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Major Changes: 4 Maple Leafs Who Shouldn’t Return Next Season

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Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
It’s the same ol’ story.
Eight playoff runs since 2016-17, one series win, and an 0-6 record in winner-take-all games.
Time after time this Toronto Maple Leafs team gets so close they can taste it, and then all hope disappears in one clear swoop. The era should be over. This core had their chance and it’s time to make some serious changes to the roster.
GM Brad Treliving did a great job adding complimentary pieces in his first offseason and now it’s time to plaster his fingerprints all over the rest of the roster. While Sheldon Keefe and his coaching staff are standing on extremely thin ice, that’s a story for another day, here’s four Maple Leafs who should not be returning next season:

Mitch Marner

Might as well get the big one out of the way first. Marner disappeared throughout the playoffs and while it’s not all his fault, for the price of the pony, the chances in the race don’t add up. Marner makes $10.9 million, takes up 13.1% of the entire Maple Leafs’ salary cap and he’s due for another massive extension anytime after July 1.
Treliving has his hands tied here, to say the least, so don’t think this will be an easy transaction. Marner holds a full no-movement clause and could tell Treliving where to go and how to get there. This Leafs team is a very close tight-knit group, so don’t be completely shocked if Marner says ‘no’ to being moved and plays out one more season with John Tavares, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and company.
Regardless of the feelings, the results are what matters. Every team that wins shares a bond that goes beyond hockey. The only difference here is this Leafs core doesn’t win. Matthews is re-signed long term, same goes for Nylander, it’s time for a piece of the core to be shipped out and Treliving needs to make uncomfortable conversations very comfortable this summer and approach Marner to see where his head’s at.
This play sums up a lot about Marner’s game. He hops over the boards, fresh legs in the early stages of OT, sees David Pastrnak hand it off to his defenceman to get his wheels moving and instead of sticking on him like white on rice, or even communicating to Morgan Rielly that Pastrnak is coming hot, Marner floats into the defensive zone and watches the entire play unfold.
Enough is enough, if Treliving is blowing up the core of the team, it starts with #16.

Ilya Samsonov

The term “goalied” gets tossed around pretty frequently, and Game 7 was no different. Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman posted a 1.49 GAA and .950 Sv.% in the first-round series victory. Playoff series after playoff series this seems to happen to the Maple Leafs, where they try to win the series without the series’ best goalie. It’s time for Treliving to try and end this trend and find some elite talent.
Ilya Samsonov went through one of the most up-and-down emotional seasons imaginable. He was named the opening night starter, got waived and went unclaimed, skated as a practice goalie who didn’t play any games, rebounded and found himself as the Stanley Cup Playoff Game 1 starter. He was then pulled in Game 4, and to top it off, he was forced to start Game 7 only because Joseph Woll suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 6.
It was a season full of stretches of brilliance overlapped by stretches of disaster. Samsonov battled all season, right up to being the unexpected starter in Game 7, but the soft goals came back to bite him when his team needed him the most. After Nylander made it 1-0 in the middle stages of the third period, Samsonov let in a wrist shot from a Bruins’ defenceman who scored just three goals all season long. This was just another scenario of the Leafs netminder letting in a back-breaker when everything is on the line:
Samsonov’s .896 Sv.% these playoffs was not good enough. And if you circle back to last season, after having a career-best regular season in his first season in Toronto, he’d go on to post a .898 Sv.% in nine appearances. Treliving is very likely to let Samsonov walk to free agency this summer.
Woll is signed for just $766,667 next season and isn’t going anywhere. He’s very likely going to have a new counterpart next season and Treliving will have to make a massive trade for Woll’s partner as there are no starting goaltenders available on the free-agent market. No offence to Cam Talbot or Alex Nedeljkovic.

TJ Brodie

Our first entry from the captain obvious pile, Brodie shouldn’t be re-signed this summer. The veteran defenceman lost a step, and he was getting exposed in major ways down the stretch of the regular season. It got to a point where Keefe had to make him a healthy scratch for the first time in his time as a Maple Leaf.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him in Toronto in the later years, but as a pending unrestricted free agent and with Treliving looking to upgrade all over his roster, re-signing Brodie won’t be in the cards this summer.
Brodie got his chance to get back into the playoff lineup in Game 4 after sitting the first few and looked lost, a step behind and consistently made bad reads throughout the 3-1 defeat. He was quickly taken out of the lineup the very next game and now appears to have played his last game as a Leaf. Treliving and Brodie have a long history together from their days with the Calgary Flames and that likely comes to an end before July 1.

Timothy Liljegren

After parts of five seasons with the Maple Leafs, Treliving needs to think long and hard if Timothy Liljegren is worthy of remaining in Toronto’s for next season. There’s a lot to like about his game including the fact he’s right-handed, along with the fact that he’s a very strong skater and every so often he shows glimpses of having some offensive flair to his game. But, to me, it’s the decisions with the puck in his end, the number of times he can’t make a tape-to-tape outlet pass and the fact he loses a ton of puck battles in key spots of the game. Game 7 overtime was no different, it happened on the shift before Pastrnak scored the OT winner.
The 2017 first-rounder was getting exposed by the Bruins. The team continually dumped the puck into his side of the ice, time after time, even though he’s a much faster skater than his partner Joel Edmundson, it became quite obvious the Bruins felt they had a better chance at retrieving the puck on Liljegren’s side.
It’s all going to come down to what Treliving saw in his first season up close and personal to Liljegren’s game. At 25 years old, a former first-round pick and a pending restricted free agent, Liljegren holds some trade value. It could wind up coming down to if Treliving prefers re-signing Ilya Lyubushkin instead and his physical style of play over the ‘tweener’ style of Liljegren, where he leaves you always wanting more offensive punch or someone just a little bit more physical and defensively sound. Decisions, decisions.
Nevertheless, there are going to be massive changes throughout the Maple Leafs organization and before it finds its way to the roster, the changes could start at the top and work their way down. Treliving is safe and that’s about it. It’s time for the Maple Leafs GM to stop tinkering and blow things up.

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