Roster turnover happens every year. So far this offseason the Toronto Maple Leafs lost key players in goaltender Jack Campbell, winger Ilya Mikheyev, and veteran forward presence Jason Spezza from last year’s playoff roster. New additions expected to play important roles include goaltenders Matt Murray, Ilya Samsonov, and forward Calle Jarnkrok. Aside from the significant changes in the net, the team’s offseason has been relatively muted. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2023 offseason should be much more active.
Many followers of the team expected forward Alex Kerfoot and defenceman Justin Holl to be moved once last season ended. That has yet to happen. They are likely on the roster until the next offseason. The Leafs have a roster that, at its floor, is a playoff team unless injuries or a severe decline in performance happens to key players. Its ceiling is a championship contending team, depending on continued production from its top seven to eight players and the new acquisitions in goal. Of course, the most important determinant of the team’s direction will be the playoff result during the spring of 2023.
Leafs 2023 Offseason Will Determine Franchise’s Future
Next spring’s playoff result will likely determine the futures of general manager Kyle Dubas, head coach Sheldon Keefe, and perhaps, president Brendan Shanahan. Yet another Groundhog Day in the playoffs must result in a change to the team’s hierarchy. The fanbase will demand it.
Looking strictly at the team’s core players, impactful change is unlikely to happen unless Dubas is no longer the general manager. Playoff success means he stays. Missing the playoffs or another first-round exit and a new general manager likely arrives. They would be tasked with the elephant-in-the-room that is Auston Matthews hitting free agency in 2024 and getting him signed to an extension. Nervousness and apprehension will abound in Leafs nation until he signs on the dotted line. With or without postseason success, new GM or not, the noise around his contract will be louder during the 2023 offseason.
Many Other Leafs Are Unrestricted Free Agents In 2023
A Matthews extension won’t be the only issue looming next year. Kerfoot and Holl will both be free agents. Holl is likely to be let go without a contract offer. The Leafs will still have Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, and Mark Giordano on defence. There will be no pressing need to resign Holl. Kerfoot makes $3.5 million a year on his current deal. A 15 to 20-goal season and 50 to 60 points will see him ask for a raise based on the market. While he is a versatile player his asking price will likely be outside the Leafs’ comfort zone, especially with Matthews and William Nylander needing to sign extensions.
First-line winger and contract bargain Michael Bunting is also set to hit free agency in 2023. Another 20-goal season or more this year will see his salary rise to a minimum $3 million average annual value. The Leafs will have to decide between him and Kerfoot. Bunting is a couple of years younger and will likely command less in free agency. He is likely re-signed.
Impending Third Line Decisions To Be Made
This year, Pierre Engvall quickly came to terms with the team as a restricted free agent. Next offseason he will hit free agency. His frequent linemate David Kampf will also be a free agent. That is two-thirds of the Leafs projected third line. They were key parts of a productive defensive line during the 2021-2022 season. A continued ascension in his play will see another pay increase for Engvall. With less offensive production Kampf will cost less. The Leafs will have to choose to re-sign both, only one, or seek replacements in free agency or from their prospects.
Once again roster turnover on the Leafs will be prevalent next year. Important decisions await. The 2022-2023 season results will determine who is making them.