The Toronto Maple Leafs face a daunting number of off-season challenges. How will the team navigate the NHL Entry Draft and beyond? In this post, I’ll share five challenges the team faces.

Related: As Maple Leafs Fans, Are We Sure Dubas Traded Nazem Kadri?

The NHL Draft Is Only a Month Away With Five Key Decisions

With the NHL draft just four and a half weeks away, the Maple Leafs find themselves facing a ton of crucial decisions and tasks. The organization must hire a new general manager, secure important contract extensions, and address key roster concerns. Don’t look now, but that’s a daunting task.

Decision One: The Need to Hire a New General Manager

The first and probably most important decision the Maple Leafs must make is who will fill the void left by the departure of their former general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas. The selection of a new GM will have significant implications for the team’s direction and decision-making in the coming seasons.

Finding the right person to lead the on-the-ground hockey operations department is crucial. That person will play a pivotal role in shaping the team’s direction.

Decision Two: Leading Contract Negotiations

Even before the hiring process is finalized, the Maple Leafs must prioritize negotiations with the team’s star center Auston Matthews. His contract is set to expire on July 1, 2024, and he has a no-move clause that kicks in on July 1, 2023.

The organization needs to at least reach a verbal agreement before that no-move clause kicks in. That makes the July 1, 2023, deadline a key. Matthews is a cornerstone player for the franchise, and signing him to a long-term deal (if that’s possible) would provide stability and reassurance to the team and its fanbase.

Decision Three: Addressing Nylander’s and Marner’s Contract Needs

In addition to Matthews, the Maple Leafs also face decisions regarding William Nylander’s and Mitch Marner’s contracts. Both players have clauses that kick in on July 1, 2023. These clauses potentially complicate any potential trades or negotiations.

Balancing the salary cap dilemma and addressing the team’s roster needs is crucial. At the same time, maximizing the value of the team’s talented forward unit will require careful consideration and skillful maneuvering.

Decision Four: Evaluating the Goalies and the Team’s Defensive Corps

The Maple Leafs’ goaltending and defensive stability are vital for their success. The team needs to critically assess its goalie situation. What to do with Matt Murray is a key question. It would also seem that the team would want to ink an extension with Ilya Samsonov. Where does Joseph Woll fit into the equation?

Joseph Woll, Maple Leafs

Additionally, the defensive corps was an area of concern before last season. It showed a key improvement, but who will be left standing when the offseason ends and the regular season begins? That’s hard to tell. For the team, addressing the defence should be a priority during the offseason.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Maurice, Schenn & Sutter

Decision Five: Retaining Key UFAs and Preparing for the Draft

Step one, the Maple Leafs must decide which unrestricted free agents (UFAs) to retain. Step two, they then have to negotiate contract extensions for UFAs they want to keep. Some in my mind, are essential to the team’s success.

In all this negotiating, balancing financial constraints, team chemistry, and overall talent will be crucial. Simultaneously, the front office must prepare for the NHL draft. There will be a new philosophy and this must be identified and then applied to consider which prospects and potential trades might strengthen the team.

The Bottom Line

Right now, the universe seems bleak for many Maple Leafs’ fans. The offseason is packed with key decisions, but no one’s sure who will make them.

In summary, the team must hire a new general manager to sign contract extensions for the “right” players. The roster must be managed and the team’s weaknesses must be addressed. The front office has a bunch of puzzle pieces to put into place, but some are currently upside down. To extend the metaphor, the edge pieces are not even separated.

Brendan Shanahan and his new sidekick – whoever that will be – face a tough challenge. It’s a critical time for the team. How to build upon and extend the foundation of talented players with the right strategy is yet to be determined.

For me, it would seem the sooner the better.

Related: The Real Reason Kyle Dubas Left the Maple Leafs

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