3 Maple Leafs Likely Heading Into Their Final Season in Toronto

The Toronto Maple Leafs are getting ready to open up training camp in a few weeks and there’s going to be a lot to unpack. From the goaltending battle between newcomers Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov to the crowded bottom-six and blue line, competition will be fierce in the preseason. While there are a number of cornerstone pieces in Toronto, Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas will have his eye on upgrading certain positions throughout next season.

Dubas, at this moment, does not have a contract for the 2023-24 season, so expect to see Toronto’s GM very active throughout the entire season trying to do whatever he can to upgrade his roster. He’s never been shy to make changes, as we saw with a number of signings and trades this past couple of months.

Speaking of changes, the Maple Leafs’ roster will be tinkered with next summer, regardless of who is in charge. Here are three Maple Leafs not expected to back in 2023-24:

Justin Holl

It’s essentially going to take a minor miracle for the Maple Leafs to re-sign Justin Holl, as the 30-year-old right-handed blueliner is entering the final season of his current contract that carries a $2 million cap hit.

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Holl’s become a bit of a whipping boy in Toronto and seems to make mistakes when the game matters the most. His latest one came in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, getting called for interference while Maple Leafs captain John Tavares was busy scoring a goal.

Holl doesn’t play a fancy game and is at his best when he keeps it simple. He’s not an elite skater and has to use his smarts to get himself in the proper body position to be successful. The 6-foot-4 defenseman is likely going to start this season with Jake Muzzin on the team’s second pair.

Related: Maple Leafs Fans Should Expect Blockbuster Deal(s) This Season

As for next season, with Timothy Liljegren expected to take a major leap forward, TJ Brodie signed and staying put on the right side and the pending arrival of top prospect Topi Niemela, Holl won’t have a place in the Maple Leafs lineup. As such, expect this to be his final season in Toronto.

Alexander Kerfoot

I mentioned this on the latest episode of the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast. To me, the team is going to prioritize re-signing Pierre Engvall over Alexander Kerfoot, and I fully expect them to either trade the latter or let him walk next summer.

Alexander Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Kerfoot is an integral piece of the team given his versatility to move around the lineup and his importance to the penalty kill, the NHL is a hard-capped business and frankly, there’s not going to be enough money to go around next summer.

The Maple Leafs currently have just over $15 million in salary cap space heading into the 2023-24 season, and as it stands right now, have 10 pending free agents, and that doesn’t even include defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who still doesn’t have a contract for the 2022-23 season. Kerfoot put up 51 points in 82 games last season and as a result, will be priced out of the team’s plans next summer.

If the Maple Leafs go all in this season, which is fully expectated, Kerfoot could see himself included in a blockbuster trade as his $3.5 million cap hit will help balance the books. Dubas won’t be able to add an expensive talent without clearing some money, so Kerfoot’s a prime candidate to be involved in trade talks this upcoming season.

Wayne Simmonds

I took a lot of heat last season when I published a piece in November stating Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds had become expendable. I felt that he was slowing down, and considering the makeup of Toronto’s roster, was going to be hard-pressed to find playing time. The veteran forward went on to have one of the worst seasons of his career and is going to be in tough to see regular minutes this season. Once his contract runs out after the 2022-23 season, don’t expect to see him return to Toronto.

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The bruising forward finished the 2021-22 campaign appearing in 72 games, recording 16 points. He looked a step slow at times and if he wasn’t mixing it up in the dirty areas of the ice or being a force on the forecheck, Simmonds wasn’t really doing much out there.

Dubas showed this summer that he was going to prioritize depth up front and try to create some internal competition between a number of bottom-six forwards. He signed Calle Jarnkrok, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Adam Gaudette, in hopes of bringing in some fresh talent to push some of the Maple Leafs’ veterans. Add in Nicholas Robertson, Alex Steeves and Nick Abruzzese and head coach Sheldon Keefe is going to have his hands full trying to find the right combinations for his bottom two lines.

The Maple Leafs enter training camp in September with a ton of question marks over their heads. The team looks much different than last season and the changes are expected to be fluid, with Dubas expected to be active on the trade market this season. He will be doing whatever he can to improve the team to try and land a contract extension for next season and beyond. As for the three Maple Leafs mentioned above, their deals are all up at the end of 2022-23. As a result, don’t expect to see them back in Toronto come 2023-24.

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