Elliotte Friedman has some bad news for Leafs fans
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Insider drops some potentially upsetting news about the Maple Leafs

Published January 19, 2024 at 5:47 PM

It should come as no surprise that the 2023-24 Toronto Maple Leafs have stumbled out of the gate and straight through to the midway point of the season. The expectations are always sky-high and if they are not met, scrutiny will follow, but rightfully so for an organization with such a tumultuous history.

In Brad Treliving's first season at the helm, he made some big moves during the off-season, but they haven't necessarily panned out. However, he was able to extend Auston Matthews and William Nylander, which were both top priorities above anything else. Nevertheless, Elliotte Friedman believes that the Leafs are now looking towards the future and that perhaps this season is more or less a trial run to see what they have in the bank:

"I think Toronto's thinking bigger picture. I don't think this is about this year anymore. I think they're thinking about where they're going. I really wonder if deep down that is an organization that is saying we are not good enough to win this year. We are resetting and we are reshaping our roster and we're going to do that."

He continued to talk about the Nylander extension and how they first looked around the league to see if they could replace him with a defenseman of equal value - play-wise and contractually:

"The more I think about the Nylander negotiation, getting him signed, it was about 'what does our structure look like so we can start to rebuild the roster?'. And I think before they committed to signing Nylander, they were going - they went everywhere in the league and said - 'is there a defenseman making Nylander's money, or close to it, that we can replace him with?' and those players are not available. They're not."

Nylander was extended to an 8-year deal with a cap hit of $11.5 million, and as Friedman alluded to, those equal-valued defensemen are not readily available. The Leafs realized that it was either keep Nylander for a playoff push and potentially lose out in the summer or extend him and make him part of the core permanently and look elsewhere for upgrades.

Friedman finished off by saying that this year Treliving and company will look at making smaller moves that could help them beyond this season. Going after the Chris Tanev's of the world might not be in Toronto's best interest as they want to build their backend differently:

"But, so I think now they're thinking about 'what singles and doubles can we hit on the blue-line around this group.?'"

So while the Maple Leafs continue to hold Stanley Cup aspirations, expectations need to be tempered this year, especially around the trade deadline, as the new management group looks to fix the many issues plaguing their current team.

January 19   |   1914 answers
Insider drops some potentially upsetting news about the Maple Leafs

Should the Leafs punt on this season and focus on next year?

Yes103654.1 %
No87845.9 %
Latest 10 stories