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How much does term matter for the win-now Maple Leafs?

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Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
17 days ago
With over a billion dollars handed out over the span of an afternoon, there’s a natural instinct to freak out over the nature of these new deals after the first day of free agency ends. Sorry, how much money did you say this guy’s getting? It’s enough to make one revolt about some of the best professional athletes getting paid what one team determines what they’re worth!
There are localized fears too and as it relates to the Toronto Maple Leafs, some factions of the fan base were worried about the length of the contracts Brad Treliving issued to his new players. Chris Tanev, widely considered one of the best defencemen on the market, received a six-year contract extension worth $4.5 million annually. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, coming off a Stanley Cup parade with the Florida Panthers, inked a four-year pact which pays him $3.5 million per year. Anthony Stolarz was one of the NHL’s best backup goaltenders and provided elite advanced numbers in a small sample, so his two-year deal worth $2.5 million each year could end up as one of the biggest steals of the summer. And while there are legitimate injury concerns surrounding Jani Hakanpaa’s two-year deal worth a reported $1.5 million — which the team hasn’t announced officially at the time of this filing — the term and annual average value aren’t prohibitive enough to seriously hamstring the Leafs’ pursuit of a cup in 2024-25.
It’s that last bit that’s the most salient point: how much should term matter for the win-now Maple Leafs? When did the market overcorrect itself so much that acquiring good-to-elite players like Tanev are enveloped in the circumstances of their contract? Tanev’s deal could age poorly and some are concerned that he’ll enter a precipitous decline upon coming home. He’s exactly what the Maple Leafs have needed during the entirety of the Auston Matthews era, he ran through a gauntlet of the NHL’s elite offensive forwards and Dallas emerged with dominant possession shares whenever he was on the ice. He’ll provide a true safety valve for Morgan Rielly, who can focus on being an offensive catalyst again, and the move pays dividends?
If the Tanev move doesn’t work out, so what! Aren’t the Maple Leafs effectively back in the same place from where they started! There’s more legitimate consternation about Ekman-Larsson, given that he effectively functioned as a No. 5 for the Panthers who already have the NHL’s most sound defensive system. He adds some legitimate depth and experience for a Maple Leafs’ blue line that needed it, he can provide some secondary scoring punch and again, if the move doesn’t work out, he’s a trade chip for a Maple Leafs team that hasn’t advanced significantly in the playoffs despite one of the NHL’s most gifted rosters.
There’s a tendency to overcomplicate things in the modern media ecosystem in an attempt to connote superior knowledge, but sometimes things can be pretty simple: acquiring good players when they’re still good is a good thing! There’s always going to be room to complain, especially about a Maple Leafs team that has frustrated us all for the better part of a decade, and beyond. It’s worth getting to know Tanev, Ekman-Larsson and the rest of the class. They’re in for the long haul as the Maple Leafs’ lone goal remains championship or bust.

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