Teams generally don’t like when their coaches are in the final year of their contracts and the Maple Leafs were set to be in that situation with Sheldon Keefe. However, that won’t be the case anymore as Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that Toronto has inked their bench boss to a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2023-24 season.
The 41-year-old was promoted to Toronto’s head coaching role back in 2019 following the firing of Mike Babcock (whose contract runs through 2022-23) but hasn’t yet had a full 82-game season with the Maple Leafs and is in the middle of his first regular training camp with the team.
Toronto has had plenty of regular season success with Keefe at the helm with the team posting a .660 point percentage with young stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner immediately seeing their ice time and production improve. However, that hasn’t materialized into playoff success as they were upset in the bubble in 2020 by Columbus in the play-in series and last spring by Montreal in the opening round of the postseason.
Accordingly, this short-term pact makes sense from Toronto’s perspective. With Keefe barely having 100 games under his belt behind the bench plus their early ousters, he wasn’t in a position to command a lucrative long-term deal but their regular season success has shown enough to suggest he’s worth keeping around. This contract is a commitment from GM Kyle Dubas to stick with the process – one Dubas made this summer by not significantly shaking up the core – but is short enough that it shouldn’t be an impediment if it’s decided that a change has to be made.