV of $2.4 million.

With many players leaving, Treliving had a couple of options. He could replace them internally from within the organization or sign outside free agents.

There was angst among the Leafs fanbase following the first day of free agency with so many players leaving.

Knowing this, Treliving opted to bring in some veteran help in Bertuzzi, Domi, Klingberg, and Reaves, most of them on prove-it one year deals. Now, between these veterans and young players like Matthew Knies and Nic Robertson, the team has options up front.

Even with these new additions, next year’s success or failure will once again come down the Leafs star players.

A key, big-name free agent signing can certainly help a team in their quest for a championship. The Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights did this with Alex Pietrangelo. Teams get into salary cap trouble when they overpay for mediocre players.

Teams that “win” in free agency are rarely victorious the following year. Often, they regret these deals, especially on the backend of long-term contracts for aging players.

The Leafs are an example of this and will be crossing their fingers during the last two years of Tavares’ contract. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames were lauded for landing Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri last summer. Both teams missed the playoffs.

In MLB, the San Diego Padres and New York Mets both spend big during baseball’s offseason. They are both currently nowhere near a playoff position.

Next. Top 5 Worst Leafs Moves of the Summer. dark

It is best to remember all of this when giving a grade to the Toronto Maple Leafs free agency moves. It’s an exciting part of the offseason, but won’t determine a team’s success. The core of a team is always the most significant factor.