Scout’s Analysis: An off-season blueprint for Maple Leafs to consider

Nick Kypreos, Justin Bourne and Sam McKee discuss how Craig Berube's coaching style would fit with the media surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs and how big of a challenge it is to coach in Toronto.

At the end of each season, NHL hockey operations departments take time to review the team’s results and prepare for the off-season. They evaluate each player on their roster, take stock of their organizational depth at every position, build out their draft strategies, and forecast the amount of available cap space they will have to spend in free agency. It’s an arduous process that takes an “all hands on deck” approach.

Over the next several weeks I’ll attempt to go it alone with the process and provide a detailed review of all the Canadian NHL franchises.

The first team up for review are the Toronto Maple Leafs.


The final in-person draft is set for June 28-29 at The Sphere in Las Vegas. The Leafs’ draft grid isn’t exactly flush with picks, but things could change if Toronto decides to make over its NHL roster via trades that include draft capital in return.

Here’s a look at the Leafs’ draft board for the next three years:

Leafs’ draft grid, per CapFriendly

Unless something drastic happens between now and the draft, Toronto will be selecting 23rd in the first round. It’s my opinion that this draft class has many prospects with equal value and projection after the 16th overall pick. I’m not suggesting Toronto won’t be selecting a bonafide NHL prospect in their slot. I’m simply pointing out the draft is very likely to take on a life of its own in the back half of the first-round, with very little consensus regarding who deserves to be selected where.

A couple of names to keep an eye on as potential targets at the 23rd overall pick include:

Andrew Basha, F, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Height: 6-feet Weight: 185 pounds

Basha is a relentless competitor who empties the tank every time his number is called. He’s difficult to defend in small areas with his ability to slide off checks or beat opponents with his quickness. Basha brings reliable detail in all three zones. Something seems to happen every time he is on the ice. He’s always involved.

NHL Projection: Second-line forward

Jett Luchanko, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 170 pounds

I have Luchanko being selected ahead of Toronto’s slot in my rankings, but as I said the first-round this year will be unpredictable. Luchanko is the kind of player who can be deployed in a variety of roles. He plays with pace, he’s creative off the rush and sees the ice very well. Luchanko leans playmaker more than shooter overall. He’s coming off a gold medal-winning performance as part of Team Canada’s U18 men’s team where he was deployed in all situations and took key defensive zone face-offs on his strong side (right circle). Luchanko produced 2G-5A at the worlds and finished plus-5.

NHL Projection: Second-line forward

As noted, Toronto doesn’t have a ton of draft capital to work with. The only way I would consider trading back, to pick up another selection in the late-second or early-third round, would be if the Leafs’ list had at least three or four names they valued the same when it got to pick No. 23. It’s possible they might. But if the best player on their list is still available, I recommend making that selection without over-thinking the strategy. Especially with the inherent risk in how this year’s group of prospects project compared to recent draft classes.


There’s always a prospect or two who surprises their NHL club with outstanding rookie games and NHL training camps every fall. Toronto’s system isn’t flush with a ton of grade “A” future prospects, but they do have some players who could make the jump to the NHL next season.

Easton Cowan, F, London Knights (OHL)
Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 180 pounds

Cowan had an excellent camp with the Leafs last fall and then he established himself as Toronto’s top prospect over the course of the winter playing in London. The Knights are currently playing Oshawa in the OHL finals and Cowan is a big part of the reason why London is up 3-0 in the series. He leads the league with 9G-21A in the playoffs after producing 34G-62A in 54 regular season games. Cowan was recently named the Most Outstanding Player in the OHL (Red Tilson Award).

It will be interesting to see how prepared Cowan is at his second training camp with the Leafs. He undoubtedly absorbed a lot last fall and carried it over into his junior season. Cowan’s best shift includes full ice compete, dogged pursuit of creating turnovers when he doesn’t have the puck, and quick strike offence when he has a look at the net.

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NHL Projection: Second-line/possible first-line forward

Note: Due to Cowan’s age (19 next season) he isn’t yet eligible for the AHL, meaning he has to make the Leafs roster or be returned to junior for another season.

Alex Steeves, F, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 187 pounds

Steeves is a proven goal scorer and point producer overall at the AHL level with the Marlies and contributed 27G-30A this past season. Steeves originally signed with the team out of college in 2021. He’s had a cup of coffee at the NHL level (one assist in seven games) but hasn’t yet solidified himself as a full-time NHL forward. He plays with above average pace and has generally reliable detail. Could he be the next Bobby McMann kind of player for the Leafs? Time will tell, but the team is on the clock. Steeves is entering the last year of his entry-level contract and will be an arbitration eligible restricted free agent at the end of next season.

NHL Projection: Bottom-six forward/potential depth offence


As everyone is aware, the Toronto Maple Leafs are heavily invested (financially and emotionally) in their core group of players.

With that in mind, it makes sense to start the evaluation process with what I consider their five core players:

Auston Matthews        
Regular Season: 81GP-69G-38A
Playoffs: 5GP-1G-3A

Matthews is easily defined. He’s currently the most prolific goal scorer and shooter in the entire NHL.

His overall game has evolved from earlier in his career, too. He averages over 21 minutes of ice time a game and is deployed in all situations. Uses his size to shield pucks from opponents in the offensive zone and front the play defensively in his own zone. His 69 goals stand out, but he was also a plus-31, won 54 per cent of his face-offs, and blocked 93 shots. He’s Toronto’s most valuable player and has a new contract that begins next season with a $13.250 million AAV.

William Nylander         
Regular Season: 82GP-40G-58A     
Playoffs: 4GP-3G-0A

On balance, Nylander played to his identity for the Leafs this season. He’s one of the most dynamic offensive talents in the entire NHL. Unfortunately, his impact is streaky. There are nights he looks like he could be a top five scorer, but there are also nights he appears to cut corners and go through the motions. At the end of the day his offence wins out. If he can bottle his best shifts and mix in some additional compete more consistently, his ceiling could eclipse the 100-point mark yearly.

Also used in all situations and averaging over 20 minutes a game, Nylander’s plus-1 rating this season speaks to his lack of detail at times. A player who hovers around 100 points should have a much better plus/minus. Nylander was limited to three games in the playoffs due to a migraine issue, but he scored three goals in those games. Like Matthews, Nylander also has an extension set to kick in next season at $11.5 million for eight years.

John Tavares               
Regular Season: 80GP-29G-36A     
Playoffs: 7GP-1G-1A

Tavares had a down year offensively. The veteran forward has clearly lost a step, but he does bring value in several categories. For example, he remains one of the top face-off centres in the entire NHL. He won 59 per cent of his draws in the regular season and 56 per cent of his face-offs in the playoffs versus Boston. From the hash marks down, and around the crease in the offensive zone Tavares leans on opponents to extend plays, pounce on rebounds, and tip shots. Tavares averaged around 18 minutes of ice time in the regular season and 19 minutes in the playoffs. All of his ice time comes at even strength and the power play.

Tavares only produced 1G-1A in the seven-game series versus the Bruins. His impact was limited overall. Unfortunately, his contract is at least one year too long in relation to his salary and now he’s in the last season with an $11 million AAV. A player making the kind of money Tavares is has to produce more than he does overall, but he has a full no-movement clause included in his contract. Tavares holds all the cards moving forward.

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Morgan Rielly              
Regular Season: 72GP-7G-51A       
Playoffs: 7GP-0G-3A

Rielly averaged over 24 minutes of ice time in both the regular season and playoffs. His primary ice time comes at even strength and the power play, but he also lands on one of the secondary penalty-killing units. An argument can be made he plays too much. There are times when he looks out of gas and his pace suffers from a lack of energy.

He’s a two-way, transitional defenceman and power play quarterback who leans distributor more than shooter on the power play, but he did manage to direct 173 shots on goal in the regular season. Defending detail can range at times, but he generally competes to the best of his ability and empties the tank with the energy he has.

Signed through the 2029-30 season with a $7.5-million cap hit and no-movement clause.

Mitch Marner              
Regular Season: 69GP-26G-59A        
Playoffs: 7GP-1G-2A

Marner averaged over 21 minutes of ice time in the regular season and playoffs. He’s deployed in all situations. His elite element is what he provides offensively, but he’s also generally reliable in his zone.

Marner’s stats line in regular season included a plus-21 rating, but his playoff stats weren’t as strong: 7GP-1G-2A (plus-1).

Marner is easily defined as an elusive offensive talent with superior hockey sense and vision. He has the ability to spin off checks and make plays coming out of small areas, but lacks net drive and an interior game. The majority of his playmaking comes from the perimeter.

Marner is entering the final year of his contract with a $10.9-million cap hit and no-movement clause. With the way the season ended for Marner, the organization has to address his fit moving forward and the cost associated with keeping him for his final year.


Leafs cap picture in goal, per CapFriendly

Ilya Samsonov             
Regular Season: 40GP-3.13 GAA-.890 SV%

Samsonov battled through several ups and downs for the Leafs in 2023-24. In late December he looked as though he had lost all of his confidence and was battling to simply stay in the NHL, so he deserves credit for his performance in the second half of the season. He was a completely different goalie from January through the end of the year.

But overall his numbers don’t stand out as overly positive.

Samsonov’s game runs in streaks. His athletic style can lead to some hectic moments tracking the play and finding pucks in traffic and off the flanks. He is a pending UFA who was paid $3.55 million this past season.

Toronto needs a more consistent No. 1 goalie.

Joseph Woll                 
Regular Season: 25GP-2.94 GAA-.907 SV%

Woll appeared to be well on the way to being Toronto’s full-time starter mid-way through the season before suffering a high-ankle sprain that kept him out of the lineup for several weeks in the middle of the year. The injury bug bit Woll again at the end of the year when he couldn’t dress for Game 7 of their playoff series against Boston.

Woll’s big in the net and usually plays with sound crease composure. Rarely does he get tracking outside his posts. He uses his size and length to his advantage.

The issue with Woll is his health. Since the 2020-21 season, Woll has only been healthy enough to play 73 games (split between the AHL Marlies and the NHL Leafs). The Leafs need Woll to stay healthy. He’s capable of winning the net in the fall and his salary is a very affordable $767,000 next season.

Martin Jones               
Regular Season: 22GP-2.87 GAA-.902 SV%

Jones was called into duty more often than the Leafs, and likely Jones himself, believed he would be when the season began. On balance he provided the Leafs with some solid goaltending. He’s big in the net and generally poised between his posts. He allows the play to develop in front of him and seldom overreacts.

The veteran goaltender is a pure backup at this stage of his career. He’s a pending UFA who could be a possible depth solution if he isn’t interested in a raise from his $875,000 cap hit.

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Leafs cap picture among defencemen, per CapFriendly

Simon Benoit               
Regular Season: 64GP-1G-4A           
Playoffs: 7GP-0 pts

Benoit was one of the nice stories for the Leafs this season. He started well down the depth chart, but by the end of the season he was tasked with matching up versus middle six opponents, played a key role on the penalty-kill, and earned a three-year extension with a $1.35-million cap hit.

Benoit is a big, strong, physical, mostly shut-down defenceman. He averaged a shade over 17 minutes of ice time in 64 regular season games and that remained steady in the playoffs. All of his shifts are played at even strength or the penalty kill.

Benoit led the Leafs with 37 hits in the seven-game series agasint Boston.

Joel Edmundson           
Regular Season (combined Washington/Toronto): 53GP-1G-5A
Playoffs: 7GP-0G-1A

Edmundson proved his worth in the playoffs for Toronto. In the regular season he averaged around 17 minutes of ice time and battled injuries, only dressing for 53 total games split between Washington and Toronto.

His playoff ice time rose to nearly 19 minutes per game against hard match-ups versus middle-six/top-six opponents and he was credited with 22 hits and 12 shot blocks. All of his ice time came at even strength and the penalty kill. He’s a physical shut-down defenceman and shot blocker who brings a limited amount of offence. He’s an average skater and his long reach is asset.

A pending UFA who was paid $3.5 million in 2023-24, I would recommend bringing Edmundson back on a short-term deal with a bit of a haircut off the salary. He has struggled to remain healthy over the course of a full season so it would be risky to provide him a raise with term.

Jake McCabe               
Regular Season: 73GP–8G–20A                   
Playoffs: 7GP–1G–0A

McCabe averaged over 21 minutes of ice time in the regular season and playoffs for the Leafs. His primary ice time came at even strength and the penalty kill. There was the odd occasion he slotted on to one of the power play units.

McCabe produced some depth offence and a physical element (220 hits in the regular season). He got off to a bit of a slow start, but his game tracked positively overall. In the playoffs he was tasked with matching up against top six opponents and rolled over the boards in a primary penalty-killing role.

Best described as a two-way defencemen, McCabe battles, competes, plays through injury, is physical and capable with the puck. A middle pairing player.

McCabe has earned a raise. His current deal expires after next season when he’ll be paid $2 million. I’m comfortable offering McCabe a three-year extension paying in the neighbourhood of $3.75 million-$4 million.

Conor Timmins          
Regular Season: 25GP-1G-9A                       
Did not dress in playoffs

Timmins had a fantastic training camp in the fall and looked poised to win a regular spot in the lineup. Unfortunately, his season suffered several set backs with injury and illness. He ended up dressing for only 25 regular season games, averaging 16 minutes of ice at even strength and the power play. He doesn’t penalty kill at the NHL level and didn’t dress for any of the Leafs’ playoff games.

Timmins can manage the puck on the power play as a distributor or quarterback, but he isn’t elite in the role. His defending is mostly sound. He fronts his opponents and uses his size and length to his advantage. He isn’t overly punishing, but he was credited with 34 hits and 28 shot blocks in his 25 games. His plus-9 rating was impressive.

Best described as a two-way and, at times, transitional defenceman, Timmins is signed for one more season with a cap hit of $1.1 million. I’m not sure there’s room for Timmins on the roster. If there’s interest elsewhere I would explore the options.

Timothy Liljegren         
Regular Season: 55GP-3G-20A                   
Playoffs: 6GP-0G-1A

Liljegren is a polarizing player. In the regular season he averaged 19:40 of ice time per game and was deployed in all situations. In the playoffs, the coaching staff didn’t trust his game and dropped his ice time to around 17 minutes. His minutes dropped due to the fact he didn’t have a regular role on the penalty-kill against the Bruins.

He’s a solid skater and produces secondary offence. He also dealt with injury that reduced his season to 55 regular season games. He has the ability to create on the power play, but his game lacks some detail and consistency in high leverage situations at the hardest time of the year — late in the season and in the playoffs. His role lands somewhere between second and third pairing overall.

Ilya Lyubushkin           
Regular Season (combined Anaheim/Toronto): 74GP-0G-8A
Playoffs: 7GP-0G-3A

Lyubushkin provided mostly steady minutes for the Leafs after being acquired in trade from Anaheim. He’s easily defined as a defensive defencemen who plays with a physical edge.

In 19 regular season games with Toronto he averaged 17:03 in ice time, all of which came at even strength and the penalty kill. He was credited with 69 hits and 30 shot blocks.

There’s nothing fancy about the way Lyubushkin plays the game. He has average pace and puck skill, but he competes physically and is generally responsible in his zone. A pending UFA who has bounced around. His last contract was paid by Buffalo, Anaheim, and finally Toronto ($2.75 million). Lyubushkin earned my respect in his return to Toronto and would definitely be on my list of potential free agent targets in July.

Mark Giordano            
Regular Season: 46GP-3G-6A                        
Did not dress in playoffs

Giordano dressed for 46 regular season games, averaged 16:37 of ice time and was mostly deployed at even strength and the penalty kill. He didn’t get a game in the playoffs. Giordano has had a fantastic career, but the pace of the NHL game has become too much for the 40-year-old veteran. His contract is expiring and it’s likely he will retire this off-season.

TJ Brodie                     
Regular Season: 78GP-1G-25A        
Dressed for only one playoff game

Brodie averaged 21:43 of ice time, almost all of which came at even strength and the penalty kill. He’s not overly physical (41 hits), but does get in the lane to block shots (159).

It’s hard to put in words what happened to Brodie’s game in the back end of the season. His detail wandered and his execution making plays with the puck was inconsistent. He simply struggled. His poor play kept him from earning a regular role in the playoffs. Brodie only dressed for one game against Boston. He’s a two-way defencemen who has lost a step.

Brodie is a pending UFA coming off a contract that earned him $5 million against the cap. He had a mostly reliable run in a Leafs uniform, but it’s time for the team to move in another direction.


Leafs cap picture among forwards, per CapFriendly

Max Domi                   
Regular Season: 80GP-9G-38A                   
Playoffs: 7GP-1G-3A

Domi’s game evolved over the course of the season. He contributed some of his best games down the stretch and into the playoffs.

In the regular season Domi only averaged 13:47 in ice time, which primarily came at even strength and the power play. In the playoffs, though, Domi’s average ice time increased to 16:57 per game. Part of the reason was due to injuries the team was dealing with, which led to increased responsibility, but Domi proved he was up to the challenge and ended the series against Boston with a goal and three assists.

Domi brings a combination of energy and secondary offence. He’s a pending UFA who earned $3 million on a one-year deal this past season. If the salary and term make sense, the Leafs could do worse than extending him in the off-season.

Noah Gregor                
Regular Season: 63GP-6G-6A                     
Playoffs: 2GP-0

Gregor is a pending UFA who was paid an affordable $775,000 this past season.

When he was in the lineup he was deployed in a depth role. All of his ice time comes at even strength and on the penalty kill. He averaged 11:24 in regular season ice time and chipped in with some depth offence. Gregor is best described as a depth checking forward who plays with pace and isn’t shy about battling in the trenches. He was credited with 147 hits in the regular season, which is impressive considering his average ice time. The 25-year-old is an arbitration eligible RFA.

Calle Jarnkrok              
Regular Season: 52GP-10G-11A                 
Playoffs: 7GP-0PTS

Jarnkrok battled the injury bug in 2023-24 and only dressed for 52 regular season games. He can play with pace and provides a secondary layer of offence. He isn’t overly physical, but he is responsible defensively, with a plus-16 rating in the regular season. He averaged over 15:16 in ice time and was used in all situations.

Unfortunately, Jarnkrok was held off the score sheet in the seven-game playoff series versus Boston. It’s fair to say the Leafs need more from him at the hardest time of the year. Jarnkrok is signed through 2025-26 with a cap hit of $2.1 million.

Matthew Knies            
Regular Season: 80GP-15G-20A                 
Playoffs: 7GP-2G-1A

In his rookie season, Knies averaged 13:41 of ice time per game in the regular season, and saw a bump up to 15:05 in the playoffs. His primary ice time came at even strength, though his role on the power play increased in the playoffs versus Boston.

Knies is a two-way, power style forward who extends plays along the wall and tracks the entire 200 feet offensively and defensively. He competes hard, plays a heavy style and scores timely goals. Credited with 169 hits in regular season and 23 hits in the playoffs. Knies complements lighter, skilled, linemates.

Connor Dewar             
Regular Season (combined Minnesota/Toronto): 74GP-11G-8A
Playoffs: 6GP-0G-1A

Dewar is a pending RFA who is due a qualifying offer of $893,000. He’s a two-way energy forward who played a depth role for the Leafs after being acquired at the trade deadline from Minnesota Wild.

He averaged 12:54 ice time in the regular season and provided some depth offence in the 17 games he played for the Leafs.

Dewar provides up-ice pressure and some physical push back. Has the ability wear down opponents with his relentless approach. Dewar dressed for six playoff games, chipping in with one assist and 14 hits in a limited role. I appreciate Dewar’s approach and believe he can fill a role at the bottom of the lineup next season.

Pontus Holmberg         
Regular Season: 54GP-7G-10A          
Playoffs: 7GP-0PTS

Holmberg’s primary ice time came at even strength and on the penalty kill. He occasionally auditioned for a role at the top of the lineup alongside some of Toronto’s scoring forwards.

He is a mid-sized player with good skill, sneaky puck touch and playmaking ability. Has the legs to push the puck up ice with some pace off the rush. Willing to take a bump to chip pucks out of his zone on the penalty kill. Role player. Has one more year left on his contract that counts for $800,000 against the cap.

Tyler Bertuzzi               
Regular Season: 80GP-21G-22A     
Playoffs: 7GP-1G-3A

Bertuzzi scored in streaks for the Leafs and averaged 16:03 in ice time deployed at even strength and the power play. Five of Bertuzzi’s goals came on the power play.

Bertuzzi brings some grit and determination. It’s very rare to see him shy away from battling along the wall to extend a play or around an opponent’s crease creating a distraction and hounding pucks. His production, in relation to his $5.5M salary is debatable in terms of return on investment. He’s a pending UFA.

If Toronto is where he would like to play in the future, it’s difficult to imagine giving him a raise if he is looking for term. Even then, he might be too expensive given other holes the Leafs needs to fill.

David Kampf                           
Regular Season: 78GP-8G-11A         
Playoffs: 7GP-1G-0A

Kampf plays a depth role for the Leafs. He’s generally deployed as a fourth line forward, averaging 13:29 per game in ice time. All of his ice time comes at even strength and the penalty kill. Kampf won 51 per cent of his face-offs in the regular season, and that jumped to 55 per cent in the playoffs.

Kampf provides some depth offence, but his main role is to be a checking forward. He’s not overly physical, and doesn’t block a ton of shots, despite his stature (6-foot-2, 190 pounds). He’s signed to a contract that pays $2.4 million through 2026-27. His cap hit is on the high side for what he brings to the table on a nightly basis. He’s a solid pro, but the offence he brought combined with a minus-4 are below average for that salary. He needs to be better.

Bobby McMann                       
Regular Season: 56GP-15G-9A          
Playoffs: DNP/Injured

McMann broke through for the Leafs this season and became a full-time NHL player. The Leafs missed his presence in their playoff series against Boston.

McMann plays with solid pace, competes along the boards to extend plays, and sneaks up on opponents with his goal scoring element. He’s definitely a shooter more than a playmaker.

McMann earned a two-year contract extension that will pay him $1.35M per year beginning next season. He only averaged 11:34 of ice time, but was credited with 117 hits. He’s a valuable middle of the lineup forward.

Ryan Reaves                            
Regular Season: 49GP-4G-2A              
Playoffs: 5GP-0G-1A

Reaves is easily defined as a power depth forward who doesn’t dress every night. Reaves averaged 8:07 in ice time per game — the lowest on the Leafs — and was credited with 165 hits.

There’s no doubting his presence, but his shift-to-shift impact ranges. Reaves is 37 years old and signed through the 2025-26 season with a $1.35-million cap hit. His contract is too rich and too long for his actual impact on the ice, despite the fact he is undoubtedly a leader in the dressing room.

Nick Robertson                        
Regular Season: 56GP-14G-13A        
Playoffs: 6GP-0PTS

Roberston had a fantastic training camp in the fall with the Leafs, but found himself part of the cap crunch the team was faced with and ended up with the Marlies at the AHL level to start. When he did get his chance with the Leafs he averaged 11:23 in ice time that came at even strength and the power play.

Roberston is an undersized play driver who’s quick off the rush and possesses a fantastic release. He’s programmed to have a role higher in the lineup, but his progression has been slow to arrive. On balance, he did show signs of becoming a potential 20-plus goal scorer if provided more ice time and games.

Roberston is a pending RFA with a qualifying offer set at $813,750. If the Leafs don’t move him this off-season he will again be in a dog fight for a job in the middle six forward group at training camp.


The group needs a change.

The blueprint for success has led the Maple Leafs to a high standing in the regular season, but it simply hasn’t translated to the results the organization is looking for in the playoffs. Sheldon Keefe was shown the door, but an argument could be made he did the best he could with what he was provided. When an organization is so heavily invested in five players, salary wise, they clearly believe that core will lead them to deep playoff runs.

I don’t anticipate Tavares will waive his no-movement clause. I’m actually not convinced the Leafs will ask their captain to consider it. I’m anticipating Tavares plays out the final year of his contract.

There could be a market for players like Liljegren and Roberston, but it would be foolish to think the return would move the needle any further than those two players have provided for the group.

The same can be said for Jarnkrok. He could fall into the same category as Sam Lafferty found himself in last fall when the Leafs traded him to Vancouver. It was a trade made out of necessity. The Leafs needed to be cap compliant before the start of the season. Moving Lafferty provided Toronto what they required at the time … cap space.

Which brings me to Marner, who is entering the last year of his current contract. His cap hit is $10.9 million, but the majority of his salary will be paid in the form of a signing bonus on July 1 Mitch Marner contract and payment schedule:

Marner contract outlook, per CapFriendly

With only $775,000 of “in-season” salary left on his contract after July 1, it’s more than likely a Marner trade would be consummated after his signing bonus has been paid. That would rule out the possibility of Marner being traded ahead of the draft in June, but Toronto could still acquire a future first-round pick in a transaction.

I’ve been asked, it feels like a thousand times, what the return in a Marner trade could look like for the Leafs. Here’s an example of something I would pursue (assuming Marner agrees to waive his NMC):

Toronto Trades: Mitch Marner, Timothy Liljegren, Nick Robertson
San Jose Trade: Mario Ferraro, Filip Bystedt, 2025 first-round pick (VGK)

Toronto would acquire a top four defenceman in Ferraro, a 6-foot-4, 204-pound power forward prospect in Bystedt and a first-round pick in 2025 that they do not currently have.

San Jose gets the best player in the trade in Marner, flip out Ferraro for Liljegren and add some potential scoring with Robertson. Liljegren and Roberston would have to be signed by Toronto before making this trade as both are restricted free agents.

Ferraro is signed through 2025-26 with a $3.25-million cap hit, while Bystedt is still on his entry-level deal making $950,000 (and would need another season in the minors). This deal would save Toronto over $9 million in cap space.

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The first order of business for the Leafs will be extending qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.

Here’s the Leafs’ list of restricted free agents and the cost to qualify them:

Connor Dewar: $892,500         
Nick Robertson: $813,750
Noah Gregor: $813,750
Timothy Liljegren: $1.5 million

The only player on the list without arbitration rights is Robertson. If the others on the list aren’t happy with the offer the Leafs present, they have the option to take the team to arbitration. If the Leafs, in return, feel the arbitration award is too pricey, they have the option to walk away from the player.

And, remember, next season’s salary cap jumps up to $87.7 million, a $4.2-million increase.

Before entering into free agency, and assuming Toronto is unable to trade Marner, here’s who the Leafs already have signed for next season:




Knies (925K

Matthews (13.25M)

Nylander (11.5M)

McMann (1.35M)

Tavares (11M)

Marner (10.9M)

Holmberg (800K)

Kampf (2.4M)

Jarnkrok (2.1M)

Reaves (1.35M)



Rielly (7.5M)

McCabe (2M)

Benoit (1.35M)

Timmins (1.1M)


Woll (767K)

Total Salaries = $68,292,000 | Available Cap = $19,408,000

Given what’s already committed to next season’s roster, here’s a list of players (and their cap hits from this past season) the Leafs could target in free agency with the dollars they have to work with:



Max Domi (3M)

Sean Walker (2.65M)

Tyler Bertuzzi (5.5M)

Chris Tanev (4.5M)

Jonathan Marchessault (5M)

Brett Pesce (4.025M)

Matt Duchene (3M)

Alexandre Carrier (2.5M)

Anthony Duclair (3M)

Nikita Zadorov (3.75M)

Sean Monahan (1.985M)

Joel Edmundson (3.5M)

Chandler Stephenson (2.75M)

Brandon Montour (3.5M)

Elias Lindholm (4.85M)

Matt Roy (3.15M)

Daniel Sprong (2M)

Dylan DeMelo (3M)

Jake DeBrusk ($4M)

Ilya Lyubushkin (2.75M)


Laurent Brossoit (1.75M)

Anthony Stolarz (1.1M)

Kevin Lankinen (2M)

Casey DeSmith (1.8M)

Martin Jones (875K)

Calvin Pickard (763K)

Here’s how the Leafs could build out their roster to be cap compliant based on this list of free agents and their own players being re-signed (players signed or re-signed in bold):




Knies (925K)

Matthews (13.25M)

Nylander (11.5M)

Domi (3.5M x2)

Stephenson ($4M x 3)

Marner ($10.9M)

McMann ($1.35M)

Tavares ($11M)

Robertson ($814K x1)

Dewar ($950K x2)

Kampf ($2.4M)

Jarnkrok ($2.2M)

Reaves ($1.35M)



Rielly ($7.5M)

Montour ($6M x4)

Benoit ($1.35M)

McCabe ($2M)

Edmundson ($3M x2)

Carrier ($3.5M x3)

Liljegren ($1.5M x1)

Goalies: Joseph Woll ($767,000), Anthony Stolarz ($1.5M x2)

Total Cap Hit = $91,256,000

Note: Teams are allowed a 10 per cent overage in the summer months and during training camp, but must be compliant by opening night.

• I have included roster spots for Timothy Liljegren, Nick Robertson and Calle Jarnkrok. In Liljegren’s case, I believe there is a market for him in trade, but it won’t return anything other than a middle round draft pick. Having him on the roster is simply part of the off-season process of qualifying a player to get him under contract before being moved in the summer or during training camp before the rosters are set.

• The same scenario exists with Robertson. If Easton Cowan, for example, outperforms Robertson at camp and wins a roster spot, the Leafs would look to trade Robertson to another team in the league to make them cap compliant before opening night. 

• I’m not convinced there’s a market for Jarnkrok, but I’m at least shopping the suggestion to gauge interest. In the meantime, he remains part of the group.

• Ryan Reaves’ contract is definitely going to count against the cap for the next two seasons since he was signed as an unrestricted free agent over the age of 35. The CBA doesn’t provide cap relief to teams who sign players in this category if they are waived, otherwise his contract in relation to his overall impact can certainly be debated.


As outlined above, part of my process has included a scenario where Marner is traded. If that were to occur, here’s a look at what the Leafs roster could look like next fall, using my San Jose trade scenario as an example and investing the extra $9 million in newly found cap space elsewhere:




Knies (925K)

Matthews ($13.25M)

Nylander ($11.5M)

Domi ($3.5M x2)

Stephenson ($4M x3)

DeBrusk ($4.5M x3)

McMann ($1.35M)

Tavares ($11M)

Bertuzzi ($5M x2)

Dewar ($950K x2)

Kampf ($2.4M)

Jarnkrok ($2.2M)

Reaves ($1.35M)



Rielly ($7.5M)

Montour ($6M x4)

Benoit ($1.35M)

McCabe ($2M)

Ferraro ($3.25M x2)

Carrier ($3.5M x 3)

Goalies: Woll ($767,00), Stolarz ($1.5M x2)

Total Cap Hit = $87,792,000

• Prospects Cowan, Steeves, Jacob Quillan and Fraser Minten will compete for a roster spot at training camp. If one of these players wins a job, the Leafs will have to make a decision on how to move out a body (I’d look to Jarnkrok).

• If a player such as Jarnkrok is moved out, the team would save over $1 million by inserting one of its prospects. Currently, this roster as laid out is a sliver over the cap.

• Finding a way to move Jarnkrok would then allow the team to add one more depth defenceman, such as serviceable veteran right-shot Josh Brown (6-foot-5, 217 pounds), who played in Arizona last season.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me until the end! The process of trying to dissect an entire organization takes time and has many moving parts. This is just one way the Leafs could change over their roster this off-season, but there are many possible combinations. How would you go about business?

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