Insider reveals how the Leafs can fix their worst mistake of the summer

Matt Garland
January 19, 2024  (5:39 PM)

Brad Treliving speaks with the media
Photo credit: NHL

Many eyebrows were raised this summer when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed well known veteran enforcer Ryan Reaves to a 3-year contract with a cap hit of $1.35M on the opening day of free agency. While the ticket was pricey, he was expected to fill an area of need for a team that lacked toughness and truculence.

Fast forward the clock to January, and Reaves has provided very little in his first season with Toronto. One goal, sixteen penalty minutes, -11 and averaging just 7:20 in ice time. Do you think $1.35M could have been better spent? The answer should be a resounding yes.
Reaves has been on the IR for the last month with a lower-body injury, which he suffered in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Athletic's Jonas Siegel wrote a piece grading all of the Maple Leafs at the midway point of the season, mentioning that it could be a tough road back into the lineup for Reaves, who earned a D- in Siegel's piece. When he is ready to return from injury, because of how well the fourth line is playing currently and the emergence of Bobby McMann as an everyday NHLer, Reaves may have a tough time getting back into the lineup.
"The path to playing time feels even murkier now than before, what with the fourth line finding an identity with McMann in there alongside Gregor and Kämpf. The Rangers had similar issues with Reaves last season (they were filled in when he was out there) and eventually dealt him to Minnesota. Is there a market for him again with two more years left on his contract and his 37th birthday ahead later this week? Will he end up on waivers?"

You would he hard pressed to find a Leaf fan who doesn't agree with Siegel's thoughts on Reaves. There's no question that his cap hit could have been better spent elsewhere. The Leafs could have retained Sam Lafferty, for one. Or they could have reallocated that $1.35M to the D corps. If you paired that $1.35M with the $4.15M they spent on John Klingberg, the Leafs could have spent $5.5M on another impact piece, or simply paid to retain Ryan O'Reilly or Luke Schenn.
Treliving's first season as GM in Toronto has been full of ups and downs, but this move is right there with the worst of them this summer. Reaves, for as much as he brings from a leadership and intangibles standpoint, doesn't offer much in the way of two-way play or secondary scoring, and when he's not fighting or hitting, he's been a liability out there. In hindsight, this simply wasn't the play.
At this point, the only real fix here is to either waive Reaves and save $1.15M of his $1.35M against the cap or just pay whatever sweetener it would take in order to move him to another team, because with how poorly he's played this season, he shouldn't see another shift with the Maple Leafs.
JANUARY 19   |   1051 ANSWERS
Insider reveals how the Leafs can fix their worst mistake of the summer

At the midway point of the season, which grade would you assign to Brad Treliving for the work he's done so far in Toronto?

B18517.6 %
C53250.6 %
A343.2 %
D30028.5 %
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