Toronto Maple Leafs: How they could look very different next season

Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have reached the playoffs in three consecutive seasons with largely the same corps, but that could be changing next season.

Recent reports have emerged that see the Toronto Maple Leafs moving a number of players, whether that be by their request or the team just feels the need to move on.

Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev came out publicly requesting a trade in a situation that both works and hinders the Leafs.

It’s been no secret that general manager Kyle Dubas would look to move the Russian blueliner, but his trade request could have implications on his value to other teams – with many in the NHL likely to say “well, you need to move him anyway” during negotiations.

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Regardless of his value, a trade involving Zaitsev would see the Leafs defensive corps left with just three of their top six from this past season, with Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner also unrestricted free agents.

Shortly after Zaitsev’s request came the revelation that Patrick Marleau would also be interested in waiving his No-Movement Clause in order to return to the West Coast to be closer to his family, who reportedly moved back to San Jose months prior.

Marleau’s hefty cap hit of $6.25 million is surely something the Leafs would love to part with, needing a significant amount of room to work with other free agents they would like to bring back.

Marleau has been a great influence on the team, helping the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner grow over the past two seasons – providing them with some truly valuable mentoring.

While the future Hall of Famer has seen his production drop off, often playing a third line role, he has still contributed 16 goals this past season and his influence would be missed in the locker room.

The latest reports also suggest that the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to move much-maligned backup goaltender Garret Sparks, who has not impressed management enough this past season.

Sparks, a Calder Cup winner and former AHL Goaltender of the Year, has had a number of strong performances for the Leafs but was largely inconsistent across the season.

If the Leafs move on from these three players, the roster for the 2019/20 season will start to look quite different from the one that has largely remained the same over the past two or three seasons.

Half a defensive corps will need to be addressed, along with other free agents such as Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen.

If the Leafs offload Marleau and Zaitsev’s contracts. they would free up around $10.5 million in cap room, providing they don’t take on significant contracts in return (unless they can be placed on LTIR).

This would allow the team to lock up Johnsson, Kapanen and Marner, who is also at the forefront of discussions as to whether or not he will remain with the team this summer.

A number of new faces are likely to be brought in this season, whether via trade or in free agency, and it could be a new-look Toronto Maple Leafs that takes to the ice in October.

A refresh could be good for a team that hasn’t progressed beyond the first round in three consecutive seasons and the next few weeks will be crucial to the building of the roster.

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What do you think Leafs Nation? How different will the line-up look come opening night? Who would you like to see brought in to replace those outgoing players? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!