Maple Leafs Can Strengthen Core with These 2 Free Agents


It has been every week for the reason that Toronto Maple Leafs named their new general manager (GM), Brad Treliving. He turns into the 18th GM in crew historical past and will probably be tasked with lastly serving to the crew’s core hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug. His first order of enterprise is to get a contract extension in place for star Auston Matthews and probably for William Nylander after they change into eligible as of July 1, 2023. Another precedence is his head coach. Sheldon Keefe is below contract for subsequent season and all indicators level to him remaining with the crew and possibly even receiving a contract extension.

Related: 4 Key Fixes a Focus of Treliving’s Strategic Mission for Maple Leafs

After all that’s executed, his consideration will flip to the 2023 NHL Draft and the opening of free company on July 1, 2023. Toronto has quite a lot of gamers on expiring offers, together with Michael Bunting, David Kampf, Noel Acciari and Ryan O’Reilly. However, the crew additionally wants to have a look at the open market and see who can enhance their roster, particularly their top-six. Here are just a few choices that Treliving and the Maple Leafs ought to contemplate signing this summer season.

Connor Brown

Doesn’t all of Leafs Nation wish to see a reunion with Connor Brown? Well, it simply may occur. Brown is an unrestricted free agent, which suggests Toronto may lastly convey again a participant who by no means needed to depart. His play is contagious, at all times with coronary heart, physicality, and tenacity. Before he was traded to the Ottawa Senators, he performed up and down the lineup, much like Alex Kerfoot’s function lately.

He additionally had excellent chemistry with Matthews when he performed on the highest line. Matthews appeared to have discovered a brand new Zach Hyman-style linemate in Bunting, however this season proved in any other case. If Treliving can convey again Brown, he might be the brand new Hyman, who digs for pucks and will get into the soiled areas to arrange performs for Matthews in addition to rating 30-40 factors a season.

Connor Brown, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brown nearly missed all the 2022-23 season because of damage, which might be each good and unhealthy for the Maple Leafs. The good is they can get him on a less expensive deal, someplace round $2 million-$2.5 million for a season. The unhealthy is his ACL damage may have long-lasting results on his sport, or worse, he may injure his ACL once more and miss one other 12 months. But the great outweighs the unhealthy right here.

Even if he indicators for round $2 million per season, the decrease common annual worth (AAV) will give the crew extra cap house to spend in different areas. The contract construction that Treliving ought to contemplate for Brown is $5.5 million over two seasons – $2 million for the primary season and $3.5 million for the second. This approach, he will get the second 12 months assured with more cash, however the Maple Leafs can enhance his wage when the cap will increase in 2024-25.

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Let’s additionally not neglect that Brown is a hometown child who grew up an enormous fan of the Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, he was dealt to help dump Nikita Zatizev’s contract, however he may benefit from the likelihood to put on the blue and white in entrance of family and friends once more, which makes his return to Toronto this offseason a really actual risk.

Ivan Barbashev

Ivan Barbashev has been taking part in out of his thoughts with the Vegas Golden Knights throughout this postseason run. He has cemented himself as a top-six participant within the NHL and might be the participant that every one contending groups have on their listing this summer season (if he doesn’t re-sign with the Golden Knights). Like Brown, the Maple Leafs have been missing his sort of sport of their top-six. Yes, that they had Bunting, however he wasn’t the perfect puck battler – which the crew misplaced when Hyman signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Adding a participant of this magnitude to their prime six could be instrumental down the stretch and within the postseason. Like Vegas, Toronto carries quite a lot of expert gamers, and this postseason, the Golden Knights have proven the significance of getting gamers like Barbashev alongside their stars.

Ivan Barbashev Vegas Golden Knights
Ivan Barbashev, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It might be extraordinarily onerous for the Maple Leafs to signal Barbashev if in addition they have plans to convey again O’Reilly and Bunting, who will command a great portion of the crew’s cap house. However, with Treliving calling the pictures, this offseason might be the one when the group strikes on from most of their UFAs to usher in new gamers to assist the crew. Barbashev’s asking value might be as excessive as $3.5 million over three-five years, which isn’t a foul deal. The solely challenge is whether or not the group could be comfy giving him a five-year deal. If not, would that up the asking value to over $4 million per season? Treliving ought to contemplate a contract with a gentle AAV, someplace round $3.75 million for 4 years.


Barbashev is a confirmed winner; he already has one ring and is on the verge of successful one other. This is precisely what the Maple Leafs’ group wants – skilled gamers who can present the core easy methods to handle the playoffs with out giving up on themselves. You can argue that former GM Kyle Dubas did that, however there have been solely a handful of winners on the crew. Insulating them with veterans who know what it takes can solely assist the group develop.

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The Maple Leafs have quite a lot of choices to make this offseason with a brand new voice of their GM’s chair. But by way of all the inner contract negotiations and training choices, there may be additionally the NHL Draft and free company that would change the crew’s tradition so much. This summer season might be probably the most thrilling and scary one in current reminiscence for Leafs Nation.


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