It’s probably too early to even be thinking about next season; however, the recent play of some of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ newcomers brought it to mind. The question is about the Maple Leafs’ defence. Who will be returning?
The Maple Leafs Have Some Challenges for Next Season
The Maple Leafs will face some challenges this offseason. There are a ton of RFAs/UFA. Although the team has shown in the past that it is willing to make tough decisions when it comes to managing its salary cap, what will the organization do specifically for next season?
To prepare for this upcoming postseason, they traded two key roster players – Pierre Engvall and Rasmus Sandin. But they’ve found good replacements for this season.
As the 2022-23 season comes to a close, managing the salary cap will become a priority once again. There will be change. Likely, Alex Kerfoot will leave. I just can’t see him being able to stay at the salary he’s paid this season. However, what about some of the other roster players who are on expiring contracts? In this thought, I’m thinking specifically about Justin Holl.
Justin Holl Has Not Always Been a Fan Favorite
The first consideration with Holl is that he’s suffered a lack of appreciation from Maple Leafs’ fans. He reminds me of Jake Gardiner in that aspect. When Gardiner’s contract expired, I was actually hoping he would leave via free agency. His last season had to have been tough on him.
What I don’t know about Holl is how he feels inside about staying with the Maple Leafs. If I were him, the writing might already be on the wall. I would likely not feel appreciated and would seek a way out of town. That’s especially true because they would probably – all things being equal – want to play in the United States. Holl is an American playing in Canada, and life might be much easier playing in the US.
However, If Holl Wants to Stay …
I simply cannot predict how Holl might feel about staying in Toronto. But I can suggest that he’d be a prized re-signing by the Maple Leafs. He’s always been good when he’s partnered with another solid defenseman. And, the team has a few solid defensemen who could become his regular partner.
However, if Holl is willing to re-sign with the Maple Leafs, what would the terms of his potential contract be? From my perspective, Holl has upped his game and has become a solid contributor to the team’s defensive corps this season. We all know his talent (what there is of it) and his propensities (he needs a solid partner); but, given that, it would seem like a coaching decision as to how to allow him to be productive.
Holl is what he is. That won’t change, but it can be successfully managed for the right price.
Holl Will Be a Sought-After Free Agent
If Holl does hit free agency, he will likely draw interest from several teams around the league. He’s been a reliable, stay-at-home defenseman. He can play 20 minutes each game night; and, he uses his size to an advantage. That makes him an attractive option for many teams. He makes errors, but he’s also pretty smart.
Whether Holl returns to Toronto will likely depend on various factors. These include his performance in the playoffs, the team’s overall financial situation, and the organization’s plans for the future.
However, the first question is whether Holl wants to stay with the Maple Leafs – that is key. The second question is whether the organization feels that it can retain him at a reasonable price. The third question is whether he fits into their long-term plans.
If yes to all three questions, Maple Leafs’ fans should not be surprised if the team chooses to bring him back. However, if another team offers him a more lucrative deal, I can see him leaving.
Perhaps the Maple Leafs might prioritize other free agents. However, I can’t see them not wanting him to return.