Move out some money
The Leafs have a lot of expensive contracts and it’s not their fault really because they have world-class players like John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner (when and if he signs) and William Nylander.
While Dubas has made it a point to lock up his core forwards, he can’t ignore the fact that his blueline doesn’t exactly line up the same way. Obviously, the Leafs GM hopes Sandin and Liljegren figure into the team’s plans and they will have others to follow but when you consider that Rielly only has two more years left on his deal, the Leafs need to give some thought on how they want to proceed with their defence.
You would hope that includes re-signing Rielly and maybe Barrie if the money works but the only way that might happen is if the team moves some salary upfront to get it done. Most might point to Nylander but he should be a last resort considering you have wingers like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson who are also attractive commodities.
It would probably make more sense to try and replace players like Kapanen and Johnsson with players from the Marlies who are cheaper and can probably play similar roles. Again, there are always risks to doing that but when you look at how Kapanen and Johnsson got to the NHL, you have to believe your farm system can continue to do that.
They had to make the tough decision to send Patrick Marleau packing along with a first-round pick and that should not happen down the road but Dubas also made sure to bring more depth too.
Another thing to consider is that the Leafs probably won’t be bringing back Ceci unless it’s at a reduced price and Muzzin might be in the same boat unless the salary is able to work out. Toronto will have some money to play with but it would also be easier if they gave themselves some breathing room.