There’s no doubt about it: the rebuild is over in Toronto. What started in 2014 when Brendan Shanahan was hired to be the Toronto Maple Leafs president has now come full circle. Shanahan, along with GM Lou Lamoreillo, shipped over a dozen players during the team’s rebuild including core pieces like Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Jonathan Bernier, David Clarkson and Cody Franson. Last season however, the team took a different approach to the NHL Trade Deadline. Instead of casting off as many players as possible, the team added pieces by bringing in Brian Boyle and Eric Fehr. This deadline though, the team may be forced to take a step backwards.
According to Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons, don’t be surprised if three core players are moved in advance of this season’s deadline. James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov are all pending unrestricted free-agents and with big money deals coming for William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews… something’s got to give.
Simmons theorizes that the Josh Leivo signing could be an indication that van Riemsdyk’s time is over in Toronto. Ditto for the Nikita Soshnikov recall and Komarov. Bozak, however doesn’t yet have a replacement in the Leafs’ lineup. Could Patrick Marleau slide into that spot, at least in the short term?
Whatever happens, it’s bound to be a different vibe around the Leafs at this year’s deadline. If they somehow slip out of the playoff race… look out. Things could get REALLY interesting.