Justin Holl: Back with the Maple Leafs or gone in 2023-24?

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
1 year ago
In a separate, but similar piece I wrote about Alex Kerfoot, I called him the subject of the most discourse during his time here. Well, that’s for forwards at least. On the back end, nobody found themselves in the spotlight more than Justin Holl. 
His tenure in Toronto was a complete roller coaster from start to finish. He made his debut with the team in 2017-18, when he scored his first two NHL goals in his first two NHL games, the only two games he would play that year. The following year, he found himself in former head coach Mike Babcock’s doghouse for no real reason, spending the entire season with the Maple Leafs despite only appearing in 11 games. 
Holl finally became a regular in 2019-20, and his ice time only increased when Babcock was fired and Sheldon Keefe took over behind the bench. In fact, in 2020-21, he and Jake Muzzin formed one of the better defensive pairs this team had seen in a long time. Well, for the first half anyway; from that point on, things began to spiral. He was the main character in the age-old analytics versus eye test debate. The fancy stats showed that, overall, Holl was good at controlling the puck on breakouts, and was one of the team’s better defensive defensemen. That said, the analytics don’t account for bone-headed decisions with the puck, and getting caught flat footed, sometimes leading to goals against. 
To make matters worse for Holl, and to further increase the spotlight on him, Dubas made the decision to protect four forwards and four defenseman in the 2021 Seattle expansion draft, ultimately protecting him and leaving Jared McCann exposed instead. The latter went on to score 40 goals for the Kraken, and Holl is…well, Holl.
The truth is, the 31 year-old is probably somewhere in the middle of where the fans view him. He likely got too much ice time under Keefe, leading to mistakes happening more frequently, and he probably wasn’t worth the leaps and bounds it took to protect him. On the other hand, he wasn’t the worst hockey player on the face of the earth to wear the Maple Leaf like some people made him sound like. 
Either way, with Timothy Liljegren and Conor Timmins both looking to take a step forward on the right side of the defensive corps, I can’t see Holl returning to Toronto next season.

Projected cap hit: somewhere between $2.5 million and $3 million

I’m going to be honest, I really have no idea how to predict how much Holl will get this year. On one hand, you can’t really assume he’s going to get a massive raise unless there’s a GM out there that absolutely loves him. And on that note, there’s no telling what GMs will pay for a big, right-handed defenseman who can kill penalties. There’s players like Erik Gudbranson, who got four years at $4 million per from the Blue Jackets last season, and there’s also players like former Leaf Ilya Lyubushkin, who got $2.75 million per year on a two-year contract from the Buffalo Sabres. 
Overall, it’s probably safe to say that he’s going to get more than the $2 million per year he made on his last contract, but I feel like it won’t be by that much. That said, who knows? Maybe a team gives him the Gudbranson deal. GMs love the “RHD” and “6-foot-3” tag next to Holl’s name, so it’s possible that gets him farther than we think it will. Ultimately, I think it will come down to the amount of interest in him from other teams, and I don’t think the Leafs will be one of those teams. 

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