The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Now Paying the Price For Their Lack of Foresight

Regrettable trades, poor player development, a changing identity, and bad luck have all contributed to the Leafs current plight. As their best players reach their prime years, they have multiple holes to fill and limited options.
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Three
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Three / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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Trade Misses, Player Development, and Bad Luck Also to Blame

The Leafs aren't completely handcuffed, but multiple other matters have brought them to their current state.

First, the team has few prospects as a result of trades. Deadline deals for veterans Nick Foligno and Ryan O'Reilly didn't work out. Other win-now moves have left the Leafs with few first-round picks and minimal blue-chip prospects.

A lack of player development has also hindered the Leafs. They have hit on most of their first-round picks. The promise and impact of second-rounders Matthew Knies, Nick Robertson, and Fraser Minten will be determined.

Detrimental to the team's success has been finding late-round gems. Also, first-round picks of defensemen Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin have not panned out and the Maple Leafs are now left looking for help on defense.

Despite having more resources than any team in the NHL, the Leafs can't develop players like other top organizations. Bobby McMann and Pierre Engvall are the only recent unheralded players the Maple Leafs have developed and turned into regular contributors.

The Leafs have also been a victim of misfortune on defense. Jake Muzzin, acquired through trade earlier in the Matthews era, was felled by a career-ending injury.

A final snag to the team's success has been sticking with an identity. They've fluctuated between trying to win with offense during earlier years to a more traditional approach built around defensive structure and physical play.

Every team would love players who can do it all, but the Leafs haven't found the right balance. They have straddled the line and refused to stick with an identity.

How Can the Leafs Fix Their Roster?

No-movement clauses and a lack of assets curb the Leafs ability to make trades to address their weaknesses. Plus, it's high risk, especially related to goaltending. They would have to move their best prospects, Knies or Easton Cowan, to get any significant return.

Their best route is to aim at this year's free-agent market to aid the defense. The Leafs biggest offer should be for one of the top available defensemen: Brandon Montour, Nikita Zadorov, or Brady Skjei.

Gamble that Woll and a couple of veterans on short-term deals can get you through the upcoming season. In 2025, better goalie options will be available in free agency. The Leafs will have money available with an increasing salary cap and the expiring contracts of Marner and Tavares.


The plight of the Toronto Maple Leafs is not completely hopeless. Yet, the next two off-seasons are paramount for the team to take advantage of their best players' prime years.