Which Exiting Free-Agent Will the Toronto Maple Leafs Miss Most?

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 28: General manager Brad Treliving of the Toronto Maple Leafs is seen prior to round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 28: General manager Brad Treliving of the Toronto Maple Leafs is seen prior to round one of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs outgoing GM left the new GM a ton of money to spend this summer by leaving 10 expiring contracts on the roster.

Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brad Treliving might hear Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” in his head after games this upcoming season. Chances are he will miss one or two of the unrestricted free agents that left the team in July.

While I’m sure Treliving was happy to be able to spend about $18 million in free-agency, the Leafs lost players who were significantly better than those they added.

Let’s examine who the Toronto Maple Leafs will regret not keeping the most.

Which Exiting Free-Agent Will the Toronto Maple Leafs Miss Most?

Starting from the Crease

GMs typically like to build from the goaltender out. Although last year’s opening night starter Matt Murray is technically still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he will never play in another game for the team. This was by design, so that the Leafs could get more cap compliant.

If the National Hockey League kept a wins-above-replacement (WAR) stat, then current goalies Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll would be at the top of the category as upgrades over Murray.

Bottom line here: Treliving and Assistant GM Shane Doan will sleep well knowing that Murray will be on long term injury reserve.


The top six defenseman on any NHL roster are as important to a hockey team as an offensive line is to their quarterback. If you look at teams like the Miami Dolphins, their QBs either get injured often or don’t have enough time to find an open receiver. Their O-line gets manhandled, and they lack the trench mentality to get downfield.

The same goes for the Toronto Maple Leafs defense. This team has more offense than an Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay stand-up routine, but time and again, they fail to address the need to move bodies away from dangerous scoring areas. Here’s who left via free agency this past offseason:

Right-shot Defenseman Justin Holl 

Holl received a ludicrous contract from the Detroit Red Wings. Yes, he could be the next coming of former Leaf fan whipping boy Larry Murphy and stop turning the puck over like it’s part of a souvenir giveaway promotion.

Holl was unfairly victimized by the fan base, but the facts are that he was a member of the top-four on a team that won .650% of its points over a four year period.  He was also one of the Leafs only physical defenseman and will be missed more than most realize.

Holl was replaced by John Klingberg and this is a downgrade.

Power-Play Specialist Erik Gustafsson

Although Gustafsson had to be mentioned as a former Leaf, you can’t miss what you never really had. He did score a meaningful goal against the Florida Panthers in the second round, but he didn’t get much ice time and it was obvious Head Coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t trust him to provide anything other than more offense. Best of luck in the Big Apple.

The Human Eraser, Luke Schenn

Seeing Schenn back in Toronto was a nice story and he played well with Morgan Rielly. Schenn parlayed his simple game – quick, safe pass out and hit anything that moves – into a pretty monster (for him) contract from the Nashville Predators.

Schenn played solid for the Leafs, but you can’t rate that month higher than his last several year of play, which are not very good.  After signing a series of one-year deals, his time in Toronto earned him a three-year deal that the Leafs were never going to match.

His physical presence will be missed, especially considering how little of that is featured with the current group.

What the Leafs Lost Up Front

The Toronto Maple Leafs are perhaps the most forward heavy team in the league. They did see some important players go elsewhere, and it will be hard to replace some of their intangibles.

Undersized Alexander Kerfoot

Kerfoot was useful yet overpaid for his role. There are a few Toronto Marlies who can do exactly what he did (and more) for a fraction of what he got from the Arizona Coyotes. Some of the remaining players might lament his absence in the locker room, but everyone else is tickled that he’s gone.

Pesky Michael Bunting

This is a tough one. Hometown boy who openly pined to be a Leaf. His Sideshow Bob act wore thin and reminded many of Nazem Kadri. He was willing to get dirty in the greasy areas (unlike some of the higher paid players on the team) and he put up some decent point totals. You would think that anyone could do this, but between Hyman and Bunting is a long list of guys who couldn’t, such as Nick Ritchie and Ilya Mikheyev.

Barring a star turn from a rookie like Matthew Kniews, there is no way for the Leafs to replace the value Bunting brought for $900K.

Gritty Noel Acciari

Any guy who is consistently amongst the league leaders in hits and blocked shots will be hard to replace. Acciari was the Leafs forward equivalent to Schenn and the prototype for what any team should desire as a bottom six player come playoff time.

Not signing Acciari was a gigantic mistake by Treliving. The contract he got from the Pittsburgh Penguins was palatable and the Leafs better hope that one of their younger players can duplicate Acciari’s willingness to give up his body to help the team.

Former Conn Smythe Winner Ryan O’Reilly

O’Reilly possesses every positive quality of the seven previous players discussed and then some. Plus, he knows how to win. The Leafs do not. His departure is a colossal loss especially since former GM Kyle Dubas paid a high price to acquire the former St. Louis Blues captain. Apparently, the Leafs wanted to keep him and offered similar money that he accepted from Nasvhille, but O’Reilly didn’t want to return.

Next. That Time the Leafs Wasted Almost 25 Draft Picks. dark

Because of O’Reilly’s presence, faceoff acumen, toughness, and knack for scoring important goals will be what the Leafs miss most this upcoming season.