Early Musings on the Toronto Maple Leafs Off-Season

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Five
Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Five / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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The Core Four

Finally, what to do about the Core 4?  Ideally, what I’d like to see happen is for Mitch Marner to be traded for a stud defenceman.  Highly unlikely, that’s why I said “ideally”.

Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a tough spot here.  This core of highly paid forwards, for whatever reason, have shown too many times that together, they do not equal a successful combination of talent.  So, they must be broken up.  How soon can this be accomplished?

Auston Matthews is the best player on the team, the NHL’s leading scorer, and the cornerstone of the franchise.  He’s not going anywhere.

William Nylander found a new level of play this season, almost hitting 100 points. He discovered backchecking, started killing penalties and even threw a couple of hits.  After signing an extension last fall, he’ll be a Leaf for many years to come.

John Tavares suffered a significant decline this season in his level of play, and has one more year left on the 7 year, $77M (per CapFriendly.com) deal he signed to come home to play for his childhood dream franchise.  The Toronto Maple Leafs would likely deal Tavares now if he would waive his no-trade clause (NTC), but most feel that is not going to happen.  Tavares loves Toronto, why would he want to leave home now?

That leaves much-maligned Mitch Marner as the most likely candidate for breaking up the Core 4, especially if the goal is to accomplish the split this summer.  Although Marner also has one year left on his contract, and he too has an NTC, his situation is different than Tavares’.  If Marner can’t or won’t sign an extension with Toronto this summer, he will become an unrestricted free agent after next season and will command big bucks on the open market.

If Marner wants to leave Toronto, or if Brad Treliving makes it clear to Marner that he won’t be re-signed as a Leaf once his contract expires, Marner may be open to waiving his NTC now to start putting down roots somewhere else.  Then, it would be a matter of seeing what kind of return he would bring with only 1 year left on his current contract.

It’s unlikely the Leafs would get equal value in return, so there's an obvious problem with this plan.  I don’t see Marner in a Leaf uniform after next season, as I think it makes sense to let him walk, and use the cap space to sign the top defenseman they badly need. That's a big "if". Treliving must replace Marner with another star, or letting Marner leave will go down as a big mistake.


What will actually happen with the Core 4?  I really have no idea.  Remember, these are simply the ramblings of a distraught Toronto Maple Leafs fan still in the early stages of playoff elimination recovery.  For now, I’m off to grab another burger.