Maple Leafs' GM Treliving needs to add forwards with other work done

After retaining Max Domi with a four-year contract on Sunday, Treliving didn’t add to the forward group on Canada Day.

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Brad Treliving can’t put his feet up and hope that the rest of the summer flies by.

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As the Maple Leafs general manager said during his media availability on Monday after the free-agent dust had cleared, he has some work to do.

To be sure, Treliving got a lot of the heavy lifting out of the way in regard to his roster.

In goaltender Anthony Stolarz, the Leafs have added a veteran who has demonstrated during his National Hockey League career that he can be reliable when required. That will become key for the Leafs, of course, if Joseph Woll can’t keep his injury troubles in the past. Matt Murray will take on the role that Martin Jones had last season — play only if absolutely needed. The Leafs on Tuesday officially announced the Murray contract, for one year with an average annual value of $875,000 U.S., and not long after announced Stolarz at two years with an AAV of $2.5 million.

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On the blue line, the Leafs got an ace shutdown defenceman in Chris Tanev. We can debate the six-year term that the Leafs gave the 34-year-old, but think of it this way: What is most important is how Tanev plays in the next couple of seasons. We don’t imagine anyone expects him to still be a vital piece for the Leafs by the time the contract ends, not with the heart-and-soul manner in which he plays the game.

Like Stolarz, defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers. The latter will be looking to build off his bounce-back year in Florida after the Vancouver Canucks bought him out. Ekman-Larsson’s 32 points in 2023-24 represented the most he had in five seasons (ditto for his 80 games played), and you can slot him in on the Leafs’ second power-play unit, though new assistant coach Marc Savard is bound to give him a look on the top unit at some point.

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Defenceman Jani Hakanpaa is coming off a knee injury and has not played since March 16, so what he is able to contribute might have to be determined.  The Leafs have not yet announced that signing.

More depth on the blue line came on Tuesday when the Leafs signed defencemen Dakota Mermis and Philippe Myers each to a one-year contract with a $775,000 AAV.

Mermis, 30, has played in 74 games in the NHL, including 47 last season with Minnesota. Myers, 27, has played in 158 NHL games, including five with Tampa Bay last year.

Now we get to the Leafs forwards. After taking over last spring, remember how Treliving often referred to the defence corps as a work in progress?

Well, that’s how we can view the forwards. It’s nothing to do with Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and captain John Tavares. It’s what comes after them, and there’s a gap.

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While there has been no indication that Marner won’t be with the Leafs next season as his current contract expires, no matter what is being speculated, Treliving would have to think long and hard about trading the star winger considering the hole that would create if no forwards were coming back to Toronto in a swap. And that’s assuming Marner would waive his no-move clause. There has been no indication that would happen either.

After retaining Max Domi with a four-year contract on Sunday, Treliving didn’t add to the forward group on Canada Day.

Tyler Bertuzzi wasn’t great in what turned out to be his only season with the Leafs, but the fact remains that he took 21 goals with him when he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

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No matter which depth players up front and on the blue line are being included on the Leafs roster right now, Treliving doesn’t have much to work with under the $88-million salary cap. The majority of forwards one might want were snapped up in free agency, which means Treliving might have to make a trade to improve the back half of his forward group. And Nick Robertson and Connor Dewar were qualified, but have not yet signed.

A message sent on Tuesday to Robertson’s agent, Pat Brisson, was not immediately returned. While Robertson reportedly asked for a trade, the Leafs need Robertson to be a good player for them, as Treliving said on Monday. Where the situation winds up remains to be seen, but why wouldn’t Robertson want to get a fresh start under new coach Craig Berube?

Even if Treliving adds at forward, if you’re Bobby McMann, Robertson or Easton Cowan, among others, there should be a significant chance to be an offensive contributor. And we can assume Matthew Knies, and perhaps Pontus Holmberg to a degree, will take another step.

It will be on all of them to grab that opportunity in the pre-season and take into Oct. 9 regular-season opener in Montreal and beyond.

More than two months remain until the Leafs will open training camp in September.

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As summer flies by, there is still going to be enough time for Treliving to bolster his forward group.

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