This past week, the Toronto Maple Leafs held their end-of-season presser where the media questioned the players and the management about the season. What might happen? What could the fans and the city expect moving forward?

Related: In Praise of Maple Leafs’ William Nylander

The Mood of the Media Presser

Mostly, the presser was robotic. The sense one got from listening was that the players liked each other and wanted to stay together. They believed they had the right roster.

The sense one got from head coach Sheldon Keefe was that he was depressed and worried about his job. He seemed to be caught between a rock and a hard place. The limbo and purgatory of the unknown and what was to come was weighing on him.

The sense one got from general manager Kyle Dubas was that he didn’t know if he was returning. But, if he was, he (finally) thought that changes probably had to be made. In fact, he hinted that significant changes would likely come during the offseason.

It also seemed as if he was throwing out an invitation to the rest of the NHL that he was open for a deal. Indeed, he was ready and willing to do business and ready to move his team forward in a different direction.

So What Did Dubas Say or Hint

Maybe Dubas was auditioning for a job – the one he already has – but he seemed willing to speak about the future and seemed to reference other team’s bold moves as an indication that he, too, had plans to shake things up in Toronto.

No one could not come away from the event believing that the team was going to trot it all out again without significant changes. Dubas implied that there would be substantial changes, and most who listened came to believe that some current players would not be returning.

It seemed that he was giving a message to the core group of players and preparing them for the possibility of departures. Perhaps that’s why so many fessed up that they dearly wanted to stay with the team.

Now we wait to see who stays and who goes.

At the Top of the Priority List Sits Auston Matthews

If Dubas stays, at the top of his priority list has to be the importance of figuring out what to do with Austin Matthews. Matthews, like his teammates, voiced his desire to stay in Toronto – specifically, Matthews noted his desire was for a long time.

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

Matthews is eligible for an extension in July, which will likely make him the highest-paid player in the league. Considering the projected small increase in the coming season’s salary cap, his new contract could still reach the $13 million range. That would surpass the current highest-paid players – Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Hildeby, Woll, Nylander & Matthews

Keeping Matthews Also Means Making Tough Decisions

If the team keeps Matthews and is willing to pay him upwards of $13 million, tough decisions must be made. Matthews’ new salary would come knocking during the 2024-25 season. However, the current cap structure still might not allow for a significant increase without some exorcism of other players.

Here comes the rub. There’s a finite amount of money. In a winning team, the stars will be paid like stars should be paid. However, when money goes out to one player that exact same amount cannot be spent on another player. If the goal is to build a winning team, as the players themselves expressed, sacrifices will need to be made.

The Maple Leafs Are Gearing Up for a Change

In the end, Dubas’ message seemed clear that the Maple Leafs are ready for change. Fans should probably get ready to see some key players depart. Matthews’ extension negotiations should be interesting, as well.

In all these actions, the team will need to carefully strategize its moves. It will be a critical offseason for the franchise. It will also be fun for the fans.


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