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Comparing the Leafs roster after day 1 of free agency to their playoff roster

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Bennett Jull
11 days ago
Brad Treliving and his team have been active this offseason. Treliving has extended a contract, signed some new players, had his first full draft, re-signed players, and completed a trade for a player’s rights all in the last week. The first day of free agency is always very busy across the league. After day one of free agency, are they better now than they were a couple of months ago? Let’s take a look…
Forwards
Treliving stood relatively pat in the forward department. When comparing the current roster to the one that lost in the playoffs, it’s very similar. Treliving actually hasn’t added anyone to the forward group just yet, while a couple of players left and signed elsewhere. Noah Gregor put pen to paper on a one-year deal with Ottawa. The speedy 4th liner only featured in two playoff games, and won’t be sorely missed. The big loss for this group is Tyler Bertuzzi. Treliving was able to sign Max Domi to a four-year, $15M contract ($3.75 AAV) which ultimately made Bertuzzi’s ticket too expensive. The Sudbury-born forward signed a four-year, $22M deal ($5.5M AAV) with the Blackhawks.
Connor Dewar and Nick Robertson are still RFA’s. Dewar will likely sign a deal with a cap hit of approximately $1M. Nick Robertson, however, is an interesting case. It was widely reported that Robertson is not happy with his situation in Toronto, and has requested a trade. Treliving addressed Robertson’s request today, and it appears that the player might not get a move away quite yet. This is a situation to keep tabs on over the summer and into camp if it gets that far.
Treliving also mentioned that he’s still looking to add to this group. Whether that’s via trade or other free-agent signings, it appears that the forwards are still a work in progress. The loss of Bertuzzi still hasn’t been addressed, and for that reason alone this group is worse off than they were during the playoffs. Hopefully, Toronto is able to add some scoring, an area that has plagued them when it really matters over the last few playoff runs.
Defence
While the forward group hasn’t had much turnover, the d-core is the complete opposite. After a plethora of signings and departures, how does this current group compare? Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe, Simon Benoit, and Timothy Liljegren remain, with the Swede sporting a shiny new two-year deal ($3M AAV). Out are Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin, who each played in all seven playoff games. The former signed a four-year, $3.85M AAV deal with the Kings, while the latter inked a two-year, $3.25M AAV deal with Dallas. Both contracts seem very high, and it’s for the best that Treliving let them walk.
In the door comes Chris Tanev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (OEL), and Jani Hakanpaa. Tanev, the marquee signing, immediately gives Toronto an elite shutdown d-man. While he’s 34, the local product perhaps played his best hockey over the last few months with Dallas. While the term and AAV (six years, $4.5M) might be tougher to stomach down the road, he immediately improves this group substantially. OEK is fresh off winning a Stanley Cup and will provide another option for Toronto’s powerplay. The Leafs’ inability to score from the back end has been criticized, and the 32-year-old Swede will help address that. His four-year, $3.5M AAV deal isn’t cheap, but it isn’t nearly as much of an overpay as some of the comparable contracts handed out. Hakanpaa is 6’7, right-handed, and physical. His $1.5M AAV deal over two years provides Toronto with some solid depth. There are rumours about his health, which hopefully will be addressed soon.
Overall this group is much better than the group Toronto had during playoffs. Edmundson and Lyubushkin have been replaced with Tanev and OEK. Hakanpaa gives Toronto another right-handed option, and the re-signing of Liljegren enables Berube the chance to hopefully squeeze as much as he can out of a player who could be getting his final shot to leave an impression on the organization.
Goaltending
Joseph Woll was signed to a three-year extension recently that kicks in next season. There is no doubt he will play an important role should he stay healthy. Ilya Samsonov signed a one-year, $1.8M deal with Vegas. Toronto moved swiftly to replace him, signing Stanley Cup winner Anthony Stolarz. His numbers were very impressive in Florida, and he gives Toronto another legitimate option in net. I expect the 6’6 netminder to challenge Woll for the ‘starting’ role. Toronto also replaced Martin Jones with Matt Murray, who stays in Toronto by signing a one-year $875,000 deal. Murray will only play in emergency situations and will act as a mentor to the Marlies goaltenders and Woll. I prefer Stolarz and his Stanley Cup pedigree to Ilya Samsonov. With an improved defence in front of them, this tandem has the potential to give Toronto the best goaltending it’s seen in a while.
Overall
While there is certainly more work to be done, Treliving has done okay thus far. Stolarz is a shrewd pickup, and I’m confident that he and Woll will stabilize the Toronto crease. Add in Matt Murray, an ever-developing Dennis Hildeby, and a couple of younger prospects who are progressing nicely; suddenly Toronto has a goaltending group that other organizations envy. The d-core has certainly improved. Perhaps a change in coach and some good health is all Timothy Liljegren needs. Tanev gives Rielly his best partner ever in Toronto, while Hakanpaa is another tall physical option. The forward group needs some help, and hopefully, Treliving will shift his focus and add to that group. After day one, the Leafs have better goaltending and defence but are worse up front.

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