After another disappointing exit for the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which the team lost in a Game 7 to the rival Boston Bruins, has left the team with nothing more than an off-season to look forward to for the remainder of the year, many expect changes to be made to an already strong, but flawed roster.
The Athletic’s Ian Tulloch (subscription required) grades out each player for the season, breaking down who were the elite players on the team and who struggled throughout the season. While it’s no surprise that the Maple Leafs problems often centered on their defense, Tulloch points out that both Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey fell into the underwhelming category. Zaitsev, in particular, struggles to get the puck up the ice which often puts him constantly on the defensive, hence why his defensive numbers are so weak. Although his play has improved since being paired up with Jake Muzzin, Tulloch believes that Muzzin has been carrying him. The scribe adds that the Maple Leafs must find a way to rid themselves of Zaitsev’s contract, which will be critical for general manager Kyle Dubas.
Of course, that’s a tall task for Dubas as the underachieving defenseman has five more years on his contract at $4.5MM AAV and a modified no-trade clause kicking in this coming season, meaning that Toronto will have to give up something significant to a team that is willing to take on his salary.
- In a playoff report card for the Washington Capitals, The Athletic’s Chris Kuc (subscription required) grades out the defensive combination of Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov with C’s, suggesting that while neither defenseman hurt the team with their play, neither blue liner helped the team either. In fact, Kuc points out that at age 32, Niskanen is beginning to show signs of slowing down, compared to last year, and a sudden lack of jump could set the franchise back if he can’t return to form next season. Niskanen still has two years remaining on his deal at a $5.75MM AAV.
- Newsday’s Andrew Gross writes that there is nothing to worry about after defenseman Scott Mayfield and forward Leo Komarov did not practice Saturday. Head coach Barry Trotz said that both players received maintenance days, but are expected to play in Game 2 of their series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. Komarov has a goal and an assist in five playoff games so far. Mayfield has averaged more than 20 minutes in his last two playoff games.