Another hockey season has come and gone for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they failed to reach the playoffs by losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the play-in round of the 2020 NHL Playoff season. Or, simply put: The Maple Leafs lost in their first round, yet again. Despite the efforts to put their playoff woes behind them, the Make-Me Laughs managed to find themselves on the outside looking in. (And from their own ‘bubble’, no less.)

Plenty of questions can be asked as to what the Maple Leafs need to do in order to get over this hump. Do you turn to goaltending or the lack of Top-6 Forward production? Maybe you take a look at the team’s defensive struggles and try to come up with a solution. (*cough* look into moving on from Barrie and Ceci *cough*) However, you don’t need to be a mathematician to recognize that you can’t afford to build a strong, well-rounded team when so much money is tied into only a few players. With $40,489,366 being dedicated to the contracts of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, the Toronto Maple Leafs see over 1/3 of their entire CAP Space being spent on just…FOUR…PLAYERS! Yikes.

With the exception of Tavares, those other three forwards have yet to prove that they can hang with the big boys once playoff time rolls around. In fact, they’ve shown Maple Leaf fans and other NHL teams the opposite.

Words like, “choke” and “crumble under pressure” certainly come to mind. The factors behind countless disappointing first-round exits could be endless, but the major question on everyone’s mind has got to be: Who do the Maple Leafs look to trade in this coming off-season? For me the answer is clear, however I am sure die-hard fans of the TML might disagree with me. This off-season the Toronto Maple Leafs should look into trading away one, if not both forwards; Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Now now, I know what it sounds like. How do they expect to get any better if they are trading away two of their Top-4 forwards?

Well simply put, by using these pieces as huge moving blocks towards the ultimate goal; winning a Stanley Cup. Both Marner and Nylander have so much potential and offer an incredible amount of offensive upside to their game. Some NHL teams would be (and are) chomping at the bit for a chance to trade for either one of them. Both players have the potential to improve a franchise.

Personally, William Nylander sits on the “big risk, huge reward” side of a trade, as his inconsistencies havn’t always proved worthy of his nearly $7M/yr contract.

And of course, Mitch Marner presents an opportunity for a greater, immediate-return piece in a trade. Not necessarily in a 1-for-1 swap deal, but the young Winger would certainly warrant one, if not two, 1st-Round picks in any upcoming draft.

Relieving themselves of these two contracts would save the Maple Leafs approximately $17,855,366 in CAP space and gives them the opportunity to build a stronger Bottom-6 or to better improve their Defensive core.

In the 2019/2020 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs dedicated only $20.1M to their Defensive core, but a whopping $57.6M to their Forwards. That puts a lot of pressure on the forwards to produce and gives zero chance for them to rely on any defensive help. Making moves to trade both Marner and Nylander provide the most opportunity for the Maple Leafs to take their all-around game to the next level. It creates chances to dedicate funds into the areas that simply don’t have what it takes to produce come playoff-time.

So, sorry TML fans. I know this probably wasn’t the news you were hoping to hear but as the old saying goes, the truth hurts. Losing two of your top players would certainly sting, especially if they flourish elsewhere. But after seeing Nazem Kadri advance further in to this year’s playoffs, I am sure your fanbase can handle another (potential) heartbreak. Besides, it’s been 40+ years and counting… When is enough truly enough?


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