The Toronto Maple Leafs have new management but still have the same problems. They have not gone past the second round with their core four in five seasons and are coming to a point where all four of them will have to be re-signed or let go. The Leafs are consistently a heavy favourite to win the Stanley Cup each year because of this particular group of players, but time is quickly running out. Auston Matthews is one of the best Leafs goal scorers of all time, but at the end of next season, he’ll be a free agent (FA) who will want a monstrous new contract. If Toronto doesn’t make a huge move soon, they face the big risk of not getting their superstar center back and losing him for nothing. They have options, but one could be moving him sooner than later.
Leafs Will Need to Move One of the Core Four
The Leafs have been one of the best teams in the league since they drafted Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander and signed John Tavares as an FA. There is no denying these four players’ star power and overall talent; their success individually and as a team in the regular season has been tremendous. But for some reason, playoff success has not been the same. Much of that concerns the lack of depth, defense, and quality, consistent goaltending, which is more challenging for Toronto to build with their top four taking up most of the cap space. For years, former general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas has been trying to plug the holes with the best players he can find while staying within the salary cap rules with little to no success.
To get the most out of their cap situation, the Leafs will have to move one of their core four, especially within the next two seasons, even if the cap goes up by the rumoured $4 million in 2023-24. All four will be at the end of their contracts, and all four will be unrestricted free agents (UFA) able to sign anywhere they want for a much higher annual average value (AAV) than they have now.
Unless Toronto truly believes they have a Cup coming to them in the next two seasons or sooner, and it can only be done with these four on the team, then they must make a move. A deadline move wouldn’t work because the Leafs will probably be buyers and sellers, so an off-season move would be the way to get at least something for one of their players. If they don’t make a move, then the team will lose one, if not more, of these players and receive nothing in return.