The Toronto Maple Leafs finally broke their first-round playoff curse when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, but still managed to go out with a whimper against the Florida Panthers in the second round. The Maple Leafs’ roster is severely hamstrung by a lot of bloated contracts in their forward group, and roster means everywhere outside of their top-six. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitchell Marner, Morgan Rielly, and William Nylander take up nearly 50% of the team’s cap space. Matthews and Nylander each have one year remaining on their contracts, and Tavares and Marner have two on theirs. The Maple Leafs also have a staggering 11 players headed to free agency this summer, with just over $9 million to get the job done.
The Toronto Maple Leafs already have Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe, Timothy Liljegren, and TJ Brodie, but the defensive depth beyond them is questionable. It would make no sense for the Maple Leafs to add a player like Travis Sanheim without moving money first. Further complicating matters is that the Leafs have just two picks in the first three rounds over the next three years. Contract talks with Auston Matthews haven’t exactly gone very far, so their time to win is now. If Daniel Briere’s spidey senses are tingling, the Maple Leafs stick out like a sore thumb as a potential blockbuster trade partner. It would be foolish to offer Sanheim at retained money for so long, so logically the Flyers would need to target either William Nylander or Mitchell Marner. Realistically, the Maple Leafs could have Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim for a little more money than what Marner makes. They could have Konecny, Sanheim, and Carter Hart for a lot less than what Marner and Nylander make together.
The ideas are there and the opportunities are endless; this could work wonders for both teams with a bit of work around the edges. The Toronto Maple Leafs are probably internally desperate to a.) not lose Auston Matthews for free and/or b.) not exit the Matthews era with nothing to show for it. They need to find a way to upgrade the team and shed some money. Swapping top-six wingers Marner and Konecny and adding a top-four defender in Sanheim gives them sturdier framework to do that. The Flyers might need to add one of their first-round picks this year, but adding a superstar should be well worth consideration after they wasted Claude Giroux’s prime years under other regimes.