Brad Treliving’s search for defencemen could cost Maple Leafs both Domi and Bertuzzi

Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
23 days ago
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving is on the hunt to upgrade his defensive corps and as he recently put it in Vegas – ‘we got a lot of work to do‘. With the 2024 NHL free-agent period opening on Monday, the Leafs GM is hopeful he can address his blue line via free agency. There’s tons of talent available, the only thing is, it could be a costly approach.
Toronto has Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi who are pending unrestricted free agents and if they don’t have new contracts by Monday, both can begin to talk to interested teams, and potentially finalize contracts with other GMs. How long is Treliving willing to wait before he circles back on both forwards? How long are Domi and Bertuzzi willing to wait for the Leafs to get serious with their offers? These are two of the many questions hanging in the balance.
Treliving has options this summer on the free-agent market as the likes of Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Matt Roy and Brett Pesce continue to be blueliners linked to landing in Toronto and would certainly upgrade the Maple Leafs’ top four. It’s not every offseason a team has serious gaps in their roster and has everything they need available on the open market. Treliving’s eyes are likely wide open staring at the list of available players. It’s a chance to upgrade a very thin blue line and give his team a new identity as the Craig Berube Era begins. This appetite for more talent on defence is certainly a double-edged sword at this point.
The Maple Leafs only have $18.8 million in projected cap space at the moment and while a trade could quickly add some more flexibility, it’s not a ton of money to spend. Especially with the defence market expected to be a very expensive one, as we saw with Dylan DeMelo of the Winnipeg Jets recently landing a four-year $19.6 million. Seeing DeMelo make $4.9 million per season makes it seem like the Chris Tanevs and Nikita Zadorovs of the world will be coming in well over this mark. Will there even be any money left over if Treliving closes a couple of deals early Monday afternoon?
The communication stream does appear to be very transparent. The Leafs have been in contact with both Domi and Bertuzzi’s camps leading up to this point and there’s reportedly mutual interest in getting some new extensions completed, however, Treliving has kept it very real throughout the process. Bertuzzi’s agent Todd Reynolds confirmed recently via Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun that talks between the two sides were positive, however, Treliving made it clear the team has other priorities they’d like to address first and Reynolds and Bertuzzi will see where it goes.

Treliving’s Keeping Door Opened

Not only are the Maple Leafs in active talks with both Domi and Bertuzzi, but Treliving has come out to state the door is not closed on any of his free-agent defencemen either, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. This includes Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, and the more likely two to return, Ilya Lyubushkin and Joel Edmundson.
Edmundson seems like the most likely to stay a Maple Leaf as he’s played under Berube before with the St. Louis Blues, including winning a Stanley Cup together in 2019. However, it’s becoming clear as day in Toronto, that money is everything and frankly, there’s not going to be enough to go around.
The Maple Leafs are going to have to get their priorities straight. Pursue free-agent defensemen aggressively and spend most of the team’s cap space, or circle back on their own free agents and finalize extensions to keep some of last season’s roster in-house. Decisions, decisions.

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