Brad Treliving's new-look Maple Leafs still have plenty to prove on ice

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Sure, the Maple Leafs would’ve love to trot out this new post-free agency lineup in playoffs versus the one that just lost in the first round. 

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But general manager Brad Treliving knows his four additions, three re-signings and anything else he has up his sleeve this summer is all still on paper with three months and then 82 games in front of it. He’s learned in one year to manage expectations in a Cup-starved market.  

The roster is definitely bigger after Treliving joined the near billion-dollar spending spree around the NHL on Canada Day; whether the Leafs are better is to be determined. 

They tried again to address their longstanding lack of depth on the blueline, this time without waiting until the trade deadline, with Chris Tanev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jani Hakanpaa. OEL and new goaltender Anthony Stolarz signed right after the Florida Panthers’ raucous Stanley Cup parade.

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Max Domi was certainly chipper about his first extended contract that will keep him at home for four years, while the Leafs headed off a future arbitration hearing with Timothy Liljegren by getting him a two-year deal. Lastly, goalie Joseph Woll officially agreed to his extension. 

“We’ve added depth,” a relieved Treliving said. “Right-handed shots, puck movers, guys in roles, special teams, proficient players, solid people. It gives the coaches a lot of options. But we don’t play until October. You won’t get everything done in one day.” 

Add Tanev, OEL and Hakanpaa to a blueline that has Morgan Riellly (Tanev’s likely partner), Jake McCabe, Simon Benoit and Liljegren (in a possible Swedish tandem with OEL), perhaps Conor Timmins and it’s a decent starting grid. 

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Tanev, who comes back to his Toronto roots as the highest paid of the newcomers at six years and a $4.5 million US AAV, gives the Leafs a zone presence they’ve lacked since injuries pushed Jake Muzzin into premature retirement. 

“In our meetings, we spoke of Chris, what he would bring, a right-hand shot, hard minutes,” Treliving said. “Oliver can play both sides, he’s competitive, he’s got length. Hakanpaa can kill penalties, something we wanted to improve, an area he can really shine in. 

“You can never have enough defencemen. They’re so hard to get.” 

While the team could not afford both forwards Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi, who also came last year on a one-year deal hoping to end his travels around the league, Domi got four years for $15 million and Bert was off to sign in Chicago. 

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“Getting Max back was a priority, a versatile player and all along he wanted to come back,” Treliving said. “He wears his heart on his sleeve. We just had to find a way to do it.” 

Liljegren received the qualifying offer many observers thought wouldn’t be forthcoming as his game has not noticeably improved of late, but now he’s secure in a two-year deal for $3 million. That’s pricey, but he is a first-round pick and the Leafs have been chastised for not developing their own defencemen. 

“We still think there is upside with him,” Treliving said. “We had a good idea what (arbitration) would look like.” 

On Monday evening, Treliving had just begun to look around the league and see what his peers spent their ample resources on. Predecessor Brian Burke once called July 1 the day when GMs make more mistakes than any other on the calendar. Certainly the Atlantic Division is still a Group of Death where playoffs are concerned. 

“That’s a lot of cash, but it’s a competitive league, people want to win, the cap is going up (to $88 million this year), good players were available,” Treliving said. 

“We’re coming out of four or five years with some stagnant cap. There wasn’t a lot that happened today that was unexpected.” 

Now to judge the results. 

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