4 Reasons for Early Optimism in the Toronto Maple Leafs Off-Season

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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The Leafs Blueline Has to Be Better Next Year…….Right?

I mean, it just has to be. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs defense corps this year was held together with duct tape, Gorilla Glue, a wing and a prayer.  It bent this way and that way, but somehow, it never really broke.  Kudos to many of the Toronto blueliners who played above expectations.

Returning next year will be Morgan Rielly, who didn’t have quite as good of a season as he did in 2022-23, but still displayed strong leadership as the team’s #1 D.  Jake McCabe solidified his position as a gritty, fairly reliable player with a lot of heart, and he added some scoring as well (a career high 28 pts).

Simon Benoit earned a place in the hearts of Toronto fans with his rough-and-tumble style of play, always putting out full effort, and not making as many mistakes as we all expected from him, especially after a rough training camp. He was signed to a 3 year, $4.05M contract extension during the season.

Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie played some good hockey for the Leafs, but it wasn’t in 2023-24.  It’s hard to imagine either one being part of the team next season.  Timothy Liljegren’s time may be up as well, as he just hasn’t been able to put it all together on a consistent basis, and may be on the trade block. Then again, trading effective, cheap 25 year-old defenseman has never been a recipe for success.

Ilya Lyubushkin and Joel Edmundson are both UFA’s, and it’s likely that at least one goes elsewhere next season.  Conor Timmins has one year left on a contract that pays him $1.1M annually, but he played only 25 games, so his status with the team is uncertain at best.

What this all means is that we’ll likely see between 4-6 new faces on the Toronto Maple Leafs blue line next season.  Some of them will be depth pieces destined to start with the Toronto Marlies, but with the inevitable injuries on the average NHL roster, those depth players can end up playing significant NHL minutes.

The new faces will likely include 6’6” Cade Webber, a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick acquired by Toronto in March for a 6th round pick in 2026.  We’ll also see some of Topi Niemela (as previously mentioned).

Most intriguing, however, will be seeing who Brad Treliving will be able to acquire either through trades (possibly in a Mitch Marner deal) or via free agent signings.  Treliving failed to address the gaping holes on defense last summer, and it’s hard to believe he’ll make that mistake again now.

Even though the new GM is only beginning his second year in Toronto, he’s already on the hot seat next to his boss, President Brendan Shanahan.  New MLSE boss Keith Pelley has undoubtedly given Shanahan (and thus Treliving) a short leash, and doing nothing is not an option this summer.


Let the fireworks begin!