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Who the Maple Leafs should bring back and let go of this summer

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Barden
10 months ago
One of the first orders of business for the new Maple Leafs GM will be surveying the crop of the UFAs they might lose — or keep — this summer. And it’s a long list of players to sort through.
Toronto has 10 players currently under contract who are approaching free agency this summer. Some of them might already be priced out of Toronto, others not so much.
The biggest aspect throughout all of this, though, is eyeing the players who want to remain Maple Leafs, and getting deals done with them first. Then will come the harder negotiations with players Toronto wants to keep even though the player might want to test the open market.
However, you cannot bring back each and every UFA. It just doesn’t make sense and the salary cap won’t allow that to happen. So, I put together a list of players who I believe the Maple Leafs should re-sign, and those who should get their bag elsewhere.
Among the players who should cash in on their contracts are Michael Bunting, Alex Kerfoot, and Justin Holl. They’re three good players who might want to remain in Toronto but would command too much for the Maple Leafs’ liking.
There are five players, though, who Toronto should bring back.

Noel Acciari

The 31-year-old was one of Toronto’s best acquisitions at the trade deadline. Acciairi fit what the Maple Leafs needed in the playoffs: Scoring, great defence, and a physical specimen.
Acciari, although he only scored twice in 11 games, was one of Toronto’s most hard-hitting players. Through those 11 games, too, the 31-year-old threw 78 hits, which is everything you’d want from a player of his stature.
He seemed as though he was keen on returning to the Maple Leafs next season, and Toronto should welcome him back with open arms.
Last summer, Acciari signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues worth $1.25 million. If he were to re-up with the Maple Leafs this summer, the number should come in around the same as last year. Maybe a bit more, but Toronto shouldn’t go over $2 million for his services.

David Kampf

Kampf has been a great story for the Maple Leafs ever since he joined the team back in 2021. Now, as a 28-year-old, Kampf can once again test the open market, or re-sign back in Toronto.
He’s improved his defensive game over the years as a bottom-six centre with the Maple Leafs, but has never been able to find a scoring touch. Although Kampf did have a career year in points with 27 in 82 games, he only had seven goals.
In the playoffs, the 28-year-old couldn’t find the back of the net once. Toronto would be smart to bring him back at a low number, similar to the $1.5 million he was given back in 2021. Anything more than that, though, should turn the Maple Leafs in a different direction.
Kampf was their fourth line centre in the postseason, a spot that could be filled by Pontus Holmberg next season.

Ryan O’Reilly

This is O’Reilly’s final chance to cash in and while it’s likely not to be with Toronto, I do believe he’s worth bringing back. It wouldn’t be horrible for the Maple Leafs to give him $5 million per year, but it might not be the best decision either.
Toronto needs a centre, and a person, like O’Reilly. We witnessed what he could do in the playoffs and with John Tavares’ eventual move to the wing, it would make sense to bring O’Reilly back.
At 32-years-old, though, as much as it does make sense, it will be difficult to do in actuality. O’Reilly didn’t seem like a return to Toronto was in his future when he spoke during his end-of-season media availability.
Add that to the want from his side to get plenty of term in his next deal and it doesn’t make sense for the Maple Leafs. He’d be a great player to bring back, however it just doesn’t look like it’s in the cards.
Maybe it happens, though.

Erik Gustafsson

Although we only saw a small glimpse of Gustafsson with the Maple Leafs, I believe the sample was good enough to see him back with the Maple Leafs next season.
When the 31-year-old was in Toronto’s lineup, we saw a player who could move the puck up-ice while also providing some use on the second power play unit. It’ll obviously be up to him if he wants to be back with this team next season, but it makes sense to bring Gustafsson back.
He made $800,000 this past season and to me should make the same next year. As good as he was with Toronto in the short time he was here, there isn’t enough evidence to ask for more than what he was paid previously.
With a jam-packed blue line, it’s unlikely he’ll want to return, though again, it would be smart for the Maple Leafs to bring him back.

Luke Schenn

Who wouldn’t want to see Schenn back in a Maple Leafs uniform?
It seemed as though the 33-year-old was content on returning to Toronto next season when he spoke to the media after their round two loss to the Florida Panthers. But if he were to return, how much should the Maple Leafs offer him?
This is a difficult question to answer because the older you get, the more difficult it is to remain at a high level. Schenn has said that he feels like he’s getting better with age, but there will be an eventual drop-off.
If the Maple Leafs were to bring him back, it should be at a number no higher than $1-$1.2 million per year. Let me also preface that by saying the deal should be no longer than two years.
Schenn gets to remain a Maple Leaf for the rest of his career and Toronto is happy with a Stanley Cup champion returning to their team. The reunion makes sense for both sides, but will it happen?

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