Travis Dermott: Leafs' defensive depth will 'force guys to be their best'

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott spoke about the nerve-racking experience of contract negotiations and why he's honoured to return as a member of the blue and white.

When training camp begins for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Travis Dermott will see some new faces in his position group.

That's true for every new season, a reality of trades, free agency and the overall business side of the sport.

But it's not just that some numbers and nameplates will be different next season; the Maple Leafs figure to have more depth on their back end, which should spawn some healthy competition.

“Yeah, it's exciting," Dermott said Saturday on a Zoom call with reporters. "I mean, I always like a competition, so we’ll see how camp goes whenever that gets started.

“... It's gonna get guys to push each other, and really force guys to be their best version of themselves and be really prepared in time for camp.”

Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci are out, but in their place are T.J. Brodie, Mikko Lehtonen and Zach Bogosian, all acquired via free agency. Expanded roles could be in the cards for youngsters Rasmus Sandin (2018 first-round pick) and Timothy Liljegren (2017 first-round pick), too.

Dermott, who ranked fourth among returning Maple Leafs defencemen in ice time from 2019-20, won't take his minutes for granted. He knows what's at stake.

"I know how I play at my best, so I think that's what they expect for me," he said. "Anything less, then there's guys biting at my heels to get in and steal my job, so my job is to come in and play my game and do exactly what they want me to do."

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