That’s the approach Kyle Dubas has aggressively and skillfully taken this offseason, stocking up (mostly) short-term, inexpensive depth players at every position in a pandemic-punished free agent market.
The Toronto Maple Leafs general manager is bracing for an inevitably tight schedule, guarding against an injury bug that has delighted and exposed his 2019-20 roster, and tries to foster a culture of internal competition to rid the group of those efforts. of laissez-faire that had the Leafs in and out of a qualifying round.
So even with notable talent leaving town, Toronto’s refreshed roster seems more balanced and certainly deeper than the Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit that ultimately retired before reaching official playoff status in 2020.
The games aren’t played on paper, of course, and how all the pieces fit together will be an ongoing discussion. But on paper, here’s how your 2020-2021 Maple Leafs stack up.
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitchell Marner
Ilya Mikheyev – John Tavares – William Nylander
Alexander Kerfoot – Joe Thornton – Jimmy Vesey
Alexander Barabanov – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds
In the mixture: Pierre Engvall, Nicholas Robertson, Joey Anderson, Travis Boyd, Denis Malgin, Nic Petan, Egor Korshkov, Filip Hallander, Adam Brooks, Kenny Agostino
Kyle Clifford, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, two 20-goal contributors at their peak, are doing well. About seven guys come in who want their ice time.
Dubas brought a chopper to his middle class wingers and went rummaging for bananas in the UFA trash can.
Russian import Barabanov is already in Toronto training for (fingers crossed) his NHL debut. Low-risk signings Vesey and Simmonds come up with something to prove and hope to push for a top-nine or even top-six use.
Thornton is a more natural center than Kerfoot, and only a fool would question his passion or wisdom, but as the oldest forward in the NHL, what contribution can he make on the ice?
We’d be dumb to write lines from the opening night in ink at this point, with Dubas purposely loading up for a competition camp and building a hell of a squad of cabs, and with happy Vitamix coach Sheldon Keefe its units not only from game to game but period to period.
Essentially, the Leafs could form a fifth NHL-caliber roster up front.
This should make the big-budget Marlies a lot more competitive than their disappointing 2019-20. It could also mean that some of the top 12 forwards, based purely on merit, might need to wait for time in minors or in the press box just because they can go through waivers without getting picked up.
That doesn’t bode well for Robertson’s hopes of making his NHL regular-season debut. And that’s why Anderson’s contract is a two-way street for two seasons. The way fringe attackers like Engvall and Boyd are used will be fascinating and could change all winter.
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Mikko Lehtonen – Zach Bogosian
In the mixture: Travis Dermott, Martin Marincin, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Calle Rosen
Therefore. Many. Lefties.
This bodes well for shutdown-type right-handed Holl and Bogosian, who will be counted on to play safely and limit the chances of grade A against.
“We haven’t had success as a group where everything is owed to anyone based on previous performance,” Dubas said. “So Zach can challenge anyone [in the lineup] as high as he wants.
Yes, the Maple Leafs’ blue line – long considered the club’s Achilles heel – is now deeper and should be marked by internal competition for ice time.
Brodie, a left shooter who patrols his offside, has been paid generously ($ 20 million) in the free agent market with the idea that he will be a safety cover for Rielly, who is at his best game ever. driving on ice.
KHL Defender of the Year Lehtonen will fly west across the Atlantic with a legitimate chance to lead the second power play unit, and how he’s adjusting to the game North American will be fascinating to watch.
Gunning to swipe shift will be imminent RFA Dermott, whose second consecutive contract campaign could be his decisive offer to Toronto, and Sandin, 20, who won’t just be offered an opportunity on a plate.
Credit Dubas both for changing an uncomfortable mix (both Tyson Barrie and Cody This walkaways should find more success in their new towns) and for building the depth to guard against inevitable rear injuries. .
In the mixture: Aaron Dell, Michael Hutchinson, Joseph Woll et Ian Scott
An exciting contract season awaits Andersen, who will be a dominant scenario for the Leafs in 2021. The club’s undisputed number 1 for five consecutive years has been suspended from the trade market and put on the line. It has just had one atypical year and another elimination round in which he was the second best goalkeeper of the series.
A rise in back-to-backs will give the 28-year-old Campbell, signed until 2022, a legitimate chance to inherit the Andersen fold. And yet, Campbell’s status as the organization’s No.2 shouldn’t be taken as an iron.
Dubas’ judicious acquisition of No.3 Aaron Dell (107 games played in the NHL) for $ 800,000 and No.4 Michael Hutchinson ($ 725,000) gives his team their greatest depth of net in years. Fine and affordable personal injury insurance.
It also raises a question: Do the Leafs suddenly have too many goalies? Will prospects Woll and Scott have enough starting with the Marlies to continue their development?