16 things on new Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving’s summer checklist

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
There really isn’t going to be much of a honeymoon phase with the Leafs and Brad Treliving. There will be an introductory press conference and then likely an expectation that we start seeing some decisions coming out of his office by next week at the latest.
At this point the state of the Auston Matthews and to a somewhat lesser extent William Nylander contracts need to be resolved, and that is certainly on the list and is a process that will need to start early. So we’ll double back to that, but while the Matthews contract is the most significant thing to consider this summer it doesn’t necessarily come up first on the timeline of things that need to be taken of and doesn’t have a hard deadline in June. Here’s the full list of things on the go (and this list is somewhat dependent on what Brad Treliving will be able to do as far as the draft for the Leafs.)

1. Kalle Loponen and Josh Pillar (due today)

Okay, so this is far from the priority for the Leafs or for Brad Treliving, but June 1st is expiration date for Loponen and Pillar’s time on the Leafs reserve list and they are free to go wherever now.
Pillar was a player included from the Wild when they retained salary on Ryan O’Reilly. Presumably this was to keep the deal on the level in the eyes of the NHL. Loponen is a Finnish defenseman who hasn’t really stood out in any capacity and hasn’t been a full time player in Liiga at the age of 22.
This is likely non-work and the reserve list status on both will lapse. If Treliving is interested in anyone else around the league who is seeing their team rights expire, this could be a chance to act, but if Toronto sits that out it isn’t the end of the world either.

2. Fire or confirm Sheldon Keefe as the Head Coach (somewhat urgent)

Brendan Shanahan has been rumoured to have thrown his support behind keeping Keefe behind the bench for now and that could simply stem from the fact that the Leafs are in a situation where they are tackling a potential coaching vacancy later than they’d like.
Sheldon Keefe is very much Kyle Dubas’ guy and is likely to land wherever Dubas does. I’m not sure keeping him around does much for the Leafs and the allure of the mystery box is stronger than the allure of Keefe.
If there is interest in Keefe around the league the right thing to do is let him know as soon as possible so he can pursue those opportunities. If the plan is to keep him, Treliving and Keefe need to partner on addressing a replacement for Spencer Carberry.
The Leafs very well could be moving on from Keefe and if they do it will be interesting to see what names emerge on Treliving’s list. The Flames’ AHL coach, Mitch Love, is very much in demand and could be someone he poaches, but I wouldn’t worry so much about the idea of Darryl Sutter being a name we hear as he is a big reason for Treliving being a free agent this spring.

3. Who runs the draft (June 4-10)

With the draft combine coming up it remains to be seen if Brad Treliving can be present for it as a member of the Leafs with his knowledge of the Flames draft plans. The whole thing seems somewhat silly until you start thinking about how Leafs fans would feel if Kyle Dubas showed up and went to town on the Leafs draft list on behalf of Pittsburgh.
Whatever is decided there it will be interesting to see who is Treliving’s go to for the draft and why it is likely to be Brandon Pridham.
If Treliving is able to be involved on behalf of the Leafs this would add a ton of additional work to his plate so delegation might be the way to go anyway. The Leafs aren’t sitting on a ton of picks at the moment and the Flames pick before the Leafs in the first round, that might be enough to quell some fears.

4. Bringing in his guy? (probably urgent to him)

Does Brad Treliving have a guy? I admit to not paying too close of attention to how things have worked in Calgary, but everyone in Calgary seemed to get a fancy new title after Treliving left and no one else left when Treliving did. Maybe instead of bringing in his guy it’s just a matter of bringing in a nice potted plant or adding Boston Pizza to the speed dial functions on the phone that makes him feel settled in, but it wouldn’t be too big a shock to have a new name added to the Leafs lengthy AGM lineup.

5. Ilya Samsonov (urgent or the opposite)

Ilya Samsonov is an interesting case depending on how Brad Treliving and the Leafs organization views Samsonov. If there are true believers in Samsonov then there is a need to approach his contract with a sense of urgency and try to get him locked up for as many years at the best deal possible. If there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the Leafs have in Samsonov then Toronto qualifies him and they head on a path to arbitration that likely sees a cheaper one year deal emerge.
When it comes to goaltending, I’m not saying which one is the best approach, especially with Joseph Woll looking to be an interesting option.

6. Matt Murray decision (minutes after the buyout window opens)

I think Kyle Dubas was the last believer that there was something that could be salvaged from Matt Murray’s game and that eroded over the course of last season. As a result there is a decision that needs to be made on the future of Matt Murray in the Leafs organization.
Murray was allegedly healthy enough to play in the playoffs if called upon, that means he’s healthy enough to be bought out and likely too healthy to be put on the LTIR next season. It seems simple enough to appreciate the buyout is better than trying to play him.
The situation gets complicated when looking at whether the Leafs can trade him and someone else takes care of the buyout for them. Throw a modified NTC into the mix and it is potentially too steep a transaction for most teams. My guess is the decision to buyout Matt Murray is an easy one when you have nothing personally attaching you to the player.

7. Okay, you’ve read enough that we should finally talk about Matthews, Marner, and Nylander

I’m taking Tavares out of this equation because it’s a different conversation that needs to happen there.
Matthews and Marner are about to have no movement clauses kick in. Nylander is about to have a limited no trade clause, and both Matthews and Nylander will be free agents next summer if not signed. Treliving is rumoured to have spoken to the Matthews camp already about wanting to discuss an extension and that’s a great first step. It would be nightmarish to think that the Matthews situation would be botched to the point where he isn’t a Leaf for at least the next few seasons.
Marner and Nylander are a bit different and Marner especially given the about of flexibility the Leafs gain from freeing up nearly $11M on their cap and the impact of an earlier NMC before the opportunity to renegotiate is near.
With Nylander the waiting game can be played on both the contract and trade front a bit more and I hate to make it look like I’m devaluing him, but there is some flexibility there. Marner is a very different situation and one that a savvy GM has to at least explore. The parallels between Marner and Gaudreau are certainly there and Treliving developing a reputation as poor asset managing GM wouldn’t be ideal for him.
On the other hand, Nylander and Gaudreau share an agent and if there is bad blood there it could be make for an interesting situation with Willy as well.
I’m not sure you spend the time leading up to the draft shopping Marner or Nylander, but Treliving would be insane to not listen and see how far down a path he can go with trade partners before making a decision, assuming he isn’t fully committed to keeping the band together. That’s not a horrible play either no matter how exciting trades can be over the summer.

8. Figure out the Marlies coaching staff (Lower urgency)

I feel like this is a great one to wait until after the Memorial Cup has wrapped up and the best that junior hockey has to offer is potentially available for hire. I also wonder what the sense of urgency is when there is the opportunity to see who from the NHL coaching ranks has been left without a new gig and there is an opportunity to bring someone talent in that way as well.
The interesting part here is that it is potentially an opportunity for Treliving and Ryan Hardy to collaborate on something of significance and see how these two work together in building a vision for the best way to ready future Leafs for the NHL while hopefully winning a few AHL games in the process.
The dynamic of how much of the process belongs to Hardy vs. Treliving will be interesting because that’s also going to speak to how the Marlies roster is filled out this summer. Will it be stocked with guys that Treliving wants ripening for the NHL or will it be guys that help Hardy win now or believe that the Marlies can develop.
This won’t be keeping anyone up at night, but it still could be a part of what we see happen in the next month

9. Oh yeah, those UFAs (before July 1st)

The Leafs have 10 UFAs to deal with. I’m going to assume that the vast majority prefer the do nothing approach when it comes to Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl. Fair enough, under Brad Treliving that seems a lot more likely than under Kyle Dubas. What comes next for Zach Aston-Reese, Erik Gustafsson, Erik Kallgren, Wayne Simmonds, Jordie Benn, Carl Dahlstrom, and Radim Zohorna probably isn’t keeping you up at night either. Cool.
The decisions that need to be made are guys like Luke Schenn, who seems like a potential fit under Treliving since he kept Michael Stone around for so long and he found value in Nikita Zadorov. Schenn coming back looks like a safe bet.
The forward UFAs are a bit more debatable. David Kampf and Noel Acciari are probably very price dependent and need to hit a value point that makes them worth taking the safe bet over gambling on Pontus Holmberg and Bobby McMann to replace them.
Michael Bunting is going to ring the bell somewhere with an overpayment and with building frustration towards him within the Leafs organization and numbers showing that he really needs to play with Auston Matthews to achieve his offensive results, he’s likely gone.
Ryan O’Reilly is the most interesting option and one where I feel a couple of current Leafs might be the evidence that shows that O’Reilly could be gone as well. Brodie was allowed to leave in free agency and Giordano was left exposed and selected in the expansion draft. Both were obviously still capable players but came with a heightened risk due to their combination of age and salary. Ryan O’Reilly could fall into that same way of approaching free agents in their 30s. Of course, 31 year old Nazem Kadri just received a long term $7M AAV deal from Treliving last summer, but there is something to be said for the desperation of that move as well. I don’t think the Ryan O’Reilly situation will be approached the same way and it is going to be more of a take it or leave it number. I’d bet on him leaving it.
The Leafs have a lot of free agents, but not really any who are irreplaceable. That is probably a nice problem to have for a new GM and one that speaks to a later item on the checklist.

10. John Tavares and where he fits in

An underwhelming second round of the playoffs likely means we are having another summer referendum on John Tavares as a leader, how he will perform for the next couple of seasons, and really where does he fit in to the Leafs going forward.
I don’t think Tavares is going anywhere and I think it is safe to say given his current level of performance he’ll still be a capable top six player throughout his time in Toronto, even if he is paid a bit more than you are personally comfortable with.
What will be interesting to see is if Tavares does get approached about his no movement clause, his captaincy, etc. when Toronto is also potentially bringing in a new coach as well.

11. Getting to know organizational depth

From the outside looking in I’d imagine it’s hard to know how far out until Topi Niemela is NHL ready, what Matthew Knies still needs to work on, what can realistically be expected of Matthew Knies, and how good are Bobby McMann, Pontus Holmberg, Joseph Woll, Nick Abruzzese, and Alex Steeves, really. It’s going to take some work in identifying who can be penciled into roster spots or be expected to have training camp battles, and who is, well…Max Ellis.
From Craig Conroy’s press conference when he was announced as the Flames GM he said one of his big changes was going to be that he would keep spots open for rookies and AHLers to grab out of training camp and that was going to be a significant change from the Treliving era. That should lead us to believe that getting to know the depth is going to be more of a summer down time project for Treliving and it’s far more likely that the roster will be rounded out and the tie goes to the veteran approach will prevail.

12. Jake Muzzin

It seems like a given at this point that Jake Muzzin’s playing days are behind him. Under Kyle Dubas it seemed likely that Muzzin would get a role within the Leafs organization at some point but whether that is still true under Treliving, it remains to be seen. There might be a preference to see if he can be dealt for a team that wants Muzzin to hit the salary cap floor.
While it seems likely that his playing days are behind him, confirming that will be minimal work that Treliving needs to do here and probably already took place in the job interview.

13. RFAs not named Samsonov

There is still the matter of getting qualifying offers out to Pontus Holmberg and Nick Abruzzese, and decisions about whether or not qualify Mac Hollowell, Victor Mete, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, and Filip Kral that will need to be made.
There is a June deadline associated with this, but none of this should be time consuming work.

14. Those other 2024 UFAs

Matthews and Nylander get a lot of the spotlight but TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano are significant pieces too. Giordano is made a lot easier by his salary situation, but Brodie is a legitimate decision/test for Treliving. TJ could help a team now if they want him in the short term, the Leafs could see him as a great own rental for his last season, or there could be an attempt to sign him.
Just because Treliving didn’t re-sign Brodie in Calgary doesn’t mean that he won’t be interested in a cheaper mid-30s TJ Brodie.

15. Building out a UFA shopping list

Whether it is UFAs or trade targets, Treliving is going to need to establish what he is looking for on the Leafs both from an archetype perspective as well as a tangible list of players who may be available to fill that role.
That could mean the Leafs scouts and research team are looking at an entirely new direction compared to what they’d look at under Kyle Dubas. I’ve listed this last but it’s honestly going to take the most time and is somewhat unpredictable.
From Calgary we can assume that Treliving values strong goaltending and defense and there was a tendency to lean towards strong two way players more than dominant offensive talent. That also fits largely with the coaches he had. Hartley, Peters, and Sutter preferred that approach and it is hard to imagine that Darryl Sutter was over the moon to bring in Jonathan Huberdeau.
That was also a direction based off of where Calgary was when Treliving started. They had a strong defensive foundation with Giordano and Brodie, and good two-way players like Backlund.
He brought in Coleman and Kadri, those could be two telling acquisitions and actually ones that should have Leafs fans feeling better about Treliving and at least for a brief time he was excited about Dougie Hamilton as well.

16. Fun in the sun

Honestly, I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot. And a lot of what is captured here is going to be painfully time consuming. It’s nice to say “figure out a contract” when who knows if lose a day to bickering with Nick Abruzzese’s agent over whether his deal is one way or two way, or does an extra $500k AAV on Matthews next contract buy the Leafs a year without a NMC at the end of his deal.
There isn’t going to be any rest for Treliving in June and likely not in July either. Unfortunately for Treliving the amount of important work and high expectations around the Leafs won’t afford him the luxury of cracking a few eggs along the way and he’ll have to get it right and quick. That’s where you’d hope that bountiful resources of the Leafs Hockey Ops department still have a voice.

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