We Have to Hold Off Judging the Toronto Maple Leafs Offseason

Sam Bennett #9 of the Florida Panthers celebrates a goal against Matthew Knies #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during Game One of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 2, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Sam Bennett #9 of the Florida Panthers celebrates a goal against Matthew Knies #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during Game One of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 2, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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If you follow the Toronto Maple Leafs and have never come across the word ‘abscission’, don’t feel bad. Full disclosure: it took some digging at this end to find the term. It means a natural process by which a plant sheds fruit, flowers, or leaves. Basically, the tree discards a member that is no longer necessary.

The Toronto Maple Leafs did some abscising this offseason when they decided to go in another direction and not sign ten players who were on the roster last year. A few of them were players that Toronto fans routinely complained about like Justin Holl and Alexander Kerfoot (though statistics show they were helpful and underrated).

All good, right? In essence, every Leafs fan is a seasoned General Manager. That’s what happens when your team hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since Lyndon Johnson was in his second term and only one playoff series the last twenty years.

We Have to Hold Off Judging the Toronto Maple Leafs Offseason

The Toronto Maple Leafs want to surround Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Williams Nylander with a different type of player, because it is painfully obvious that the team needs skaters willing to do the dirty work that the core four is not capable of doing. (though, again, perception being what it is, this completely ignores that the Leafs just finished a playoff series in which they dressed Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Matthews Knies, Michael Bunting,  Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe, among others).

Which they did, when the real, new GM Brad Treliving added forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Ryan Reaves.

The trio plays with an edge.

John Klingberg was also signed, but he doesn’t fall into that category. Plus, he technically plays on the backend, which is where the Leafs need toughness the most. Offence has never been a problem for this team, except when the playoffs start. They should get some more O from Klingberg, but holding out hope that he moves guys out from prime scoring areas wouldn’t be wise.

Yet, it’s still somewhat understandable. Treliving had to do something different. For now, the four top paid players on the team remain together, which puts the Leafs way over the salary cap. Any permutations on Cap Friendly dictate that the Maple Leafs will make more moves before training camp opens.

There seems to be a consensus that Matthews and the Leafs have an agreement in place with any announcement being made after the Nylander situation unfolds. The Swedish winger is the key piece here and if he signs a long-term deal with the Leafs, the team will need to move some of their mid-tier contracts out to make space. If not, the Leafs will either let his contract expire or trade him.

Even if Nylander does not figure prominently in any further overhaul to the roster, the Leafs must make some type of major move to become cap compliant. So, Treliving is far from done making transactions before the season opener and without those inevitable moves, it is impossible to give Toronto a firm offseason grade. (Armchair GM note: please address the top four defenseman. Please.).

Truth be told, no one can truly predict how these changes will affect this team. They have yet to have a single practice together. Play one meaningful game. Predictions can be fun, but judgment should be reserved into at least the quarter pole point of the season. Who clairvoyantly put the Florida Panthers in the Cup Finals this past June after beating three out of the top five regular-season teams to get there?

Next. Top 5 Defenseman in the NHL. dark

It would be grossly premature to assess the Maple Leafs offseason to this point for one simple reason: the team is far from shedding some of its’ players, and, therefore, they receive an incomplete grade.