Why Waiting Is The Best Option To Improve The Toronto Maple Leafs Defense
While it’s hard to ignore the temptation of trading away futures to enhance the Leafs roster around stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, now is not the time to do it.
The Leafs are unlikely to acquire a significant, minute-munching, top 4, physical defenseman. Other NHL teams that have such a player will not part with them without a significant return.
The Leafs have too many significant questions on their defense to risk trading away their top prospects. It’s too big of a gamble. They need more than one player to help their blue line.
For this season, it is in the Leafs best interests to be a periphery contender with their star forwards and shaky defense.
The Leafs will have a much greater ability to improve their roster, starting next year, but especially in two years, after John Tavares’ contract comes off the books.
The NHL salary cap is increasing which also benefits the Leafs. Should the Leafs sign Nylander to an extension, they still have options next summer to help the defense.
Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi, John Klingberg and TJ Brodie are all unrestricted free agents next summer. Brodie is not likely to be back, and the Leafs can decide if Domi and Bertuzzi are a fit moving forward.
Should Nylander sign elsewhere, the Leafs will have the $10-11 million allotted for his salary to improve the roster. Plus, an extra $4 million will be available from the increased cap.
The Leafs would have options. Perhaps, multiple players could be signed on lower AAVs to help the defensive depth and a productive, bridge veteran to help offensively until the youngsters mature.
Resigning Nylander appears to be the option that both the team and player prefer, but it is not a doomsday scenario if Nylander moves on.
Tavares could also still play a significant role in the Leafs future. Let’s imagine him resigning with the Leafs once his current deal expires.