December 2, 2023

He had a submit prepared for the opening after July 1, the Maple Leafs have loads of salary-cap room to do one thing extra attention-grabbing and it’s value ready to completely assess new GM Brad Treliving’s first free company in Toronto.

Fortuitously, I waited. And on Sunday he got here to work.

The Leafs not have cap area to work with, however they’ve a extra full lineup after signing Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Tomi. Each solely obtained one-year contracts, which is a victory on this context.

Mixed, they’d earn $8.5 million in opposition to the cap, which is about proper given their projected roles. They each include one thing of a bonus, particularly in the event that they’re amplified by the sturdy forged round them.

Right here’s a believable Leafs lineup for 2023-24, with rookie Lair and netminder Ilya Samsonov signed at a practical price.

Bertuzzi seems like a pure match with Aston Matthews, for causes Jonas talked about right here on the weekend. In the meantime, Domi, as proven above, offers the Leafs some positional choices, together with utilizing him totally on offense, protected on the third line within the middle.

I doubt each will see one another within the lineup firstly of the season, however given the variety of forwards (and targets) lacking in Toronto, they’ve had extra offense than they’ve in recent times. to free company this yr.

The Leafs wanted one other middle possibility after dropping Ryan O’Reilly (Nashville), Noel Acciari (Pittsburgh) and Alexander Kerfoot (to Arizona) over the previous two days.

The place does the addition of Bertuzzi and Tomi depart the Leafs financially? Nicely that’s fairly tight.

Along with the checklist of 23 gamers above, at every place, they’ve greater than $5.4 million.

Treliving may get them if he removes Pontus Holmberg, protecting Matt Murray’s full wage cap in a commerce that will give Toronto $56,000 to start out the season.

So with that restricted leeway, the Leafs are largely “accomplished” on the roster shakeup.

Potential, however I wouldn’t say possible.

The William Nylander state of affairs would be the greatest downside. They aren’t shut in negotiations, and the hole feels extensive sufficient to drive a commerce.

If that’s the case, it looks as if a really troublesome factor to win. Nylander has a 10-team no-trade clause that went into impact Saturday, so if his camp needs to play hardball, they will make 10 groups extra cap area and/or bid for it.

Nylander’s present contract is an unbelievable discount for a participant who scored 40 objectives final season. How do you switch that manufacturing to a contract that requires shifting from Cap Area to Cap Area?

Any acquisition crew goes to wish to prolong Nylander, so if the quantity is $9.5 million or extra, that’s a really brief checklist of groups prepared to signal that deal and quit a superb asset.

The perfect-case state of affairs for the Leafs is that they will signal Nylander within the subsequent few months, however I’m afraid there are too many hurdles at stake. The latter has a historical past of failed trades in 2018, which got here simply minutes after he missed the season. It’s been some time because the Leafs’ different Large Three forwards make not less than 56 p.c greater than Nylander, regardless that his manufacturing hasn’t been that far off in latest seasons.

And the cap is prone to improve dramatically in 2024-25, prone to dwarf such negotiations throughout the league for the subsequent 12 months.

For a very long time I believed the contract Filip Forsberg signed in Nashville final yr (eight years at $8.5 million per season) was similar to Nylander’s. Forsberg’s deal would equate to only over $9 million in opposition to the $87.7 million wage cap for the 2024-25 season.

Whereas Nylander could have greater than 30 years on that contract, I don’t care about that quantity.

However by all accounts, the Leafs desire one thing smaller beginning at eight. And Nylander needs one thing increased. Possibly an excessive amount of.

Maybe they’ve discovered a center floor, however time is operating out. Getting a Nylander commerce which you can not less than put collectively goes to be very troublesome within the offseason. As we head into the season, it feels downright unimaginable, particularly with the way in which all of the groups may very well be out by then. (About 20 groups entered final yr’s season with LTIR.)

My different concern is what do the Leafs get?

Given all of the variables stacked in opposition to you, this may very well be a fairly simple deal.

Nikita Satorov. (Sergei Belski/USA Immediately)

There’s been quite a lot of speak about Treliving visiting his outdated crew in Calgary and looking at a few of their potential blueliners, however any bundle for Noah Hanifin, Chris Danev or Nikita Satorov carries an enormous threat. Unrestricted free company.

After the Leafs gambled $4 million on John Klingberg, his wage is so excessive that he doesn’t make sense in a third-matching function, with out drawing another person, and his 4 predominant holes on the again aren’t fairly proper.

Any mixture that entails shifting Nylander’s cap round so as to add extra protection will profoundly diminish how harmful the Leafs are up entrance. Though nonetheless a harmful crew, they ranked ninth in objectives per recreation within the common season and recorded 2.22 objectives per 60 minutes within the playoffs. (Vegas received the Stanley Cup at 3.65.)

Even when the Leafs discover a technique to maintain Nylander, who’s, once more, the popular possibility, they aren’t the largest offensive juggernaut. Matthews will likely be more healthy and due to this fact extra harmful, however Tavares remains to be a yr older. His blue line has some growing old items which have struggled to contribute offensively.

Whereas Bertuzzi and Tomi may change the offense the Leafs misplaced in free company, they offer a few of that to the defensive finish of the crew fairly than the gamers they change.

In any setting, he’s a again six who appears to be like like he’ll have a tough time scoring once more. Ideally, David Kamp will not be your third-string middle and he can eat powerful minutes with different girls, but when he performs Ryan Reaves, what number of minutes are you able to give that line? Can they actually play in opposition to the perfect strains of different groups?

However, if Reaves performs elsewhere, how can deep gamers like Holmberg, Nick Robertson and Bobby McMann succeed in opposition to somebody who can’t produce factors?

For the reason that checklist is presently structured, I don’t see a lot construction not just for the third and fourth row of sheets, but in addition on its again. Outdoors of the primary two ahead strains, it seems like a crew with quite a lot of items that don’t significantly match collectively.

Now listed below are three potentialities on that entrance. No. 1: I’m incorrect about that, it really works. No. 2: The entrance workplace is miscalculated and so they have a chaotic lineup that will likely be troublesome for coach Sheldon Keefe to construct in any significant manner.

Or, possibility three, the lineup isn’t a completed product and there are nonetheless vital strikes to return.

To be trustworthy, I believe that’s the almost definitely reply proper now.

After signing Bertuzzi and Domi, the Leafs don’t have sufficient cap area to proceed to function in free company, and there aren’t any contracts they will simply undo to make room to take action. However how the UFA pool is chosen will not be a significant concern.

Barely extra regarding is that Treliving began this season by speaking about eager to bulk up his rear finish. Including Klingberg actually isn’t.

Add to that (a) the Nylander negotiations haven’t gone nicely, (b) the Leafs are comparatively skinny for middle choices typically, and (c) it appears troublesome to construct purpose-built strains and matchups throughout your entire lineup, and nonetheless there’s a lot to marvel about right here.

I can create a greater state of affairs for this lineup involving Matthew Good (or Josef Woll) breaking out in his first full NHL season, Robertson lastly breaking by way of, and Klingberg rebounding from the place he was three or 4 years in the past.

However with a weaker crew offensively and defensively than a yr in the past, he may see a horrible state of affairs right here as nicely, particularly if issues don’t pan out within the strikes to return.

Truthfully, for me, all eyes are on the Nylander entrance proper now as a result of it may very well be the place this season is received or misplaced.

(Prime photograph: Boston Globe through Barry Chinn/Getty Photos)