Trade Watch: Matthews and Nylander are safe, everyone else is on the table

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs held their end-of-year press conference Friday and one thing was made very clear: the Leafs are going to look much different next season. Auston Matthews stays. William Nylander stays. Everyone else is on the table.
The coach was fired and that’s certainly a decent start to some adjustments. Expect to see general manager Brad Treliving in just about every trade conversation this summer. The veteran GM is known to be ‘involved’ and hasn’t seen a group chat he doesn’t like. And with his boss ready to sign off on just about anything, it’s likely music to Treliving’s ears.
Matthews and Nylander are two players Treliving now has history with, getting extensions done with each of the two superstars throughout this past season. It’s obvious the commitment’s there, safe as safe can be.
That’s not the case with Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly, and essentially everyone else on the roster but this summer is going to be much more than just getting away from a David Kampf’ contract. It’s not about just making surface-level adjustments on defense and in goal. There’s some overdue heavy lifting needed and with president Brendan Shanahan keeping his job, he better get ready to sign off on a flurry of moves from his GM. Or at least, one with significant substance. Shanahan seemed on board during the press conference with one of his more interesting quotes stating the leadership team ‘will look at everything’.

What Does ‘Everything’ Mean?

‘Everything’ will involve all but two Maple Leafs (the aforementioned Matthews and Nylander) being involved in trade talks at some point this offseason. Matthew Knies is also safe, he’s not going anywhere.
‘Everything’ means Shanahan and Treliving are going to continue to do a wholesale review of the rest of the roster and get involved in conversations to see what the trade market is like for several Maple Leafs. Marner, Tavares and Rielly all have no-movement clauses and control their own destiny. Treliving’s hands are tied but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to escape free and execute a deal. Marner is the most likely to be shipped out of the trio, meanwhile Rielly is an extreme longshot and instead just needs some legitimate top-four assistance. Tavares’ trade value is scarce given the $11 million price tag. 50 percent salary retention? That’s one way to advance trade talks.
Another option is Tavares being stripped of his captaincy for the final season of his Maple Leafs tenure. This is Matthews’ team and will be moving forward. He’s certainly going to be named the next captain, it’s just a matter of time. But is now the time? It doesn’t seem like this Leafs brass would do Tavares dirty like that. They are much more likely to ‘let’ him return for the final season of his contract and go from there.
Marner feels like the move and there could be more developments coming soon. Treliving dealt with a similar situation in Calgary two summers ago with Matthew Tkachuk holding a lot of the cards and limited teams to negotiate with. He managed to get a couple of huge pieces from the Florida Panthers in Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. It will be interesting to see if it’s a quality-over-quantity type of return should conversations amplify this summer with Marner’s camp. Even with a no-movement clause, both sides could and should come to the agreement it’s time for a change of scenery. Other trade candidates for Treliving likely include Nick Robertson, Timothy Liljegren, David Kampf, and Conor Timmins.
Treliving also has a couple of free agents to consider bringing back. There’s certainly a chance both Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi stick around. The Maple Leafs have $18.5 million in projected cap space and can make it work for both. Moving on from Marner and his $10.9 million AAV will also help Treliving’s financial flexibility, depending of course, on what’s coming back the other way.
The Maple Leafs are going to consider just about anything this summer. Whether or not they’re able to execute anything significant remains to be seen. Treliving arrived too late into last summer to make any significant trades to the core of the team then. With a full season to see the disappointment up close and personal; it’s time now.
An active GM who loves trade conversations, a president ready for significant changes with a willingness to considering just about anything and several core pieces who control their own destinies. What could go wrong?

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