Maple Leafs have a busy summer ahead
Was it heartbreak, or was it a failure? You be the judge when looking back at the Toronto Maple Leafs 2017-18 season that saw the team exit the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Boston Bruins, again.
It was a rollercoaster from the beginning of the season to the end. The Maple Leafs knew that Frederik Andersen had to be their MVP from the get-go, and he provided. The offense at times looked to be unstoppable, but when they went cold, it went ice cold. However, the team’s biggest issue was on the back end. The team struggled defensively and it showed throughout the season.
Defensively Toronto needs a lot of work and it’s something they will look to address at the draft and in free agency. Although this summer doesn’t seem to be the time to make a big splash in free agency and the draft doesn’t look as appetizing since the best defensemen available are all slotted to go early. TSN’s Craig Button predicts seven defensemen will be chosen in the first 15 picks.
Nonetheless, expect Toronto to chase a defenseman. To be more specific, right-handed shooting defenseman, but you could make a case the entire league is looking for that.
When it comes to the draft, which is approaching just as quick as it took the Vegas Golden Knights to reach their first final, it seems as if it’s a more straightforward draft for the Leafs. Meaning they will take who they think is the best player available.
There are also a few defensemen who stand out that could be potential targets for the Leafs if they make it to free agency. They aren’t the right-handed shooting defensemen the team needs, they are however role players who can help out where they struggled like in categories such as blocked shots and hits. The team ranked 27th and 26th in both categories respectively.
Due to the fact Toronto had a number of players who burst onto the scene last year, it definitely helps at the draft and in free agency. Defenseman Travis Dermott and forward Andreas Johnsson made an impact and even dressed in the playoffs. If the team decides to re-sign him then right-handed shooting D-man Justin Holl remains an option for the Leafs.
It also helps that the team has Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman. Two defensemen who needed some time in the minors to work on their adjustment to the NHL style of play but nonetheless saw time with the Leafs last season.
In May, the team was able to sign Igor Ozhiganov, a 25-year-old right-handed shooting defenseman who has been playing in Russia and Toronto couldn’t have found him at a better time.
With 2017 first-round pick Timothy Liljegren not ready to make the jump to the NHL, Ozhiganov should be a name Toronto fans here come the start of the season. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the North American game.
The biggest issue for Toronto this offseason is filling holes. Toronto is preparing to lose a few bodies in free agency but the team does have something to play with this offseason, that being cap space.
It’s not so much what Toronto will do in the draft but instead how they will recover from what they are about to lose. Be prepared for a busy summer if you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.