Although it’s the offseason, there have been a lot of moves within the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. In this post, I’ll review the key news of the week from the Maple Leafs.
Quick Hit One: Former Toronto Marlies Player Gains Russian Citizenship to Play in the KHL
In a surprising development, former Toronto Marlies player Brennan Menell has been granted Russian citizenship to continue his hockey career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Menell signed a three-year contract extension with Dynamo Moscow. This move allows him to compete in the highly-competitive KHL and further his professional hockey career in Russia.
Quick Hit Two: Jersey Numbers for Maple Leafs’ Newest Players
The Maple Leafs’ newest incoming players have been assigned their jersey numbers for the 2023-24 season. Fans will see John Klingberg donning No. 3, Max Domi wearing No. 11, Tyler Bertuzzi sporting No. 59, and Ryan Reaves with the No. 75 on his back. These players bring a variety of unique skills and talents to the team. It should be a fun season watching them in their new blue and white jerseys.
Quick Hit Three: Roni Hirvonen’s Father Passes Away
There’s sad news for the Maple Leafs’ prospect Roni Hirvonen. His father, Timo Hirvonen, just passed away in Finland. Dad Timo was a loved figure in the Finish hockey community. He played as a left-winger in Finland’s SM-liiga for 14 seasons.
Roni also shared a special bond with his father, who taught him how to fish. The Maple Leafs and their fans offer condolences to Roni and his family during this difficult time.
Quick Hit Four: Fraser Minten Invited to Team Canada Meetings
There’s exciting news for Fraser Minten. The young Maple Leafs’ prospect has been invited to attend Team Canada meetings as they work to prepare for the 2024 World Junior Championship in Sweden. Minten’s invitation offers a strong sense of the depth of his talent and potential. His impressive play and skills have caught the attention of Maple Leafs’ fans. He looks to be an up-and-comer for the organization.
Quick Hit Five: Nick Robertson’s Waivers Exempt Status Offers Roster Flexibility
Although it seems that Nick Robertson has been around for a long time, the fact is that he’s still waivers exempt. That status gives the Maple Leafs valuable roster flexibility. The team can move him between the NHL and AHL without exposing him to waivers. That might not be good news for Robertson; however, it does allow the team to manage its roster and salary cap more effectively.
In my mind, four youngsters have a good chance of making the Maple Leafs roster. These players include Pontus Holmberg, Bobby McMann, Matthew Knies, and Robertson. It would be fun to see if any of these youngsters make the big club’s roster this season.
Quick Hit Six: Matt Murray Placed on LTIR; However, Cap Challenges Remain
In perhaps the most significant development of last week, Maple Leafs goalie Matt Murray has been placed on LTIR. That means the team won’t need to count his salary against their cap. Despite this move, the team remains over the salary cap even with both Murray and Jake Muzzin on LTIR.
Now the team still must find solutions to remain cap-compliant.
Quick Hit Seven: Goaltending Duo: Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll
With Murray no longer in the picture, the Maple Leafs will rely on Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll as their goaltending duo for the 2023-24 season. Samsonov was granted a one-year contract worth $3.55 million following arbitration. Woll is signed to a cost-effective deal until 2024-25.
In my mind, the goalie situation is far better than last season. Both these young goalies now have a chance to show their skills and make a significant impact on the team’s success.
Quick Hit Eight: The Aho Contract and Nylander’s Negotiations
The recent contract extension for Sebastian Aho with the Carolina Hurricanes could have implications for the negotiations between the Maple Leafs and William Nylander. Comparing their statistics, Nylander’s expected contract value may be around $9.25 million, below the $10 million mark. As negotiations continue, finding common ground will be crucial for both parties.
Quick Hit Nine: Ryan Reaves Could Be More Than an Enforcer
There was a reason the team signed Ryan Reaves for three years. His addition to the Maple Leafs brings more than physicality to the ice. The team expects him to play a significant role in shaping the team’s culture and (perhaps) extending its community engagement.
Reaves is known for his advocacy work, promoting diversity and inclusivity in hockey. He serves as a positive figure within the community. He promises to find Toronto a great landing spot. Fans should enjoy watching his impact on and off the ice as he settles into the community.
Quick Hit Ten: Garret Sparks’ Journey Continues with the Penguins
Former Maple Leafs goalie Garret Sparks recently signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. By doing so, he reunited with his former Toronto GM, Kyle Dubas. Despite the challenges he’s faced during his NHL career, Sparks remains determined to pursue a hockey career.
He’s expected to suit up with the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Bottom Line
The 2023-24 season holds promise for the Maple Leafs, and much of the team’s success will depend on the performance of Samsonov. He’s a potential “x-factor” for the team’s success.
Additionally, GM Brad Treliving has been working hard to strengthen the roster and give head coach Sheldon Keefe strong lineup choices. We’ll soon see how successful these moves have been.