This summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs said goodbye to defencemen Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev. They then brought in Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie, Ben Harpur and Jordan Schmaltz to add to a defence core that already includes Morgan Rielly, Travis Dermott and Jake Muzzin.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was able to add depth with slightly less money going towards the salary cap, but most importantly he added depth to the right side of the team’s defence which has been a sore spot for years.
Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie and Jordan Schmaltz are all right handed defencemen and by having these three joining the Maple Leafs, it puts less pressure on Kyle Dubas to rush prospect Timothy Liljegren. With Rielly, Muzzin, Dermott and Harpur all playing on the left side, the Maple Leafs won’t be forced to rush top prospect Rasmus Sandin either.
This will all change in the 2020-2021 as Morgan Rielly is the only defenceman under contract for the Toronto Maple Leafs beyond this season. Both Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren will be expected to make the team and both are on Entry Level Contracts (ELC) below $900,000 which helps the team’s salary cap situation. The trio of Travis Dermott, Ben Harpur and Jordan Schmaltz will all be Restricted Free Agents (RFA) after this season and all three could be brought back for next season on cap friendly short term deals.
It is also highly likely that the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to re-sign one of Jake Muzzin or Tyson Barrie if they can get either player to sign for less than $7 million. There have been rumors that Jake Muzzin’s wife doesn’t like living in Ontario and if that is the case then it would be more likely that the Maple Leafs will re-sign Tyson Barrie.
Here is how I see the Maple Leafs defence pairings for both the 2019-2020 season and the 2020-2021 season.
2019-2020: Rielly – Ceci, Muzzin – Barrie, Dermott – Schmaltz
2020-2021: Rielly – Barrie, Dermott – Liljegren, Sandin – Harpur