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With Berube done, the off-season task for Leafs’ GM Treliving to start



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Too bad the National Hockey League doesn’t mic up internal meetings involving its 32 teams.

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We realize it would be a pipe dream to listen in on what is being said behind closed doors serious plans are being made for the course each team will take during the summer. 

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Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving indicated on Tuesday when Craig Berube was introduced as the team’s new coach that the club would be holding its scouting meetings this week, with both the amateur and pro staffs.

Regarding the former, the Leafs would have set a course for the kind of player they want with the 23rd pick in the first round of the draft next month in Las Vegas, as well as for the rest of the draft.

Regarding the pro scouting meetings, the Leafs will start to get a better handle on what roster avenues they want to pursue in the offseason, and which players might be attractive as the Berube era begins in 2024-25.

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Hiring Berube less than two weeks after the firing of Sheldon Keefe — and good for Keefe, by the way, for landing on his feet as quickly as he did with the New Jersey Devils — was prudent, as every day counts in an off-season where there could be major changes in on-ice personnel.

Of course, the Leafs will have a much better idea of how the off-season unfolds once the futures of Mitch Marner, and perhaps to a lesser extent, captain John Tavares, are known.

With Auston Matthews and William Nylander seemingly firmly in place with contract extensions kicking in next season, no matter what happens with Marner, the Leafs will have two top-tier pieces to continue to try to build around. Of the group of ten Leafs heading for the open market in July, and that includes goalie Matt Murray and defenceman John Klingberg, forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi reportedly are at or near the top of Treliving’s to-do list. We would be on-board with re-signing both, but not for much more than what each made ($5.5 million US for Bertuzzi and $3 million for Domi) this past season. 

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In goal, the canvas that Treliving has to work with is blank, to a degree. If the Leafs are successful in changing Joseph Woll’s off-season training regimen, something Treliving alluded to two weeks ago in reference to Woll’s injury history, then Woll should be the No. 1 guy to start next season. There’s going to be the unknown of whether Woll, who turns 26 in July, can stay healthy, and the Leafs will have to cover themselves in the event that more injuries occur. 

It didn’t take long for the Marner trade speculation to hit high gear, and immediately a major link was Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros. If Marner is traded, the focus for the Leafs has to be a top-flight goalie or defenceman, and Saros, who is going to be an unrestricted free agent in a year, would fit that bill.

Another possible trade target for Treliving, and this one wouldn’t necessary involve Marner, could be a goalie he knows well, Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames. Markstrom has two years remaining on a contract that carries an average annual value of $6 million, and he has a no-move clause. The architect of the contract, signed in October 2020, was Treliving, the Flames’ GM at the time.

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Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins might be a reach, given the Atlantic Division rivalry between the Leafs and the Bruins. Boston GM Don Sweeney knows, though, that he will get calls on Ullmark, and there are few avenues that Treliving won’t explore.

The goaltending free-agent market isn’t great. Ilya Samsonov could be the best of the available bunch, but there hasn’t been an indication from the Leafs’ side that they will re-sign him. In free agency, the choices include Cam Talbot, Alex Nedeljkovic, Kevin Lankinen and Casey DeSmith. None are the kind that can help lead the Leafs on a deep playoff run. 

On the blue line, Treliving has holes to fill. You can put Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe and Simon Benoit in your opening-night lineup. Conor Timmins and Cade Webber also are under contract, and Timothy Liljegren, who appears to have little room left under his NHL ceiling, is a restricted free agent. 

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The Leafs won’t be worse off if none of their free-agent defencemen — TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, Joel Edmundson, Ilya Lyubushkin and Klingberg — are not re-signed.

There’s room for Treliving to make upgrades. We would expect him to circle back on a pair of former Flames — Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev — that he tried to acquire this past season.

On the right side, there is slated to be a solid crop available starting July 1, including Brandon Montour, Matt Roy, Brett Pesce, Sean Walker and Jalen Chatfield.

Each off-season comes with changes. The Leafs got one significant one out of the way with Berube replacing Keefe behind the bench. 

Really, though, the off-season pressure on Treliving to make the proper choices with on-ice personnel is about to get underway.

X: @koshtorontosun

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