Toronto Maple Leafs Not Even Close to Ready for New Season

Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers during first period action in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the FLA Live Arena on May 7, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers during first period action in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the FLA Live Arena on May 7, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a busy summer, but they aren’t even close to done.

Recently, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Matt Murray would go on the LTIR and that his cap hit wouldn’t affect the team going forward.

Though this upset hockey’s most uninformed fans, the fact is Matt Murray wouldn’t go along with it if he could play, so end of story.

As for next season, the team still has a lot of work to do.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Not Even Close to Read for New Season

Before the Leafs first game in October, the team has to clear an additional $2 million in salary, and regular injuries aren’t going to help them out –  with Muzzin and Murray on the LTIR, the Leafs are basically unable to get out of anyone else’s salary, and should an injury occur, the they won’t be able to replace them with a similarly priced player.

That pretty much means you can forget about them manipulating the final $2 million by playing shorthanded and shuttling eligible players back and forth between the Marlies and Leafs.

They still have to clear $2 million dollars.

In addition to that, they have to do something about their blue-line because it stinks.

Of the seven players currently expected to play defense for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, three of them are coming off horrible playoff seasons (Jake McCabe, TJ Brodie and Marc Giordano).

One of those guys is 38 and likely done.

Of the four remaining players, the coach has shown that he really, really, doesn’t trust them to play in important situations.  (Liljegren, Timmins).

That leaves Klingberg (arguably the NHL’s worst player last year, and one of the worst signings the Leafs have made since David Clarkson) and Morgan Rielly.

Morgan Rielly had a really solid playoff season, but during the regular season his most common linemate was Auston Matthews, and together they put up a 55% Corsi and won their minutes.

Unfortunately, when Rielly wasn’t on the ice with Matthews, the Leafs lost their minutes and he became a 47% player.

If your de facto #1 can’t win his minutes without playing with the best player in the world (or at worst, the second best) then he isn’t a #1.

Rielly can be excellent, but he’s a complimentary player at this point.  Rielly is an elite offensive player, but his overall game doesn’t qualify him to be the best defenseman on a contender.   Maybe it did five years ago, but it doesn’t today. (stats naturalstattrick.com).

The Leafs blue-line could be better than I think – McCabe could rebound, Rielly could play like he did in the playoffs, TJ Brodie could somehow stay on the team and not decline further, and  Liljegren and could take a huge step forward.

But having 100% of your top-four play a best-case scenario seems unlikely. Especially when, even under a best case scenario, this isn’t exactly a top-four that strikes fear into opponents.

I hate to say it, but barring an injury and a star-turn from an unexpected source (say rookie Topi Niemela) the Leafs blue-line is really bad for a team that wants to contend.

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They can’t go into the new season like this, so they aren’t even close to read for October at this point.