Toronto Maple Leafs Want to Compete Sooner Than Expected

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As people commuted home on Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs were busy acquiring RFA goalie Frederik Andersen, signing him to a five-year deal worth $25 million shortly after. The trade came as a surprise to many Leafs fans, which is nothing out of the ordinary given GM Lou Lamoriello‘s historic secretiveness.

Prior to sending this year’s 30th overall pick and a 2017 2nd rounder to Anaheim for Andersen – who carries a .918 career save percentage – Toronto’s biggest uncertainty moving forward was the quality of the goaltending in their system. With the acquisition of Andersen, Leafs brass officially erased any questions marks about goalies highlighted by fans. The confidence in Maple Leafs management indicates that Toronto wants to compete sooner than expected.

Toronto Maple Leafs Want to Compete Sooner Than Expected

Before Andersen was brought in, Toronto’s most crucial positional need was in net. Jonathan Bernier‘s future in Toronto appeared to be cloudy and there weren’t high hopes from the goalies in their system. Now that Toronto has committed to the Danish netminder for the next half-decade, Lamoriello just checked off another item on his to-do list.

Looking at what next year’s Leafs roster might look like, the team isn’t far from competing. Before free agency, their forward depth for next season will likely include the names of Nazem KadriJames van RiemsdykWilliam NylanderMitch MarnerAuston Matthews, and Leo Komarov. Recently signed Nikita Zaitsev is believed to improve the young D corps lead by Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. With Andersen taking over as Toronto’s new starter, improvement on defense seems to be the greatest need to focus on. Obviously, it’s not as simple as it sounds with how much more there is to building a team than just the players on paper. However, logically speaking, eliminating weaknesses is the solution to winning.

When the Leafs hired Brendan Shanahan as team president, he fully understood the lengthy process a rebuild takes. He emphasized how patience and “sticking to the plan” was the proper way to build a sustainable team. Two years later, the idea of waiting is still alive, knowing the number of prospects and picks Toronto owns. However, pouncing on opportunities to speed up the rebuild is evidently what the Leafs are interested in. To do so, Toronto is using their draft picks to their advantage through trade.

Nobody Said Off-season Drama has to Wait Until the Draft

Every Maple Leafs fan is anticipating an exciting entry draft this year. Aside from Matthews, who is expected to put on the new Leafs jersey, Toronto owns a plethora of draft picks (11). Those picks may be enough to stockpile their already stacked prospect pool, but it’s expected those selections will be used as trade assets, a prime example of how Andersen was obtained. The amount of picks and prospects the Leafs have can be used to their advantage in the future and the present. It’s up to them if they want to trade their valuable property for pieces that can help them instantly.

The Andersen trade should come as a surprise to many fans when looking towards the near future. Bernier has just one year remaining on his current contract and free agency is less than two weeks away. Options to fill the position in net were available at a much cheaper cost than what Toronto gave up. Although, if there’s one GM who has had luck with goalies, its Lamoriello. That being said, Andersen is a goaltender entering his prime with proven success under his belt who can immediately improve the Leafs. Regarding who is playing in net, the Maple Leafs couldn’t wait for a young goalie to find his way through their system. The problem had to be solved now.

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