Grading Brad Treliving's First Season as the Toronto Maple Leafs GM

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Free Agency

Grade: C

Heading into the free agency period, Treliving had just over $20 million to play with and had holes to fill with multiple UFAs walking. He made big splashes early on allocating $14 million of the cap in signing Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Reaves, Max Domi, and John Klingberg. He also re-signed David Kampf for four years at $2.4 million per season and Ilya Smasonov for one year and $3.55 million. 

These moves represent over $20 million of this past year’s caphit and have largely been a mixed bag.

Bertuzzi struggled for large portions of the season but started to turn his season around in the second-half. He finished just slightly above a half-point per game with 21 goals and 43 points in 80 games.

Max Domi was a big hit, producing 47 points in 80 games, ingratiating himself with fans for his unique hard-nosed playmaker style.

John Klingberg started the season on the wrong foot and looked very out of place on the Leafs’ blueline before suffering an injury only 14 games into his tenure and being out for the season (and possibly his career).

The last of the “big four” free agents was Ryan Reaves. Treliving signed the 37 year-old for more than the league minimum and for three years. There is no defending this contract.

He definitely looked better down the stretch but between the term, caphit, his age, and playstyle the Reaves acquisition will always be a negative grade for me. The fighting and toughness elements he provides do not overshadow the fact that he is a below replacement level player. Between averaging eight minutes a game and his fighting majors, he essentially forces the Leafs to play with 17 skaters instead of 18 when he dresses. 

Surprisingly, the area that was the most successful was the depth signings. Simon Benoit, William Lagesson, Martin Jones, Noah Gregor, and Max Lajoie all played NHL games this season for under $900,000.

That is successful enough but with Benoit stepping up in a big way due to injuries and working his way into a three-year $1.35 million AAV contract and a likely third pair role moving forward is about as much of a slam dunk move as you can have when it comes to depth signings.

Martin Jones also stepped up between injuries and inconsistent play in the crease and he played a big part in keeping the Leafs in the playoff picture this season. Although Lagesson and Lajoie did not play as significant of a role, they both played games in relief of injuries this season and held their own. Gregor was possibly the worst of the bunch but still played over 60 games in a fourth line role for the team. 

Lastly, looking at the re-signees, again Treliving had a mixed bag. Kampf receiving a four year commitment at $2.4 million looked bad at the time and doesn’t look any better one year later. In a salary cap league there is likely no justification for having the highest paid fourth liner on your team.

Kampf undoubtedly plays a valuable role as the de facto shutdown center but he struggled mightily this year, consistently losing his minutes against all forms of competition. The modified no-trade clause makes moving him difficult but the Leafs should look to pursue that to free up cap space this summer or at least have a plan to make his line more effective moving forward.

To add to disappointing re-signings, despite Samsonov turning his play around in the new year, it’s hard to see his season as anything but a letdown. After playing like one of the league’s worst goaltenders for the first few months of the season and struggling again in the playoffs, it was a bad year all-in-all. 

Like his predecessor, Treliving had to make some big decisions regarding the team’s core in his first year on the job. He signed franchise center Auston Matthews to a four-year deal carrying a $13.25 million AAV. Say what you want about the dollar figure, locking up the greatest player in franchise history is never a bad move.

He also signed William Nylander to a max term eight-year $11.5 million AAV contract. The money on Nylander’s deal is a little rich but given his play in recent years and the rising cap he should be worth the investment, especially if he can keep scoring at a 40-goal and above point-per-game pace. 

The signings are a definite downgrade for Treliving. He handed out some good, some bad, and some ugly contracts which gives him a C-grade for me. To his credit, some of the moves that didn’t pan out, probably would have looked better if we could have a mulligan on the season. But, since we can only evaluate what has actually happened, he gets a decent mark of C.