When the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares during the 2018 off-season, lots of fans thought their 50 year Stanley Cup drought would end. As fans have come to find out, it is still ongoing with a core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Tavares, and Morgan Rielly. If Kyle Dubas can improve the defense on the Maple Leafs and figure out the goaltending situation, then Toronto will be back in contention for the Stanley cup.
Why They Missed the Playoffs
After being invited to play in the NHL’s return to play series, the Maple Leafs matched up against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets battled it out for five epic games. Unfortunately, for the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jackets defeated them in the fifth game of the series to win the series three games to two. After being eliminated before the playoffs officially started, the Maple Leafs have lots of questions to be answered this offseason if they want to be in contention for the Cup.
As previously mentioned, the Maple Leafs have lots of promising forwards on the roster. With young stars such as Matthews, Marner, and Nylander carrying the bulk of the scoring, the Maple Leafs have a bright future ahead. Tavares, Zach Hyman, and Nick Robertson all provide depth scoring. Kyle Dubas has constructed one of the best scoring groups as they scored 237 goals during the shortened season.
Despite having one of the best offensive cores in the league, the Maple Leafs defense is lacking. Rielly and Jake Muzzin provide two stable defenders, but the rest of their defense is not as good. Newcomer Mikko Lehtonen will look to make an impact on the roster this upcoming season and provide a third solid defender to the Maple Leafs lineup.
Players not returning to the Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs had some players on their roster this season that fans and the media do not want back on the team. These such players either didn’t play well this past season of the fans just love to hate on them
A top pick during his draft year, Cody Ceci has not lived up to the potential everybody thought he had. During his time with the Maple Leafs, he has been the focus of blame for losing them multiple games on unforced errors. Thanks to his “many” mistakes, the Toronto media and fans want him out of the city thus, making Kyle Dubas’ decision not to re-sign him an easy one.
Barrie was the Maple Leafs prize trade acquisition during the 2019 offseason. Unfortunately, Barrie underwhelmed his only season in Toronto. Barrie’s point production went way down with the Maple Leafs as he registered five goals and 34 assists. Normally Barrie is in the range of 60 points. Also, Barrie is not the best player at playing defense. Teams had pretty good success at scoring when Barrie was on the ice. After a disappointing season, Barrie will say goodbye to the Maple Leafs organization.
As previously mentioned, the Toronto fan base and media are often very critical of their players, especially when their play is not up to par. Their latest victim happens to be their starting goalie. Frederick Andersen has been the Maple Leafs starting goalie for the past four years, and now the fans want him out. After having his worst statistical season, Andersen may find himself suiting up for a new team in the 2020-21 season. If Kyle Dubas agrees with the fan’s opinion, then Andersen will get traded during the offseason.
Free Agent and Trade Targets
The Maple Leafs had a massive problem over the last few seasons. The team needs to upgrade its defense because this was the team’s Achilles heel. The team needs to address this need before they have a realistic chance of winning the Stanley Cup. As always, the Maple Leafs are into the top free agents, and adding a top-tier defenseman will do wonders for the team.
The current captain of the St.Louis Blues and native of King City, Ontario, has had his name with the Maple Leafs all offseason. Pietrangelo is thirty years old and looking for a rather large deal. If Toronto wants to add Pietrangelo this offseason, then they will have to clear lots of cap space. The signing would be worth it because Pietrangelo is a game-changing defenseman. He can contribute from the back end as he scored 16 goals and added 36 assists. He is also a shutdown defenseman that will instantly become the Maple Leafs best defensemen. This potential signing can bring a championship back to Toronto.
The 29-year-old defenseman has ties to the Maple Leaf franchise. Trevor’s brother, James Van Riemsdyk, actually played for Toronto for a long time. James could not help the Leafs win a championship during his time with the team, but Trevor will have the opportunity to do just that. Trevor is a solid defenseman that will help improve the depth of the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs love acquiring players who are former early draft picks in the NHL draft. They would be following that same formula if they were to acquire Aaron Ekblad via trade. Ekblad was the 1st overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft. Similar to Pietrangelo, Ekblad is a dominating player in both aspects of the game. Ekblad scored five goals and added 36 assists during his 67 games this season. He also plays excellent defense and would help solve the Maple Leafs defensive issues.
The Maple Leafs have also done a fantastic job drafting prospects and trading for elite prospects. Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are two of the most highly rated defensive Prospects in the entire league. These guys will have a chance to make the NHL roster right out of training camp thanks to the Leaf’s weakness on defense.
Another Toronto draft pick that looks like a future star is Nick Robertson. As mentioned earlier, Robertson is entering his rookie season with the Maple Leafs. He will provide depth scoring for the Maple Leafs and will be a key to their success.
Kyle Dubas has also done a great job of acquiring young talent. When Dubas decided to trade Kasperi Kapanen, he made sure to get a top tier prospect in the return package. This prospect is forward Filip Hallander. Hallander will make an impact on the Maple Leafs when he can crack the roster.
With lots of young talent bursting at the seams and potential game-changing free agents coming to the team, the Maple Leafs look ready to compete for the Stanley cup. The 52 year Stanley Cup drought will end soon enough, and Maple Leaf fans everywhere will rejoice.
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