The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed head coach Sheldon Keefe to a multi-year contract extension, according to a team release. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports it’s a two-year extension, keeping him behind the Toronto bench through the 2025-26 season. Treliving later confirmed the length during his media availability following the news.
After a successful four-year stint as head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Keefe was elevated to the NHL early into his fifth season after the Leafs fired Mike Babcock just before American Thanksgiving in 2020. He’s been behind Toronto’s bench ever since, accumulating a 166-71-30 regular-season record in 267 games coached since that time. That’s good enough for a .678 points percentage, which is first in NHL history among coaches with at least 250 games leading an NHL bench. It’s also the fourth-highest points percentage in the league since he assumed the Toronto head coaching role on November 20, 2020, trailing only the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins.
It’s been a different story in the postseason, however. While the Leafs’ streak of playoff ineptitude began before Keefe took over, his record of 13-17 is less than inspiring, and he’s won just one out of five series he’s coached the team through since 2020.
Despite that, the team has put full confidence in Keefe publically across both the previous and current front office regime and has backed up their words with financial commitment. In a statement, Treliving said he believes Keefe “has a clear vision for this team and where it needs to get to” and “[looks] forward to working alongside him as we head into the upcoming season.”
The extension wasn’t something that looked like a sure thing when the Leafs opted not to renew the contract of now-Pittsburgh Penguins GM Kyle Dubas earlier this summer. Keefe had worked with Dubas since joining the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds as their head coach during the 2012-13 season, following him up the ranks from juniors to the minors and, eventually, the most scrutinized bench boss role in the NHL.
Keefe’s bench will look slightly different this season after assistant Spencer Carbery departed after two seasons to assume the head coaching role for the Washington Capitals. They’ve brought in former Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher as an assistant for 2023-24, along with longtime St. Louis Blues assistant (and one-time Leafs defenseman) Mike Van Ryn.
With a new-look secondary core featuring Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, John Klingberg, and rookie Matthew Knies, Keefe will likely need to guide Toronto to at least a Conference Final appearance over the next two seasons to earn a third extension in Canada’s largest city.