There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the Toronto Maple Leafs will have a very different looking roster come next season but the big question now surrounds which pieces of the current roster will be moved aside in order to facilitate the changes that must be made. The decision that will be made by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas during the offseason will no doubt be extremely difficult regardless of which ones he eventually makes and today we will be taking a look at some of those potentially difficult decisions.
There are of course players like Cody Ceci and even Kyle Clifford, players who contracts expired at the end of the season, that are obvious candidates to be departing in the offseason but for the purpose of this article we will be focusing on the biggest, or most familiar, names that the Leafs could lose in the offseason.
#1 William Nylander.
This one is likely still something of a long shot but there's been enough chatter regarding the future of William Nylander lately that he must make the list. I would be shocked if Dubas moved one of his big 3, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and John Tavares, which leaves Nylander as the obvious piece that would allow Dubas to make the biggest splash in the offseason. Some might be quick to point out that Dubas promised not to trade him when he signed him to a new deal, but Elliotte Friedman recently shed some light on that promise and things may not be so cut and dry.
"My understanding of the post-signing no-trade promise to Nylander was that it was intended to be solely in the immediate aftermath of the agreement," wrote Friedman in his 31 Thoughts.
#2 Tyson Barrie.
Looking back on the trade now it is hard to argue, at least from a pure hockey standpoint, that this was not a costly mistake on the part of Kyle Dubas. Nazem Kadri, the key piece the Leafs gave up in the trade, has looked very good with the Avalanche in the playoffs thus far and that could almost never be said of Barrie who never really fit into the Toronto system. Kadri took costly suspensions in the playoffs so I can understand why the move was made, but he had a great contract and it now seems like the one year rental the Leafs got in exchange for Kadri is destined to depart.
#3 Andreas Johnsson.
If William Nylander does not get traded in the offseason then you can bet that either #3 or #4 on this list will almost certainly be on the move. After signing a new contract Johnsson's season was plagued by injuries and his production suffered as a result. He is a key piece of the Leafs offense but I suspect that his new contract and the flattened salary cap may make him a more appealing trading chip for the Leafs than he has been in the past.
#4 Kasperi Kapanen.
Much like Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen is much more likely to enter the trade conversation if the Leafs choose to retain William Nylander. Kapanen has often been the subject of trade rumors which would appear to indicate that there has been some interest on the part of the Leafs and rival teams around the league to make a deal on this front. Most believe that Kapanen has a higher ceiling than Johnsson which would make him a more appealing trading chip for other teams, but for that reason the Leafs may also wish to keep him over Johnsson.
#5 Frederik Andersen.
I am putting this one last on the list because I do believe it to be a longshot, but there has definitely been talk that Andersen's time in Toronto has come to an end. Andersen has not been excellent for the Leafs in the playoffs and has often struggled in big games, add to that the fact that NHL insider Nick Kypreos recently suggested that there have been whispers of a huge trade between the Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, one that would included Frederik Andersen, and he has to be included on the list.