With under 20 games left in the regular season, let’s jump ahead to the 2023-24 campaign and dive into the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. General manager (GM) Kyle Dubas will have roughly $10 million to work with in salary cap space and there’s going to be some tough decisions to make once free agency begins.
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While I fully expect the likes of Noel Acciari and Ryan O’Reilly to re-sign contract extensions in Toronto, here’s three current players who won’t be back next season:
One of the team’s most inconsistent blueliners, Justin Holl is a pending unrestricted free agent who will have to look elsewhere for his next contract.
Holl and his $2 million come off the books for Dubas and the Maple Leafs this upcoming summer and with Connor Timmins signed through 2024-25, with the emergence of Timothy Liljegren and with the fact TJ Brodie and Jake McCabe are both signed, and can play the right side, Holl’s running out of room on the depth chart.
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The 31-year-old can be an impact player when he’s at his best on the penalty kill, but unfortunately it’s all the other ice time that has Leafs Nation scratching their heads. He’s a frustrating player to watch at times because of the costly turnovers and missed defensive assignments and with Luke Schenn expected back from baby watch in the very near future, Holl may be out of the Maple Leafs lineup for the rest of this season.
Make no mistake about it, this season, Alexander Kerfoot was in the Maple Leafs plans and they were going to do whatever it took to keep him in the fold. Remember when Dubas sent a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild so they would retain some of O’Reilly’s remaining salary? That was because they didn’t want to have to move Kerfoot over strictly money. However, come summertime, when Kerfoot is an unrestricted free agent looking for a new contract, that’s a whole different story.
Kerfoot is the jack of all trades for the Maple Leafs as he plays all over the lineup and in most situations. He hasn’t produced much this season, especially of late, recording only one goal in his last 28 games. His defensive instincts are what’s keeping his minutes up as he’s been playing alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews on the Leafs first line these past couple of weeks.
Kerfoot will be coming off a contract which he made $3.5 million annually, and with 26 points in 65 games to date, he’ll likely have to settle for much less on the open market. There has been some speculation the Vancouver Canucks and Kerfoot have mutual interest and this will be something to watch come the beginning of free agency.
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For now, Kerfoot’s going to play, and he’ll play quite a bit. Look for him to likely land on the Maple Leafs’ third line come game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, alongside Sam Lafferty and Calle Jarnkrok.
Perhaps the least surprising of these three players, Wayne Simmonds won’t be in the Maple Leafs’ plans next season.
The veteran forward has appeared in 13 games in 2022-23, recording just the one assist. He’s still a physical force who can be intimidating on the ice, however Simmonds’ foot speed has taken away most of his impact.
Simmonds will be 35 years old later this summer and could have to settle for a two-way contract if he’s looking to continue his hockey career. Over 1000 NHL games, over 500 points and close to 1300 penalty minutes, it’s been a great run for the Scarborough native, and hopefully later this spring, during a long Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup Playoff run, Simmonds can get in the lineup for a postseason game. Next season, not likely.
The Maple Leafs have made some serious changes this season as Dubas is all in to win the Stanley Cup. He’s also in talks to get a new contract and while a lot could be riding on 2022-23 postseason success, Dubas is very likely going to re-sign in Toronto before July 1. As for Simmonds, Holl and Kerfoot, don’t expect them back in 2023-24.