Although the Toronto Maple Leafs have plenty of obstacles still to deal with this offseason still, including working out a contract with restricted free agent Mitch Marner, the team may have even more problems approaching them a year from now.
While the Maple Leafs forwards should be in good shape next season as the team will have few to no free agents to worry about, the newly reconstructed defense will be an entirely different story as only one of their defenseman, Morgan Rielly, is signed beyond the 2019-20 season. The team has five unrestricted free agents blueliners and another two restricted free agents defenders, which could create quite a bit of unrest next summer.
However, to make matters worse, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons writes that newly acquired Tyson Barrie is expecting to cash in on his next contract next summer and could be looking to demand an eight-year deal at $8MM per season next year. The 27-year-old has been incredibly consistent over the last few years, putting up 14 goals and a career-high 59 points last season and has averaged 49 points over the past six seasons. He is finishing up a four-year, $22MM contract at $5.5MM, but because Colorado retained half his salary, the team is only on the hook for a $2.75MM AAV this season. However, an $8MM contract could force the Maple Leafs to allow the blueliner to walk away for nothing.
The team will likely have to make some tough decisions as Jake Muzzin and Cody Ceci will also be unrestricted free agents. Much of those decisions will likely depend on how well they play next season and how their salaries can fit into their tight salary cap situation. The team has a few other lesser free agents, including Justin Holl and Martin Marincin, but they also may have to give significant raises to restricted free agents Travis Dermott and Ben Harpur. The team will get a small break next season when the contract of Nathan Horton and his $5.3MM finally expires, which should help, but that isn’t likely to solve all those problems either. There will be little money available to help the team out without more cost-cutting moves.