The Toronto Maple Leafs made a series of moves once free agency opened on Friday and have reshaped their roster in an effort to improve.
Toronto Maple Leafs fans were encouraged when the team made a depth signing at forward, bringing in Wayne Simmonds to add some grit to the bottom six.
The team then made a big move to bolster their top defence pairing, signing TJ Brodie to a 4-year contract that will pay him $20 million in total. This was the most glaring need for the team but briefly put the team over the salary cap, which is permitted in the offseason.
They brought themselves back under the cap by trading winger Andreas Johnsson and his $3.4 million cap hit to the New Jersey Devils for Joey Anderson.
General Manager wasn’t done yet to have Thanksgiving dinner, as Saturday brought more depth signings for Toronto. Still not satisfied, Dubas added former Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey on a prove-it 1 year deal for $900K.
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The moves made reshape the Maple Leafs going forward but did they get any better? There are still decisions to be made, notably on restricted free agents Ilya Mikheyev and Travis Dermott.
They also team also has just over $400K in cap room with 22 players on the roster. More moves are coming, out of financial necessity, but that is the tightrope you walk committing half of your salary cap to four forwards.
The Leafs are undeniably less skilled in their forward group, after shipping off Kasperi Kapanen and Johnsson. One must wonder if the better decision to save money might have been keeping those two players and dealing William Nylander instead.
The team would have provided themselves with slightly more financial flexibility while keeping two valuable assets. The Leafs now must rely on development from Nicholas Roberston or Mikheyev to round out the second line.
The top six forwards are downgraded, while the bottom six brings back Alexander Kerfoot (For now), Jason Spezza and Pierre Engvall. Presumably, Travis Boyd will figure into the mix, along with Alexander Barabanov. Simmonds will replace Kyle Clifford, hopefully as an improved version of the power forward.
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The forward group appears to have been downgraded with the trades of Johnsson and Kapanen. However, they do have some prospects that could be parts of future teams to help balance the books in Filip Hallander, Joey Anderson and first-round selection Rodion Amirov.
Where the team has definitely improved is on the blue line and that was the emphasis after a loss in the qualifying round to the Blue Jackets. The Leafs were dreadful on defence but now boast a legitimate top pairing in Morgan Rielly and Brodie.
Jake Muzzin is probably an overqualified second pairing defender, and there is depth with Bogosian, Dermott, Justin Holl along with youngsters Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Meanwhile, Mikko Lehtonen is impressing in the KHL and gives the team even more options on the back end.
At this point, you likely would not call the defence corps a strength of the team, but they are definitely more formidable than in years past. Meanwhile, head coach Sheldon Keefe will get his first full season with the team.
There is consistency in the crease, with Frederik Andersen likely to return, despite some offseason trade chatter and backup Jack Campbell ready for a full season with the Buds.
It is too early to tell if the team has improved overall, and there is still work to be done in the off-season. One thing is for certain, they have improved their most glaring weakness at defence while maintaining their big four forwards. Balancing the roster out may be enough to spark a stronger roster that is tougher to play against.
What do you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs moves so far this offseason? What else would you like to see the team do? Let us know in the comments below.