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The Leafs Defensive Targets: Part 1 - Retaining Their Own

June 18, 2024, 6:25 PM ET [344 Comments]
Mike Augello
Toronto Maple Leafs Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are entering the consequential weeks of the offseason when most of the moves are made. In the next three or four weeks, decisions will be made on players on their roster who have expiring contracts, those on other clubs with term left on their deals they would have to trade for, and players who are heading to the open market on July 1.

In taking a look at the Leafs in-house, they have two blueliners on deals for multiple years (Morgan Rielly and Simon Benoit), two entering the final year of their contracts (Jake McCabe and Conor Timmins), an arb-eligible RFA (Timothy Liljegren), and four unrestricted free agents (TJ Brodie, Joel Edmundson, Mark Giordano, and Ilya Lyubushkin).

Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know everything about the players being drafted in Vegas later this month

In terms of players under control, there were indications from Elliotte Friedman after the loss to Boston that GM Brad Treliving wants to get McCabe extended. Timmins is low-cost and right-handed, but is injury-prone so his status is up in the air. Liljegren will receive a qualifying offer to retain his rights, but within two years of becoming an unrestricted free agent, the 25-year-old is reaching a crossroads in Toronto.

Durability and consistency are an issue, but when he did play, his mobility on the right side in a league where defensemen who can skate are a priority makes him valuable. If the Leafs decide to move Liljegren, he could be part of a larger deal to acquire a different type of blueliner or a smaller deal to recoup some sorely lacking draft capital.

Of the pending UFA’s, the least likely to return is Brodie, who saw his role diminish as the season elapsed and played only one game in the playoffs. It was thought he might come back if he took a more cap-friendly deal, but at 34 years old, his career as a Leaf is likely done.

Giordano is 40 and played only 46 games. He still seemed to have something left at times but did suffer a serious concussion. There have been some inklings that he wants to continue his career, but even at a league-minimum deal, it is questionable whether Treliving (the Calgary GM that left him unprotected in the expansion draft) would bring him back.

Lyubushkin has a chance of returning based on his being right-handed and how well he fits with Rielly, but the 30-year-old Russian left two years ago for more money, and if the Leafs offer him less than his $2.75 million AAV, he will likely go elsewhere.

Edmundson is the most likely of this quartet to return. His size and snarl are positives, his playoff experience is a definite plus, and his history with head coach Craig Berube could put the chances at better than 50/50. The downside may be that he is represented by Darren Ferris, who also represents Mitch Marner(damn, thought it was possible to get through one blog without mentioning his name).

Part 2 – 5 Possible Trade Targets (on Wednesday)


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